Talladega II: Earnhard Jr, McGrew - Friday media visit

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY 'GET ON THE NO. 88'/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, AND CREW CHIEF LANCE MCGREW met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed the naming of McGrew as the permanent crew chief for the No. 88...

DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY 'GET ON THE NO. 88'/NATIONAL GUARD IMPALA SS, AND CREW CHIEF LANCE MCGREW met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed the naming of McGrew as the permanent crew chief for the No. 88 team.

TALK ABOUT YOUR SPECIAL PROGRAM AND THE NEW LOOK ON THE CAR:

DALE JR.: "It is a sequel to the original 'Ride with the No. 88' program we had last year where the fans went to AMPENERGY.com signed up to either to be one of the lucky ones to get on the car and the overflow went to the banner on pit road. We had over 100,000 fans sign up this year. We are pretty excited about that. It is a great program for AMP and it is a great way to involve our fan base in to what we are doing on the race track. It gives them an opportunity to feel like they are a part of the action and part of the effort to get us here.

"It is a lot of fun for me and I think the fans enjoy it. They can go to the website and see exactly where on the car that their name is. I think that is pretty cool. A lot of great technology out there."

TALK ABOUT LANCE MCGREW BEING NAMES FULL-TIME PERMANENT CREW CHIEF FOR YOU:

DALE JR.: "We are happy to announce that Lance (McGrew) is going to be the crew chief for the car so he can get interim tag gone and we can move forward on planning on what changes, if any, we might want to make to the team during the off-season and prepare ourselves for next year. It is something I am really excited about. Lance has done a great job. He is a really good guy. We have a real good friendship that started many years ago and sort of blossomed a lot more once we worked together in the Nationwide Series at Lowe's (Motor Speedway). Since we've worked together on the car (No. 88) we've gotten along really great and I enjoy it. He has built a few new cars for us and every time we take a new car to the track, it is really fast.

"I see myself without looking at the statistics and luck that we have had lately, I can see a lot of improvements in the team and I can see the impact that Lance is making. I am really excited about his chance for me and him to understand what our future is and see how we can improve upon that by being given the opportunity to work together and know we are going to work together. I am excited about it and I want to thank Rick (Hendrick) and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for working really hard on trying to put together a good program for our team and give ourselves a great opportunity. "There are doing just that by making decisions like this and we have some great sponsors in AMP Energy and National Guard that have stood beside us throughout such a tough season and we're all very positive about our outlook going forward."

YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT:

LANCE MCGREW: "I think that anytime...I have been in this sport professionally for 17 years. Of course, everybody is an overnight success.

"When given this kind this kind of opportunity to work with Junior, to work for the best organization, the best racing organization in my opinion in the world, and there are four crew chiefs that get the opportunity to do that. I am lucky enough to be one of them. We have 550 teammates at Hendrick Motorsports that bleeding sweat to make this No. 88 team run as successfully as it is supposed to be running. We're heading that direction. This is kind of the time of the year where everybody is looking for direction and hoping you can get a lot of momentum at the end of the season. That is kind of what we are trying to do by setting the record down that I am going to be with the team next year and getting everybody pulling in the same direction."

NOW THAT THIS IS FINALIZED, IS THIS YOUR UNOFFICIAL START TO THE 2010 SEASON?

DALE JR.: "Yes, I guess so. I know that Lance has a lot of great ideas and he is very smart about the team and understanding where we can be better. We can start facilitating some of those ideas and some of that thought process within the team. Like I said, every time he has built a car, I have loved it when it hits the race track. We've been really working closely with our teammates and specifically with Alan (Gustafson) and the No. 5 guys. I'm pretty excited about it. I really like the relationship that Lance has with everybody in the shop. More specifically, his history with the organization as a whole. He is well respected and well trusted. I think it is a great move and it is one that hopefully now that we as a company and as a team know the future, we can really bank on that and depend on it."

YOU HAVE ALWAYS ANSWERED QUESTIONS OPENLY AND HONESTLY WHEN ASKED, EVEN WHEN THINGS HAVEN'T BEEN AS YOU WOULD LIKE, DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT EVEN THOUGH YOU ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS, SO MUCH OF WHAT IS SAID ABOUT YOU ARE BASICALLY SAID WITHOUT ANYONE EVER ASKING YOU?

DALE JR.: "Behind the scenes, behind the doors, I do get asked by the right people what my opinion is. I have a lot...Lance and I have had many heart-to-heart conversations about our future, his future, my future, what we should do, what is best for us, the company....all those things. Me and Rick (Hendrick) have sat down many many times and talked about it. The rights things are being done and being talked about and being discussed with the right people inside the gate at HMS.

"There is always a lot of speculation outside the gates and that is just the way the world is and that is the way it works. I do the same thing with my Redskins wondering how they are going to turn their deal around. So I can kind of relate to everybody's interest in the topic. The right things are going on within that organization. I mean they have three cars sitting there running for the championship. So I trust in every individual there that they can provide our team with the opportunity to win and I think that putting Lance in this position, first and foremost, was a good opportunity and it has proven to me that it gives us the ability to run well. We just have to change our luck, which is a cheap excuse but we have to change our opportunities and our mentality as a team and build our confidence in our ability to perform."

