Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Media Scramble

Lots of folks are on vacation. Some are just heading out of town for Thanksgiving and still others planning on a half day at work on Wednesday. As usual, these are the times when the big off-season NASCAR stories break.

In this case, it was late Tuesday afternoon when word came of the crew chief changes and team shuffles at Hendrick Motorsports.

Here is the brief official announcement:

Hendrick Motorsports has made personnel adjustments in preparation for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, with drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. being teamed with new crew chiefs.

Below are the driver-crew chief pairings for each Hendrick Motorsports car, effective immediately:

No. 5 Chevrolet
Driver: Mark Martin
Crew Chief: Lance McGrew

No. 24 Chevrolet
Driver: Jeff Gordon
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson

No. 48 Chevrolet
Driver: Jimmie Johnson
Crew Chief: Chad Knaus

No. 88 Chevrolet
Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Crew Chief: Steve Letarte

The cars of Martin and four-time Sprint Cup champion Gordon will be fielded out of the same facility, now known as the 5/24 shop. Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevrolets will be prepared out of the renamed 48/88 shop alongside those of five-time and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

"This will improve us as an organization, across the board," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "We had a championship season (in 2010), but we weren't where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams. We've made the right adjustments, and I'm excited to go racing with this lineup."

Since ESPN2's NASCAR Now was already done for the season, that left only SPEED's Race Hub to offer TV information. However, the Tuesday program had already been recorded so the only mention of this breaking news was a brief update from Steve Byrnes.

Race Hub does have a Wednesday show scheduled. Right now, it is supposed to be a conversation about the season with Mike Joy, Larry MrReynolds and Byrnes. SPEED tweeted that the show will now have more on the HMS shuffle. That's good news.

If Sirius 128,, SPEED or ESPNEWS decides to carry the 10AM press conference live we will pass it along right here. It should be an interesting day to skip around the various NASCAR media outlets and see how this story is handled.

Update: Hendrick event is a teleconference. Info should appear online shortly after 10AM ET. Siruis channel 128 will carry the teleconference live and speak with Rick Hendrick after it is over.

Thanks again for stopping by, this post will be updated first thing in the morning for more information on this topic. To add your media-related comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

Junior getting a new crew chief has long been rumored,but not changes this sweeping. The challenge for the media will be to handle this pragmatically. I hope they don't start p'ing all over themselves predicting Junior will win 17 races next year. Honestly, probably not much will change at all with the #88. Everyone knows Junior isn't good at giving quality feedback to the team during the race to improve the car. The question for me will be what happens at the end of next year with Lance Mcgrew when Mark Martin retires and Kasey Kahne comes on board for 2012. Objectivity will be the challenge for the media outlets. They can raise their credibility by just meeting this headon and not make more of this then there really is. Heres hoping

Vince said...

The way the media on Twitter are falling all over themselves about this crew chief swap, you'd think it was the second coming. If memory serves me right, Jack Roush does the same thing with his crew chiefs every couple of years. I don't see this as a big deal. Martin hasn't won this year, Gordon hasn't won this year and Jr. hasn't won this year, so why not do some swapping around? It'd be a big deal if Ray E. came out of retirement and crewed Gordon or Jr., but this is just common sense.

KoHoSo said...

I'm writing this at a little after 8:30 PST. After a busy day where I had not been on the Internet much or seen any television, I had been in my living room watching the Kentucky-Washington college basketball game on ESPN until a phone call came in that I took back in my bedroom. Before returning to the living room, I decided to check here at TDP for any new articles. I was shocked to see this news because...remember, I was watching ESPN with the constant crawl at the bottom of the screen. I was paying close attention to it to see other college basketball scores. Not one time did they mention this huge news in the crawl to pique viewers' interest in what is sure to be a story many will want to see later tonight on SportsCenter. Once again, it was TDP (or Jayski's in other cases) from where I got my breaking NASCAR news instead of from NASCAR's most important television partner.

