Q & A with Tony Eury Jr.
Have you had a chance to talk to Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
Tony Eury Jr.: We just let everything ease up. We sent a couple texts that first weekend. We talked on the phone and it was kind of emotional for both of us. In no way shape or form am I going to let this sport get in between me and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. It was a job, I enjoyed being around Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. - still do. He’s family and we go deeper than this racing deal. I’ve always wanted him to have the opportunity, if he has to be with somebody else, if that brings him up a scale then I’ve always been for that. I’m just looking forward to working with Brad (Keselowski). Me and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. have plenty of hunts planned together and we’re going to go do things outside of racing. To be honest with you, I don’t think we really talk a whole lot of racing when we do talk. I think that’s pretty cool.”
What were your thoughts and feelings when everything happened?
TE: I think it was mixed. In one shape and form it was like, ‘Cool, I’m glad this is over with,’ and the next one felt like I let my cousin down. I’ve done a lot for him, he’s done a lot for me, but we enjoy racing together. I think a lot of people put him on a pedestal that he doesn’t need to be on. They put a lot of pressure on him to be somebody that he’s not going to be. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. is a great race car driver, but I just think that he’s got so much pressure on him that he doesn’t enjoy it right now.
You get blasted in the media and you have to go home and my wife wouldn’t even watch the race. You would come home and she would ask where we finished because she doesn’t want to sit there and hear the negativity on it. I fought it for a long time and at some point in time you have to weigh it and ask if it’s worth it. It wasn’t and it took me a couple weeks to figure that out. Me and Brad (Keselowski) have talked and I am just looking forward to running a couple races with the GoDaddy car. Just glad Rick (Hendrick) put me in a position where I could have a little bit more fun and do a little bit more.
Do you feel slighted at all, or do you feel your relationship had run its course?
TE: I think it just kind of run its course. There’s definitely some things that happened and evolved that brought us to this point. In general, it was time. There is no other way to put it. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. is not getting any younger, so let’s give him the opportunity to work with somebody else and try something. Definitely the road we were going down, it wasn’t a bed of roses so let’s try something different. That’s where it was at.”
What is the biggest difference between working with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski?
TE: Just coming to the racetrack and being able to enjoy yourself. We can take a lot more gambles, I can try things over here with him and I think he’s got a lot of confidence because he knows my background and he’s talked to Pops (Tony Eury Sr.) a lot about me. Brad and I have been to lunch several times and just talked. We’ve got nothing to lose and it all to gain. That’s basically what we’re looking at. We’re just going to lay it out there and hopefully we can get him another win this year.”
How much pressure has there been on both you and Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
TE: When this whole deal started it was Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. and Pops and they wanted me and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. to go racing and we wanted to be the front of the company and them two wanted to retire and kick back and watch us. Losing Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. was a big hit on all three of us and we were trying everything we could to make Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. successful and it just wasn’t enough. I kind of felt like I let everybody down to a point, but I don’t know how to say it. It means a lot to me when the peers in this garage walk up to me and tell me that I am doing a great job and they’re sorry to hear about what happened. These guys in here know what I’m about and what I can do – that means more to me than anything else that will ever go on in my life. I’m satisfied with everything that I’ve done and the way it went down and just looking forward to something new, just to try something different.
What did Dale Earnhardt Jr. mean when he talked about the pride between the two of you getting in the way?
TE: You both try so hard and when things didn’t go right, you just didn’t want the other one to give up or didn’t want to say something negative that might hurt the other one’s feelings. I’ve been down a roller coaster with him as far as communication. I’ve had it out with him and then the media has blasted me for having it out with him when we first started. Then we went to a more conservative role where we didn’t say anything – and we got blasted because we didn’t talk enough. We finished Atlanta in 11th this year and the first thing you read in the paper is that the end was near because we weren’t talking. You’re like, ‘OK, so which way do they want it?’ We basically quit talking on the radio because there were different ways we could do it. That’s unfortunate that it had to come to that, but we still believed in one another and that’s all that mattered.”
I think that’s the biggest thing that him and Lance (McGrew, current crew chief) got going for them right now is that he is a lot more open with Lance, and Lance hasn’t got them chewings yet to be able to be quiet – they will be on the way, but that’s a good thing. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. is just more open right now.”
Why do you feel that it wasn’t clicking this year between the two of you?
TE: I think, my personal opinion, is that you guys (media) put so much pressure on him after Daytona that Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. just basically had had enough. If you want to get down to it. We went to Daytona and had a shot at winning that race, had some problems on pit road, but we ain’t going to slam Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. We’re going to pick him up and say, ‘Let’s go to Vegas,’ and we went to California and blew up, so there’s two negative weeks. You guys were all over him and it just brought him down.
I don’t think we had a strong enough finish to bring him back up so every week the hole gets deeper and deeper and deeper and it was like throwing a squirrel into a hole – it’s not coming out. So I will dig the other way to get away from it.
If I could go over there right now and turn that team around, I would. We’ve tried our teammate’s setups, we’ve tried our own setups, we’ve tried everything that we can imagine and when things are going our way then something happens. At the end of the day you still have the same result. We just have to get Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. having more fun right now and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Do you think there is more pressure at Hendrick Motorsports because Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is not the number one driver?
TE: There could be some merit to that, no doubt. I had the privilege of Chad (Knaus) asking me to go down there with Jimmie (Johnson) to road race and I am going to tell you, Jimmie Johnson is a champion for a reason. There is no doubt about it. Jeff Gordon is the same way. Those guys are good and they have the equipment and the people that surround them at Hendrick Motorsports to be able to take care of that. That pressure gets to anybody. We just have to kind of chill out and let Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. do his thing and enjoy himself. Not saying to just slack off, but he’s trying really hard and let’s give him a break and let him do what he loves.”
How much pressure has NASCAR put on Dale Jr.?
TE: You open the newspaper, you go online, I couldn’t open up a paper because it would be an Earnhardt or a Eury Jr. story somewhere and it’s either, if we won the race it was great and if it wasn’t then it was all negative. To a point, you just get tired of reading and you get tired of seeing it. No, I don’t fault NASCAR. It’s publicity for their sport, but there’s a whole lot more going on than just us right now. That’s why I say, that’s just part of it. It’s not the cure-all, but it would definitely help.