Today's Nextel Wake Up Call at Richmond International Raceway featured members of the Hendrick Motorsports organization. Participants included: Rick Hendrick, Hendrick motorsports chairman and CEO Tony Eury, Jr., crew chief for Dale Earnhardt,...
Today's Nextel Wake Up Call at Richmond International Raceway featured members of the Hendrick Motorsports organization.
Rick Hendrick, Hendrick motorsports chairman and CEO
Tony Eury, Jr., crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008
Darian Grubb, current crew chief of the No. 25 Chevrolet and moving to a management role at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008
Alan Gustafson, current crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet
Brian Whitesell, team manager
ON HAVING CHEVY BACK FOR 2008:
Darian Grubb: "I'd say it's an absolute great honor and just a big achievement to be able to continue that relationship for a long time because we've working with them for so long. It's a great relationship we have with them, the support they give us, the wind tunnel and the relationship with Pratt & Miller Engineering and everything that they do for us is second to none. We couldn't ask for anything more than all the support we get from them. Anything we've ever asked for we've been able to get."
Alan Gustafson: "Chevrolet is a great partner of ours. We've had a wonderful relationship with Chevrolet for a long time now so I think it means a lot to both of us to be able to continue that partnership and move Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet and General Motors on to that next level and continue to win races and manufacturers championships which is what our focus is. They're a huge contributor to our success and it's a great relationship so we're real proud of that and look forward to continuing on with Chevrolet for a long time."
Tony Eury, Jr.: "I'm really happy to be staying Chevrolet because they've done a lot of support for our team and throughout the years and I've known a lot of them. Just the wind tunnel and they've always had that extra edge that we've always needed to be successful. I'm really happy to be a part of Chevrolet for a lot longer time."
Brian Whitesell: "I'm thankful to maintain that relationship and the engineering support. As Darian mentioned, Pratt & Miller is an excellent resource for us and also all the other things that Chevrolet provides.
ON THE RECENT PERSONNEL CHANGES AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
Rick Hendrick: "Well we've got to finish the year and we want to win the championship, that's our goal, but we're also laying plans for next year. I guess one of the first moves is Darian was the engineer with the 24/48. Everybody knows he stepped in and won the Daytona 500 his role filling in for Chad (Knaus). He's done a super job for us and with Tony coming in to take care of Dale and the new team, Darian is going to make sure along with Brian Whitesell.Brian's on the in down there and I'm going to talk about the two of these guys together. Brian was the architect of the 24/48 team and Darian and Brian.Brian's an engineer. He's been with us a long time. He actually started driving the truck when Jeff Gordon started. His ideas of how to put a team together - one shop, two teams - produced the Gordon championships and got the 48 out of the shoot in a hurry. He took the challenge of taking 5/25 and he has that same role over those two teams. Darian is assuming kind of that ro le in the 5 and the new number. Darian is going to be a critical piece of that bringing Tony in and being the lead engineer for that building and those teams. With Alan, who's an engineer that started on the 5 team, and Darian, an engineer that started with us, and Brian and Tony coming on board, I think you're looking at the nucleus of what's going to be Casey and Earnhardt next year. I'm real excited about it. These guys have already shared a lot of information. We came Sunday night from California along with Ken Howes, the godfather, he's out here somewhere. I'm just real excited about the rest of this year but I'm excited about the talent here. I think these guys have proven they know what to do and we're just excited to have these guys in those positions both now and coming up in '08 and beyond."
ON LEAVING A TEAM HE'S BEEN WITH A LONG TEAM AND WHAT IT TAKES TO LEAVE A GROUP OF PEOPLE HE'S HAD AN ASSOCIATION WITH AND START OVER WITH ANOTHER AND LARGE ORGANIZATION:
Tony Eury, Jr.: "The biggest thing is I've known Rick for a long time and I know his organization. I've watched Brian and I've watched Alan and I hardly know Darian but I've been with DEI for 14 years and these guys are ones I've always idolized. I thought they've always been the top notched in the garage. When Dale Jr. started to make his move I thought this was the ultimate team. Just for me being able to have an association and be part of it, it's real exciting. I'm kind of timid on the other hand because I'm hoping that I can bring something to the table which I think I can. Just being surrounded by these guys, I don't there's any wrong to it."
