Posted at 7:29 a.m., Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Autos: Eury to follow Earnhardt to Hendrick
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
"Tony Jr. and Dale have a successful history working together," team owner Rick Hendrick said today. "They have trust in each other, which is the biggest part of the relationship between driver and crew chief."
Eury has been vocal in his desire to follow Earnhardt, who is also his cousin, to Hendrick. Earnhardt said in May he's leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the end of this season, and Eury has been trying to get out of his contract with DEI since the announcement.
Hendrick said Eury signed a multiyear contract to join the organization as a crew chief.
"Dale Jr. and I are both excited to continue working together," Eury said. "With the resources we'll have at Hendrick Motorsports, it's an opportunity to consistently run up front and be in title contention every year. The goals are winning races and winning championships."
The addition of Eury pushes Darian Grubb, currently the crew chief for Casey Mears, into a senior management role starting next season. Grubb moved into the crew chief job at the start of this season.
"We've asked Darian to shoulder more responsibility and take another step," Hendrick said. "With all the challenges and difficult situations we've thrown his way, he has always proven to be successful. Darian is a star in our organization and his contributions will be vital."
In addition, Mears will move to the No. 5 team next year as Hendrick makes room for NASCAR's most popular driver.
Although Earnhardt said in June he had agreed to a five-year deal to drive for Hendrick starting next season, many details still had to be settled. He's technically replacing Kyle Busch on the Hendrick roster, but won't be stepping into Busch's ride.
Mears, who drives the No. 25, will move into Busch's seat, with Alan Gustafson the crew chief.
Earnhardt will instead fill the slot at the No. 25, although that's not likely to be his car number. He had wanted to take the No. 8 with him from DEI, but his stepmother, Teresa, wouldn't relinquish the number.
Hendrick is still trying to decide Earnhardt's number and what company will sponsor him since Budweiser and Junior are parting ways at the end of this season.
But in moving Mears into the No. 5, Hendrick was able to keep his very first car number. He launched Hendrick Motorsports in 1984 with the No. 5, and it's won 27 races with Geoff Bodine, Ricky Rudd, Terry Labonte and Busch behind the wheel. Labonte drove it to the 1996 championship.
"The No. 5 was our first car, so, for me, there's a lot of personal history in that team," Hendrick said. "Casey has proven capable of winning and running up front, which is what the No. 5 has always been about. The goal is more victory lanes and championships for the team."
Kellogg's and CARQUEST Auto Parts will stay on as sponsors of the No. 5 with Mears. Kellogg's has been on the car since 1994, and CARQUEST joined as an associate sponsor in 2002.