Too Little Too Late?

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Rick Hendrick finally caved in Thursday by relieving Tony Eury Jr. of his crew chief duties with the No. 88 team.

Brian Whitesell will run things this weekend in Dover until Lance McGrew takes over the role at Pocono in hopes of righting the ship.

Unfortunately I think this is simply rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic.

Hendrick should have pulled the trigger on a chance a month ago, not 12 races into the season with Dale Earnhardt Jr. mired in 19th place in the standings - a whopping 203 out of the Chase field.

It was pretty apparent change needed to happen on this underperforming team in early April, when the 88 continually was off at a string of tracks where Earnhardt usually fares pretty well.

Throw out the runner-up finish at Talladega in late April and all Junior had to show for his efforts at Phoenix, Richmond and Darlington - tracks where he's excelled in the past - was a 31st and two 27th place finishes.

It was apparent the whole operation was in a shambles and Eury Jr. had to go, if only as a sign that management wasn't going to let the situation crumble to ground zero.

Changing the crew chief is on par with an underperforming baseball team taking out the manager. While the problems may not be completely Eury Jr.'s fault, if anything making a move on top of the pit box was symbolic to fans, sponsors and the rest of the team.

So now we'll have to see what magic potion Whitesell and McGrew can bring to the party in an effort to get the 88 running better and closer to what the other three cars in the Hendrick stable have shown.

I think there's more issues that need addressing than a crew chief swap.

A lot of the blame has to be pointed behind-the-wheel and to Earnhardt's credit, he's taken much of it throughout this mess, doing his best to protect his cousin Eury Jr.

But now he has to back up that supportive talk by showing the world he can still be a productive and competitive driver.

His cars have been off set-up wise for some time and it appears every weekend the 88 team is playing catch up to the rest of the field trying to get a handle on things. Which is puzzling given the other three teammates don't have nearly as many handling issues, or ones that can't be corrected over the course of a weekend or race, as Earnhardt.

Coming to the track with a competitive piece off the hauler which needs regular tweaks and adjustments and not a wholesale overhaul is key.

And if that can be accomplished, perhaps Earnhardt can alleviate the pit road miscues and other driving mistakes that have been on display at an alarming rate this year.

Change was needed, no doubt about it. My question remains whether there's more necessary than simply the guy sitting on top of the pit box.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2009

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