Rick Hendrick: "I will say one other thing about the relationship here. I've got a picture of me driving in the Busch race in Road Atlanta. It's a picture of a young guy with his hat turned a little sideways and he was 13 years old. It was the first race he ever went to and that was Tony Eury Jr.'s first race and his granddaddy and I had the car that I drove that we owned together so I've known him since he was a puppy so it's not like we don't know each other."
WILL THE OWNER POINTS FOR THE NO. 5 AND NO. 25 STAY IN PLACE WHERE THEY ARE IN 2008?
Rick Hendrick: "Yes, they'll stay like they are. Casey will move over to the 5 car and that's the only that will change there and the number will change on the 25."
WILL THE ADJUSTMENT FOR YOU TO BE GETTING USED TO THE WAY THAT THINGS GO AT HENDRICK? IS GOING TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IS LIKE GOING TO THE TOY STORE BECAUSE YOU HAVE ALL THESE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL?
Tony Eury, Jr.: "Yeah, I was overwhelmed when I went over there and seen what these guys have. They use it and that's why they're the most successful. That's the most nervous things is there's so much there you'd be nervous to what you didn't bring to the race track. That's my biggest concern. I've got a lot bigger learning curve than Dale Jr. does. I've got to go in there and learn these guys processes, how they do things, how they look at tire at data, how they wind tunnel, how they look at geometry, everything. It's a learning curve for me but I'm eager to learn it. The faster I can get over there and get together with Brian these guys.it's going to be extremely fun to me. I've been having a great time this year but the excitement for next year, you can't wait til it gets here."
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON SAYING IT'D BE GREAT TO HAVE TONY EURY, JR. AT HENDRICK BECAUSE ALL THE DRIVERS HAVE DIFFERENT DRIVING STYLES AND THAT HE'LL BE ABLE TO TRANSLATE THAT AND WHAT HE'LL BRING TO HENDRICK:
Alan Gustafson: "It's going to help a ton. It's going to help a lot. We're making a serious upgrade to the 5/25 shop bringing Darian over there, Brian and myself in there and bringing Tony Eury, Jr. You've got a guy who's won a lot of races. He's (won) 14, 15 races, somewhere along those line. He's done a lot in the sport so obviously he knows what he's doing. Dale Jr. is going to help us out a lot because Tony can give us those little bits of information when we're going to try to compare Casey to Dale and some of the nuances of the drivers. All the drivers do have different little things that they do when you analyze the cars and what the drivers do. That infinite amount like we do, you need to know a few little things. We can't go test everywhere. Tony Jr.'s going to know what Dale Jr. does at Richmond, what Dale Jr. does at Charlotte, what he likes here or there so he's going to bring a lot and I think he's going to bring.we do have a lot. Mr. Hendrick does an excellent j ob in giving us everything we need to be successful and he beat us a lot so obviously he knows what he's doing. So we're looking forward to having that."
HOW REALISTIC DO YOU THINK YOUR CHANCES ARE TOMORROW AND IF YOU DON'T MAKE IT, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU DIDN'T ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING AT DEI?
Tony Eury, Jr.: "We would have loved to win a championship at DEI and right now the chances don't look real good. Richard (Childress) been in this situation where winning championships. so you know he's got a sewing machine motor in it so the only way we're going to beat Harvick is he's going to have an accident or a part failure. We're just going to go out there and try to win the race and do the best we can. Where the points fall, that's just the way it is. But we've had too many errors this year, blown motors and parts. But if you go back and look at where we were running good, we've been running top fives in just about every race. I've been extremely happy with the way the team has performed, but the results aren't there and that's what counts in this business. I guess you're always going to be empty because you didn't win a championship there but you also have to look at how bright the future is and how many championships we can win with Mr. Hendrick."
WAS THERE EVER A DEBATE FOR YOU THAT YOU WERE GOING TO MAKE THIS MOVE ONCE DALE JR. DECIDED HE WAS GOING?
Tony Eury, Jr.: "Not really because I kind of always had it in my mind if I ever had an opportunity to work for Rick that I would. I'm leaving a lot of guys that I've been with for seven and eight years. That's the downfall. But when you're in this business and you can go forward, that's what you've got to do. I've always said to myself, if I ever got a chance to work for Rick and work with his guys, that's what I'd like to do whether it was crew chief or just work over there so I'm real excited."
