There is a giant sucking noise at Hendrick Motorsports. It is the sound of NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver being swallowed in the muck and mire of a dysfunctional relationship that once held so much hope.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in year three of his five year contract. In 2008 he managed a win and finished last place in the Chase.
The 2009 season was his worst ever finishing 25th in points, but with a few more poor finishes he can claim the 2010 season as being pretty dismal as well.
Going into the Martinsville race he is 19th in the point standings. In the last 13 races he has finished 15th or worse 11 times. As pretty much expected, his qualifying for the Tums Fast Relief 500 is 28th at Martinsville.
Rick Hendrick insists he will keep Lance McGrew in place as crew chief for Earnhardt Jr. in 2011.
Perhaps he learned from the Kasey Kahne/Mark Martin media debacle, that it is best to just state a fact until it changes.
Rumors are spreading within the garage area according to several media outlets that McGrew will be out in 2011 as crew chief for the No. 88.
Listening to the radio communications between McGrew and his driver during a race often shows the blatant dysfunction between the two.
In public, Junior and McGrew appear smiling and joking, claiming some type of friendship is actually in place.
It is evident even if McGrew is a nice guy, he is not capable of getting Junior to the Chase, let alone in contention for a championship. It seems challenging to even unload a car that can run in the top-10 or qualify near the front.
Rick Hendrick is known as a master manipulator for putting deals together. After signing Kasey Kahne in April, he eventually solved the “where will Kasey drive” issue to everyone’s satisfaction.
It appears Jimmie Johnson is well on his way to a fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup title no matter how many stop-sticks get thrown in his path.
Hendrick needs to exercise his people skills to put together a team for Dale Jr. and the No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard team that can win.
The continuance of poor performance with that team needs to come to an end. Just because the cash cow is still healthy despite lack of wins, a third half-hearted season is just not an option.
Either Hendrick can pull the No. 88 team out of the quagmire or Earnhardt Jr. needs to move on to something else besides driving at Hendrick Motorsports.
Junior’s dream of wins and perhaps a championship when he signed with Hendrick have probably turned to wondering if he can even make the Chase again.
The ball is in Hendrick’s court. If Johnson can get his fifth consecutive title, how cool would it be to follow-up with Earnhardt Jr. having a winning season in 2011 before Kasey Kahne becomes the new golden boy in 2012 at HMS.