News & Media

Split from JRM was 'good change' for Eury Jr.

December 11, 2012, David Caraviello,

New job with Swan Racing marks the first time he hasn't worked with Earnhardts

Six weeks. That's how long crew chief Tony Eury Jr. wanted to give himself before he decided whether to come back.

"The offseason is six weeks long. So I made sure I didn't go back for six weeks, so I'd know if this was what I really wanted to do or not," he said. "You can jump back in it after six weeks, and you just think it's an offseason. You go right back at it. I wanted to make sure, maybe I take three months off, get all the stuff done around the house I want to, and see if the itch is still there then. ... Get completely away from it and see if it's still something that burns inside of me that I want to do. And it does."

"I really enjoyed building what I did with Danica and that small team. I'd like to do the same thing, and do that up another level."


Which explains why Eury, whose last job was overseeing Danica Patrick at the Nationwide Series team owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., is in a Swan Racing shirt preparing for his first season with David Stremme and a new Sprint Cup operation owned by Denver businessman Brandon Davis. He's been off the scene since September, when he split from JR Motorsports weeks after his father was fired from his position as competition director. His new job marks the first time that Eury, who's also been at Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Inc., has worked completely separate from the Earnhardt clan.

"I hate the way it went down, but it was a good change," Eury said. "I walked away there, I've had a good career with Dale Jr. I enjoyed everything we've done. We've had a good time together. Obviously, we've been together for 16 or 17 years. I ain't raced with anyone [else] other than Michael [Waltrip], and I had a good time with Michael. I was just looking for something different. The Danica deal, it run its course. I'm still really good friends with her. But it was just like, where's the next step in your life? ... I really enjoyed building what I did with Danica and that small team. I'd like to do the same thing, and do that up another level."

Eury worked with Patrick in her part-time Nationwide season during 2011 and most of this past year's full-time campaign. He was on the box when she recorded a fourth-place finish in 2011 at Las Vegas, which remains the highest finish by a female driver at NASCAR's national level. He split from JRM amid a restructuring that saw Ryan Pemberton take over as competition director and Patrick's crew chief. Patrick is now bound for the Sprint Cup Series, where she will compete with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Despite his connection with Patrick, though, it's Earnhardt with whom Eury is most closely tied. Cousins and longtime co-workers, Eury served as Earnhardt's crew chief for parts of four seasons, winning two Cup races with NASCAR's most popular driver. Eury's departure from JRM came at a time of upheaval for the team, which launched the career of current Cup champion Brad Keselowski but has consolidated to one full-time entry for 2013, that for Regan Smith.

"It was a big load off my shoulders when I left," said Eury, who added he maintains a good relationship with Earnhardt. "I would have loved to have finished off the deal with Danica. In all honestly, we didn't know where the company was going to be with that second team, and obviously they've had a big layoff up there because it's going to go to the one-car team right now. That was all boiling at the same time, and it was just a matter of which direction are we going to go? It was best for both of us to kind of do our own thing."

For Eury, that thing ultimately became Swan Racing, which had run under the banner of Inception Racing before Davis -- who operates an oil and gas company known as Swan Energy -- purchased the organization's assets earlier this year. His first major hire was competition director Steve Hmiel, formerly of Earnhardt Ganassi and a onetime co-worker of Eury's at DEI. When the team started looking for a crew chief, Hmiel knew just whom to call.

"Steve had a big influence on me coming here," Eury said. "I obviously know one player isn't going to change everything. It takes a team effort. It takes a lot of people being in it together, uniting. With me and Steve up top working together and trying to put the puzzle together and get the good people, it will be a good deal."

After his split from JRM, Eury said he went to the race track just once -- at Charlotte, where he said goodbye to his former mates on the No. 7 team and touched base with some team owners to gauge their interest. He said he "flirted" with Patrick's Sprint Cup program, now being overseen by Tony Gibson, but nothing really felt right, at least not until his old friend Hmiel called.

"I thought it would be really cool to just have a small group and build something from scratch," he said. "This is really intriguing. ... The last three years have been really fun, being in the Nationwide Series and having time off. Now that I've had about another three months off, I'm really ready to get back into it. I just feel like it's a good fit, to be with this company, to be able to build something."