DID YOU LIKE BEING A CREW CHIEF?
Darian Grubb: "Absolutely. Mr. Hendrick gave me a great opportunity and asked me to step up and do the No. 25 team for this year and I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity with that. With Casey coming in new, we got a little bit of a slow start just because we didn't know each other; we didn't know what Casey needed so it took us a few races to get our communication going and things like that. But I think since then, when I think our performance has kind of gone straight uphill since then - we've gone from 35th to 16th in the points and we're continuing that relationship and getting better and better each week and we're going to continue that. We're going to plan on being here tomorrow afternoon after the race and victory lane as well. So we're not going to give up; we're going to keep building that. I think the whole crew chief experience has given me a lot better insight into what it's like and what the crew chief needs to help perform his job so I think that will m ake me that much better to help out Alan and Tony both. When they have questions, things come up, they can go to me because I've been in the same situation a few times and I think it just helped open my experiences up so it gave me more opportunity for things I know I need to learn and things that I know I'm pretty good at."
MARK CRONQUIST HAS KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE RO7 FROM DAY ONE AND WILL NOW TAKE THAT TO TOYOTA. HOW FRUSTRATING IS THAT?
Rick Hendrick: "Mark was a great partner and a great contributor to the R07 but NASCAR now has put the engine in a box just like they did the car and so you've got tolerances of what you can do as far as more size and deck height and cam location and things like that. It's going to come down to the drivers and crew chiefs making the right calls and the pit crews. I don't know because a whole lot in the R07 that's not in the new Toyota motor. Most of those pieces and parts are pretty close to each other."
DO YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT NUMBER AND SPONSOR DALE JR. WILL HAVE AND CAN YOU REVEAL IT?
Rick Hendrick: "It's not going to be the No.8. Nor the No. 25. And the sponsorship, hopefully in the next two weeks we'll be able to announce that and the number at the same time. We hope that's going to be probably something with the No. 8 in it but we really don't even have that locked in right now. That's a true story."
CAN YOU IDENTIFY TECHNICAL PARTS AND PIECES THAT YOU CAN WORK WITH STILL OR IS IT ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE NOW?
Rick Hendrick: "If I can think back to the days when they'd approve a different body and you'd race a year at a disadvantage, now the cars are the same so we eliminated that where you were at a half year or three quarters of a year, you had to wait a year and they'd give somebody a new nose. We've been through all that. You'll pull your hair out doing that. And the motor side of the equation, we've had that R07 piece laying there for a long time and they'd say we don't need it. Well, it took us. the old block didn't cool like the new pieces do and you'd luck at the Chrysler piece and the Toyota piece and we were at a tremendous disadvantage. When they approved our block, finally, they kind of put the motor and the car on equal footing so then it's up to the people. The talent of the driver, the communication with the crew chief, pit crews. I don't think it's ever, since I've been racing. I can remember days when no matter how good a driver and crew chief you had, the other ca r was so much better than you were that you were at a tremendous disadvantage. So I think they've leveled the playing field severely so it's going to come down to, in my opinion, the talent in the car and the guys making the calls and all the engineering folks and the pit crews and you've got to have some luck. But I think that's going to be the separation and the championship's going to be the talent of the people.
"As Tony said, tire data and just trying to. when you don't have downforce. a lot of times in the wind tunnel, you can't mess with the bodies anymore, we know that. It's comes down to little minute pieces that used to kind of get swept under the rug that you didn't pay much attention to them. It's just every ounce of information and every ounce of trying to make each piece better is critical. The motors now, if we have a five horsepower rule and they don't leave the shop if they're not within five horsepower of each other, and that's including our rental motors. And I can remember back when they were making 600 or 650 vs. 850, there'd be a 20 horsepower difference. I think NASCAR has just looked at every area that people can get an advantage so I think that the engineering. and these guys have engineering backgrounds and I think coupled with their experience with the teams makes for a good combination."
WITH THE NO. 25'S HISTORY, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO WALK AWAY FROM THAT?
Rick Hendrick: "I think a lot like Tony said about wanting to win a championship at DEI, the curse of the No. 25, I've heard that so many times and it meant a lot to me over the years but I think now it's time for a change and I hate to see the number go but I'm actually looking forward to having a completely clean sheet of paper going forward."
-credit: gm racing