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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]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 FVP/Menards Chevrolet SS finishes in fourth place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 NATIONWIDE Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS qualifies for fourth position Friday, March 6, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #55 Fronius USA/Viva Auto Group Chevrolet, spins out during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS races to a third place finish with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finishes in fifth place in the Daytona 500 Sunday, February 22, 2015 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Hendrick Motorsports team mates (left) Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet and (right) Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during practice for the 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, captures the Daytona 500 pole for the second time in his career Sunday, February 15, 2015 after posting the fastest qualifying time for next Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Daytona Beach, Florida. Gordon, who has said this is his last full season of racing, has won the Daytona 500 three times. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second and will also start from the front row. (Photo by HHP/David Tulis for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, captures the Daytona 500 pole for the second time in his career Sunday, February 15, 2015 after posting the fastest qualifying time for next Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Daytona Beach, Florida. Gordon, shown with his team and crew chief, Alan Gustafson, said this is his last full season of racing. Gordan has won the Daytona 500 three times. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second and will also start from the front row. (Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, after capturing the Daytona 500 pole for the second time in his career Sunday, February 15, 2015. Gordon posted the fastest qualifying time for next Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Daytona Beach, Florida, which he has won three times. He has said this is his last full season of racing. Johnson qualifies second and will also start from the front row.(Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, captures the Daytona 500 pole for the second time in his career Sunday, February 15, 2015 after posting the fastest qualifying time for next Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Daytona Beach, Florida. Gordon, who has said this is his last full season of racing, has won the Daytona 500 three times. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second and will also start from the front row. (Photo by HHP/Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane with team owner Dale Earnhardt jr. after winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship following his fifth place finish in the DAV 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 8, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS celebrates his 4th victory of the season with Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motor Sports, and his girlfriend, Amy Reimann, after winning Sunday, October 26, 2014 the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. This is the 10th anniversary of a Hendrick Motorsports plane crash which killed 10 in Martinsville. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Chevrolet SS, celebrates his 4th win of the season with his crew Sunday, October 26, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. This was also Earnhardt, Jr.`s first career win at Martinsville. The Eliminator 8 phase of the Chase, which Earnhardt, Jr. is not a contender, continues next week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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