DID YOU HAVE TO DO ANY CONVINCING TO LANCE TO GET HIM TO TAKE THIS JOB ON A PERMANENT BASIS?

DALE JR.: "I didn't convince Lance. I think Lance sees a good race team in front of him. He tells me sincerely that he believes in my talent as a driver and feels like that with the right situation, that we can have a lot of success. Being a crew chief is a very very tough job and very thankless. Lance understands that as well as anyone. I feel confident that he can handle the pressures of the job and I feel confident with him on the box. I feel like he is going to make the right calls."

DOES IT MAKE IT THAT MUCH FOR DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO MAKE THINGS BETTER WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO IN SUCH A FISHBOWL?

DALE JR.: "Part of me is kind of nervous and would rather do these things without press conferences and all those things. But, when you get down to it, it gives you the opportunity to tell your side of the story. That fishbowl that you live in gives you the opportunity to voice your side of it. So, we can get up here, it gives me an opportunity how I feel about the change or how I feel about the future so there is less speculation and less guess work on everyone else's part about where we stand. It also gives us an opportunity to thank our sponsors and all other kind of things.

"It is a good sounding board and if you take advantage of that and use it positively, you guys can write your story and you will be able to use some of my quotes so I am at least in there with a place to give my opinion on it. I've gotten used to the attention of our position. Our team gets a lot of attention and there is a lot of criticism, especially when we are under performing. All the guys that wear that AMP Energy/National Guard uniform out there know that very well. But when things are working for you, it is equally as rewarding. We just have to go out there and run well and run like we want then being in that fishbowl is pretty fun."

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT JUNIOR BY WORKING WITH HIM DURING THIS TIME?

LANCE MCGREW: "I think that anytime. "I can't narrow that down to just one thing. I've had a relationship with Dale for a long time; all the way back to Ricky and his friendship with Dale in that circle. I was really surprised when I first started working with Dale and his confidence was beat down as much as it was; I expected him to be a lot more positive and a lot more understanding of the situation I guess you'd say. But since then I've definitely seen a light in his eye and a strut in his step as he comes to the car. Like I said, we don't have the bottom-line finishes to back up what I feel like we've started to achieve on that team but the steps are in place to get there. So I'm excited about that."

KNOWING NEXT YEAR IS SO IMPORTANT, WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO DO THIS YEAR IN PREPARATION FOR NEXT YEAR?

DALE JR.: "It's hard to really put into words what I think we need to accomplish to get from where we are now to running up front. Obviously if you've watched our team closely you'll see that we've been more competitive on the race track and in practices; more competitive at particular points in the race where we've struggled in the past.

"And like Lance says, I see the individual pieces of the puzzle that we're missing kind of coming together and starting to work, but we aren't finishing the races and we're having problems or issues. We just have to figure out, and I think it's more of a mentality or a confidence thing than anything you could put your hands on. So it's not like we're failing in the basic mechanics of building the cars and whatever, or setting them up for that matter. I think it comes down to the right attitude and showing up feeling like you're the team to beat or there's no reason to feel like you're a longshot. I can't speak for everybody on the team, but my confidence was pretty down earlier. It's gotten better. It's still nowhere near where I want it to be, but every week we seem to improve on that. I'm really impatient about it but it's just a matter of time. If we can string one or two solid serious runs together before the end of the season, I think it would do a world of good for us."

IT SEEMS THAT YOU BOTH GET ALONG, BUT A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO YOU SAID YOU WOULD PREFER A DICTATOR-TYPE CREW CHIEF. CAN LANCE FILL THAT ROLE?

DALE JR.: "Yeah, he can. He's very serious about his job and very demanding of the individuals that make up the team. And I think especially now that we all know it's his job, he'll demand a lot more out of every one of us. So I think everybody on the team wants carry their end of the load, and then some. There's a really good group of guys. They have a lot of 'want to' and we've just got to figure out how to make that into results. I think Lance can be the tough leader. He's not going to be very hard on the guys. That's just not his personality. But I think that he means business and especially now that we have everything lined up as far as everybody knows that it's his job. I think we'll all take a little more care in what our particular responsibilities are throughout the week with him leading the team."

WILL THERE BE ANY OTHER CHANGES TO THE TEAM FROM AN ENGINEERING STANDPOINT? HOW DO YOU STRATEGIZE TO GET TOP 15's, TOP 10's AND TOP 5's?

LANCE MCGREW: "I think that anytime. "That's something we've strived to accomplish. I don't have all the answers just yet. As far as the personnel, that's something that we analyze. We grade our guys weekly. It's just seasonally, it's weekly. Until you feel completely confident that you have the best car chief, that you can have the best shock guy, that you can have the best engineering staff and on down the line, you're constantly wanting to improve that because that's what makes it all tick. I'm not 100% sure what's going to change or who is going to change or how it's going to change, but I know that Alan (Gustafson) being my counterpart on the No. 5 car, we're going to do some restructuring In the shop and we're going to change the dynamic of that shop. And that's something I'm looking forward to and he's looking forward to and something we feel like the both of us are going to benefit from 100 percent. As we go along, if we see a weak link, if we see we could be better in this particular area, obviously we're going to have to address that on a case by case basis."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports