If crew chief Tony Eury Jr is looking for continued assurance that his pairing with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr will continue indefinitely, he may not find the same level of support from team owner Rick Hendrick that he did as recently as five days ago.
During last Thursday's qualifying session for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Hendrick expressed confidence in the combination.
"Tony was the guy a year ago when [Earnhardt's #88 Chevrolet] was the best car in my shop," Hendrick was quoted as saying by SceneDaily.com
, "Until the guys - the guys are smart over there, and I'm not one of them - all say 'hey it's time for us to do something different', then we'll do it. But we're working hard, and I feel it. I never know what the best combination is. We've been successful at putting together combinations that work, and I believe that we're not ready to make a change right now."
That was before Earnhardt couldn't get out of his own way Monday in the rain-delayed, rain-shortened 600. Fighting an ill-handling car that his crew couldn't fix, Earnhardt lost two laps on the track and finished 40th. Though Hendrick pointed out that all four of his cars experienced handling problems, Earnhardt's clearly suffered most, and his crew was least able to remedy the problem.
on Tuesday quoted an anonymous garage source as saying that Eury would be out as Earnhardt's crew chief before Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway. Questioned as to whether a change might be coming, Hendrick was non-committal, but his level of confidence in the Earnhardt-Eury pairing appeared to have eroded somewhat.
"We're talking about things, we're meeting, we're going to make decisions as the days go by," he said after exiting a meeting of drivers and team owners with NASCAR at the sanctioning body's research-and-development centre, "but we haven't made any decision as of right now."
by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service