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Lance McGrew – Q&A

When team owner Rick Hendrick decided to replace Tony Eury Jr. this week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got more than a new crew chief - he got a brain trust.

After Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway, Lance McGrew takes over as interim crew chief for Earnhardt's #88 Chevrolet. As additional resources, Earnhardt can draw on Brian Whitesell, manager of the #5 and #88 teams, and long-time Hendrick Motorsports engineer Rex Stump, who designed the controversial T-Rex chassis Jeff Gordon drove to victory in the 1997 all-star race.

Whitesell will serve as Earnhardt's crew chief on Sunday, since McGrew already was committed to working with the #25 Hendrick Chevy driven by Brad Keselowski. Starting next week at Pocono, however, it will be McGrew's responsibility to help Earnhardt bridge the performance gap between the #88 car and the Chevys driven by teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin.

Sporting News' Reid Spencer caught up with McGrew in the Sprint Cup garage Friday morning at Dover…

Q:
Are you ready to go from under the radar to under the microscope?

Lance McGrew:
It's only the most famous driver in the United States of America.

Q:
Are you a candidate for the job full-time?

Lance McGrew:
I believe so. It's not something that I've 100 per cent asked to do, but I think that Mr. Hendrick, in his infinite wisdom, always has a master plan. He has a very unique way of putting the right people together in a situation. A lot of times he can see things far enough out ahead that he'll make the right decision for you.

Q:
Are you intimidated by this opportunity?

Lance McGrew:
Well, I don't know if any crew chief would sit here and tell you it's not a little daunting to have the most popular driver in your stable. It's a challenge. The reason why we do what we do for a living is because, ultimately, we want a challenge. Unfortunately for this business, every Monday morning the report card is out, and we have to jump back on the horse and get ready for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday of the next week. For me, I'm not the most outgoing person in the whole world, and obviously the media blitz is not exactly what I prefer to be doing right now. It's part of the job, and it's something I'll have to work on as well.

Q:
Rex Stump is credited with designing the T-Rex car that Jeff Gordon drove in the 1997 all-star race. Is there room for any of that kind of creativity with NASCAR's new race car?

Lance McGrew:
I think more than anything else, the R&D group in itself -- I feel like that's why Hendrick has really thrived. The simple fact is that Rex was so involved in it (the development of the new car) from the very beginning. We did a ton of testing before this car was ever unveiled, and it shows on the racetrack. Rex has a wealth of knowledge in a lot of areas, and he's a tremendous resource standing next to you when you're on top of the trailer watching the cars go around the racetrack.

Q:
Which perception is more accurate, that all the Hendrick drivers have the same equipment, or that Earnhardt and Eury were running something substantially different from the setups of the other three Hendrick drivers?

Lance McGrew:
Every situation's different. Ultimately, a driver's looking for a 'feel,' and sometimes it takes you down different paths. Jimmie doesn't drive exactly the same thing as Jeff. Jeff doesn't drive exactly the same thing as Mark Martin or any of the three. You can't really say that they were off the page in that regard, because ultimately, everybody's trying to achieve the same thing. The driver's feeling one thing, and the crew chief's making adjustments for how he feels. Sometimes it leads you down the right path. Sometimes it doesn't.

Q:
You've had the opportunity to work with a couple of the most talented, high-profile drivers in the garage in Kyle Busch and now Dale Jr. What do you see as the fundamental differences between the two?

Lance McGrew:
They're apples and oranges. It's kind of hard to make that comparison with anybody, let alone two racecar drivers. They're different people. Kyle's very aggressive. Junior's more methodical, I believe. He's definitely a thinker. He's a racecar driver that thinks as he drives around the racetrack, and he understands the fact that it's a long race, and he's trying to set himself up to be where he wants to be at the end of the race. Kyle definitely wants to lead every lap. If you watched the video from the Coke 600 last week, when he was leading, he wrecked three or four times off Turn 4 but didn't hit anything. You could definitely tell he was driving hard.


Related Pictures

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Lance McGrew and Dale Earnhardt Jr [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, March 11, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Hendrick Motorsports driver Johnson experienced an issue during qualifying.  He will go to a back-up car. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 6, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with his wife, Chandra and daughters Genevieve and Lydia Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, crosses the finish line for the victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS drives to victory Thursday, February 18, 2016 winning the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Can-Am Duel races at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. This is Earnhardt Jr.`s second consecutive Duel victory. He will start on the inside of Row 2 for Sunday`s Daytona 500 race. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, poses in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, rookie driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS captures the pole Sunday, February 14, 2016 during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Elliott, who takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon, is the youngest driver ever to win the pole. He will lead the pack at the start of the February 21 race. (Photo by HHP/ Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Taxslayer.com Chevrolet, signs autographs for fans during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, November 15, 2015 in the final round of the Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS advances to the Champion 4 with his second place finish. Harvick is joined with Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet SS to the Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida next Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, lead the field onto pit road due to rain during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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