Friday, September 7, 2012

JR Motorsports looking for new competition director

   JR Motorsports, a Nationwide Series team co-owned by Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., is looking for a new director of competition after its current director, Tony "Pops" Eury Sr., had "amicably" parted ways with the organization.

   Eury, Earnhardt's uncle, is a winner of 55 NASCAR races in both the Nationwide and Cup Series as a crew chief. He has 28 years in the NASCAR industry, the last five of which were served as competition director and crew chief for JR Motorsports. The company has amassed all nine of its victories under Eury’s watch. JR Motorsports’ last victory came on Sept. 4, 2010, with driver Jamie McMurray.

   “The conversation Tony Sr. and I had was one of the most difficult I’ve ever been a part of,” said Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. “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.”

   Eury Sr.’s son, Tony Eury Jr., remains crew chief for JR Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet and co-owner of the company with Earnhardt Jr. and Earnhardt-Miller. Danica Patrick is running a fulltime schedule in the No. 7 this season.
   “I want what’s best for Dale Jr., Kelley, Tony Jr., and all those employees. I really do,” said Eury Sr. “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 said he didn't know anyone who had impacted his NASCAR career more than Eury Sr.
   “I know my dad ultimately put me in the Nationwide Series car back in the ’90s, but Tony Sr. was the one who convinced him to do it," Earnhardt said. "He was with me through two Nationwide Series championships and five full seasons as a Cup driver.
   "We won a lot of races together, and as much as he impacted my career as a race car driver, he means more to me on a personal level. He’s done a lot for this organization, and I thank him for it.”


   After he won the pole for Saturday night's Cup race, Earnhardt Jr. offered some additional comments on Eury Sr.'s departure from JR Motorsports:

   "It was tough. It was a difficult decision we had to make. You know, as a company we felt like we wanted to make some changes. The environment for our Nationwide team and I'm sure for a lot of Nationwide teams, is so different that what we have in the Cup series. In the Cup series, you have commitments that stretch over years and you can map a future further ahead than 12 months. In the Nationwide series, a lot of our programs are structured over single years and you re-up each year. Every year you don't really don't know what February will look like sponsor-wise, whether you're going to have one fulltime sponsor for a team or you're going to have three or four to outfit a car. During this time we felt we wanted to make some changes and try to improve our company and our teams. We needed to do something directional that was different than what we were doing. This is one piece of that," he said.

   "I think there will be some more things we will do to try to be a better race team for next year and there's a lot of moving parts and missing pieces that have we've got to fill in like sponsorship and so forth to give us a better idea of the direction we want to go. You can't sit and say, 'Man we're going to run three cars next year' without three cars being fully funded. You can't just make that decision. You have to wait until all the things play themselves our and people make their commitments to you.

   "Even in the last three or four years that series has become more of a challenge. We want to be there and I believe in what we do in that series. I enjoy our efforts there. The change with Pops was really difficult because he's mean so much to me in my career and to me as a person. At the same time, we want to try to see if we can change our performance level and change a bit of the culture in the shop and see if that helps."