Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship Notebook: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wants Crew Intact

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When it comes to keeping his pit crew intact throughout the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a strong proponent of the status quo.

Never mind that Earnhardt’s No. 88 team picked up front tire changer Scott Brzozowski from Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 squad after the 24 hired free agent Nick O’Dell, late of Joe Gibbs Racing.

That change aside, Earnhardt wants to keep his over-the-wall gang as is—for strong reasons—even though some have suggested Earnhardt might benefit from the temporary reassignment of some of Jimmie Johnson’s crew, with Johnson eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in last Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

“I really would like to keep my guys—I’ll be honest with you,” Earnhardt said on Tuesday during a Chase Contender Round question-and-answer session with reporters at the NASCAR Hall of Fame heading into the round’s opener Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC). “I don’t think you build a guy’s trust … he needs to know you believe in him. The same way for the driver.

“The driver needs to know the team believes he can do it. I think the carrier, the changer, all those guys want to know that the driver and everybody involved believe in them when they go over the wall. If I take the 48 guys because I think they’re better, then what am I going to do next year?

“I’ll have to start from scratch again. All those guys that are on my car now are going to be (ticked) off because I didn’t believe in them, because I took the 48 guys when the going got tough. So I don’t believe in doing that. I believe that my guys can do it. I think that we’ll find a combination that works for the rest of the year and beyond.”

Now that Brzozowski is on his team, Earnhardt would prefer to keep him, too. The front tire changer has been a mainstay on Gordon’s team since 2013.

“I hope that Scott wants to stick around beyond this season,” Earnhardt said. “I actually talked to him a bit today. It’s not like we need too many changes. We just need one key guy that can come in and elevate the standard and push everyone. Over the past couple years, when we’ve had great crews, a lot of the guys that we’ve been working with this year have been on those teams.

“But if you get one guy in there who’s kind of a key player, or a bit of a superstar, like a wide receiver or a quarterback is to a football team, he can really elevate the play of everybody around him and boost the entire crew—just the confidence those guys having going over the wall when he’s a part of it changes the whole consistency of the team.

“We really want Scott to wrap his brain around staying with us.”


Maybe it’s a good thing Martin Truex Jr. didn’t see his car removed from the grid minutes before the start of Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover.

NASCAR inspectors had noticed a problem with the right rear wheel well of Truex’s No. 78 Chevrolet, ushered the car back through the inspection line and made the team fix the issue so that the car conformed to the templates.

“I didn’t even see it, actually,” Truex told the NASCAR Wire Service. “I was at driver intros, and Marty Snider from NBC was like, ‘Hey, your car’s not out here.’ I looked at (Ryan) Newman, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I just walked by it on the way out here.

“But then I saw on TV that it was back in the garage, and I was like, ‘That’s not good.’

But Truex didn’t let the distraction upset him.

“It actually wasn’t as bad as you think,” Truex said. “I felt really good about the race car going into the race. I obviously felt really good about Dover—I always do—something about that track just gives me a lot of confidence.

“They were like, ‘You’ve got to go to the rear.’ I said, ‘No worries. We’ll be fine.’ If anything, it made me more focused. I was kind of mad about it for a minute, but it was just, ‘You know what you’ve got to do. Just go do it.’ And we did it.”

Truex rallied for an 11th-place finish to advance to the Contender Round of the Chase.


The Chase race most drivers dread most—especially if they haven’t won at Charlotte or Kansas—is the Oct. 25 event at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Contender Round’s elimination race is the most unpredictable in the 10-event playoff, but reigning series champion Kevin Harvick has developed a plan he thinks works best at the 2.66-mile restrictor-plate superspeedway, NASCAR racing’s largest oval track.

“There’s just a lot out of your control,” Harvick said. “For me, I’ve just made the decision over the last several years that you go there and try to position yourself at the front of the pack and just let it happen. Otherwise, it’s just a complete mental drain on yourself and the team.

“That’s the strategy. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to play the odds. … If you’re at the front of the pack, are you going to have less chance of wrecking? I don’t know. Somebody who’s way smarter than me is going to have to go back and look at all those races and decide where the crashes happened.

“But I think, for us, it’s just picking a mind-set, just pushing forward with it—and that’s it.”

Leave a Reply

Copyright 2018 E-Media Sports

Website Designed by Thirty Marketing