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Lance McGrew Is Not the Answer for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 18:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy Chevrolet, talks with his crew chief Lance McGrew in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway on June 18, 2010 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tom ThomasonCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2010

His name is Lance McGrew and he has the hardest job in NASCAR.

He’s the crew chief for NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He seems to be a very dedicated, hard-working guy. He seems to be able to handle the pressure. He seems to know what he's doing with a racecar.

What doesn't he do?  He doesn't seem to be able to give Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  a car that he can drive.  Week after week, we hear the same thing over the scanner: "This thing is junk!"  Naturally, people are lining up to call the son of legend Dale Earnhardt, Sr. a horrible driver.

But the only people calling him a bad driver are the ones who know nothing about driving.  IS he as good as Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson?  Probably not.  Is he good enough to win a championship? I'd have to say yes.

Even though it has been a few years, he was once a contender for the title. He was a title contender in 2003, '04, '06, and '08.  2009 was the worst year of Dale's career and a dream come true for Jr. haters. It was so bad that his long-time crew chief and cousin, Tony Eury, Jr., was fired.

So, why can't Lance get Dale back to the winner's circle? Or back into the top ten for that matter? He seems to be a bright guy who understands the COT.  Two words: communication and respect.

If you listen to their scanner during the race, you will soon get the feeling that Lance isn't really listening to Dale. Lance's tone is very condescending and short. Almost like a father talking to his son. And he also has a very defensive tone to his voice.

Lance seems more interested in giving cute little snide comebacks to Dale then working to resolves issues with the car. During the race, Junior will give very in-depth descriptions of what the car is doing and what he think the car might need. Instead of taking the time to discuss opinions like adults, McGrew acts like Junior is being ridiculous. It's like, "Dale must be imagining things because I know my car could never be that bad." Would it not be better to try Dale's ideas and not get defensive?

I also notice that Lance is not a real good thinker under pressure.  He constantly makes inappropriate adjustments to the car and bad pit calls. For instance, the other day at Michigan, Dale said: "This is better, but it’s still a bit loose." So, what does Lance do? He orders tons of wedge and two rounds down on the track bar, which anyone who knows anything will tell you is a big swing. Did Lance not hear him? Of course he did. But, as usual, he thinks he knows better than the driver.

So, the solution seems simple. Find a crew chief that not only listens to the driver, but has enough respect for him to trust him...

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