News & Media

Eury Sr. out as JR Motorsports seeks 'better direction'

September 07, 2012, David Caraviello,

RICHMOND, Va. -- In an effort to try to improve a Nationwide Series program that's fallen from the ranks of the circuit's elite, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and JR Motorsports said goodbye to Pops.

JRM announced Friday that it was parting ways with longtime crew chief and competition director Tony Eury Sr., who has served as crew chief for 15 of Earnhardt Jr.'s 19 victories on the Cup Series circuit. Known as "Pops," the 58-year-old uncle of NASCAR's most popular driver and father of JRM co-owner and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. had been with the team since 2007, the past five as competition director.

JR Motorsports

Race Winners
Ron Fellows152008
Mark Martin152008
Jamie McMurray1882010

"The conversation Tony Sr. and I had was one of the most difficult I've ever been a part of," Kelley Earnhardt Miller, JRM's general manager, said in a statement from the team. "I believe Tony Sr.'s passion for the sport is exceeded only by his yearning to excel in it, and that itself became the issue that both he and I struggled with. At JR Motorsports we do this to win races and compete for championships, and lately we have not met that standard. Being the competitor that Tony Sr. is, I know that bothers him more than anyone."

JRM drivers Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick stand seventh and 10th, respectively, in Nationwide Series points. The team hasn't won a race since September 2010 with Jamie McMurray. Eury Sr. also acted as crew chief for JRM's No. 5 car, a part-time entry driven at points this season by Earnhardt and Ron Fellows, and has no more races scheduled for the remainder of this year.

Earnhardt said that unlike the Sprint Cup circuit, sponsorship in the Nationwide tour is often found on a year-to-year basis, which puts a premium on performance. "In the Cup Series you have commitments that stretch over years, and you can really map a future further ahead than just 12 months," he said after winning the pole for Saturday's Cup event at Richmond International Raceway. "In the Nationwide Series, a lot of our programs are structured over single years, and you re-up each year and you re-negotiate each year. Every year, you don't really know what February is going to look like sponsor-wise."

That environment makes it difficult to plan ahead without sponsorship, which in turn hinges on results. JRM's most marketable driver, Patrick, is expected to move to the Cup tour next season with Stewart-Haas Racing, and take primary sponsor GoDaddy along with her.

"We felt like we wanted to make some gains, or make some changes, try to do something different, try to improve our company, our team," Earnhardt said. "We need to do something directional that's different from what we're doing, and this is one piece of that. I think they'll be some more things we'll do to try to become a better race team for next year. There's a lot of moving parts and missing pieces, sponsorship and so forth, that have to fill in the gaps to give us a better idea of the direction we want to go."

Earnhardt is part of a JRM ownership group that also includes Earnhardt Miller, Eury Jr. and Rick Hendrick. In a statement, Eury Sr. wished his former team well. "I want what's best for Dale Jr., Kelley, Tony Jr., and all those employees. I really do," he said. "We accomplished a lot in a short time, and nobody is prouder of that than I am. I'm not sure what's next for me, and I'm not sure I'm in a hurry to find out."

Earnhardt admits racing in the Nationwide tour has become more of a challenge, but he wants to remain in the series. But that means improvement, which in turns means making difficult changes.

"We enjoy our efforts there, and I think the change with Pops was really difficult, because he's meant so much to me in my career and to me as a person," he said. "But at the same time, we want to see if we can change our performance level, and change the culture in the shop and see if that helps. See if that gets us going in a different direction, a better direction."