One actual bit of "news" that kept repeating in ESPN's crawl was speculation -- mere speculation -- by Lakers coach Phil Jackson (a.k.a. The King of the Trolls) that the Heat's coach might be fired if the team's play does not soon improve.

I could understand if this crew chief switch was buried if there was a truly big story in stick-and-ball sports such as another item in the crawl tonight about Brett Favre's indiscretions. However, to ignore this in favor of Phil Jackson's all-too-normal trolling when it is something that Disney/ESPN paid millions for which to have the rights and not to have it be a good tie-in to keep people watching for a story about three of NASCAR's most popular drivers just blows my mind.

Yep, everything great with ESPN, Brian France...great if you're like my girlfriend's aunt's cat that loves nothing more than to watch water go down the drain. >:-(

Chadderbox said...

Larry Mac said on Race Hub last night (pre- recorded before these announcements were made) that until Junior can give his crew chief BETTER feedback about the car things will be difficult for him with any crew chief. Will be interesting to see tonight's HUB and what Larry Mac says about this change for Junior.

Hendrick pulling out all the stops for Junior. When does it end!

51 yr. fan said...

I like all three drivers, but this
musical chairs will not provide any
improvement. HMS needs to hire
chiefs who will stand up and challenge these drivers. Hendrick needs to do the same. I know how Childress and Roush would handle them.

Anonymous said...

Kyle Busch often gets in trouble by saying what he believes. When Eury Jr. was fired and Lance was named Junior's new crew chief, Kyle said "I feel sorry for Lance because if Junior doesn't produce,the pressure will be on Lance. Kyle further stated, "It's always the crew chief and never Junior." I just hope these changes work out better then the changes they made last year where they raided the car chief and engineers from Mark Martin and gave them to Junior. Martin went from a title threat to a back marker over night. The media knows that criticizing Junior is the Third Rail of Nacar journalism (I'm using that term loosely). Two or three years ago, Jimmy Spencer waited until the last show of the season to criticize Junior. So let's see how objective the media will be this week dealing with these announcements. We shall see.....

Unknown said...

I personally feel that while the crew chief swaps are indeed a big story, perhaps the bigger story (that has been over looked for the most part) is the restructuring of the whole Hendrick orginization.

The 48 and 88 will now be in one building, while the 5 and 24 will be in the other building, thus ending the famed 24/48 monopoly at HMS.

Junior, it's time to pee or get off the pot.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, J.D., and all the Planeteers

Lisa Hogan said...

I guess that I'm one of the few who doesn't think that this is all about Jr.

When I read the news about the changes, my thought was that this was more about Gordon and getting ready for Kasey.

I'll have to wait and get the rest of the picture to see if this is just the drivers moving to a new building or more. After all, the crew chiefs are still in their same buildings. :)

GinaV24 said...

from the perspective of a fan of Jeff Gordon, I think this is a good thing. I got tired of hearing two things from Letarte for the last 3 years. Invariably during the race, he'd say "do the best you can with it" and at the end of the race when he wasn't able to make the car better, it was "sorry, we'll get better next week". Except it never happened - week after week.

I'm sure that for most people the focus will be on Jr and that's fine, but the bigger thing than the crew chief change for Gordon and Jr is the MOVE in the shops. HMS moved Gordon away from the 48. That says a lot to me -- mainly that Jeff Gordon is (I hope) tired of playing 2nd fiddle to his so-called teammate.

I'll be interested to see the media coverage of this -- and I was thinking that I was just going to drown in the Jimmie Johnson lovefest.

Anonymous said...

My Rant:
Why would ESPN drop the ball on NASCAR Now so fast? I continue to lose faith in this network year after year, waiting for someone up top to nurture the sport they paid millions to broadcast.

If anyone actually cared about the sport, NASCAR Now would still be running. They could reflect on the 17 weeks of racing ESPN covered in Cup and a season of Nationwide races. Instead, the show immediately ended. The Nationwide series enters a coma on ESPN until February.

I don't feel any passion from ESPN. Despite their flaws, I can tell FOX and TNT love this sport. We see this every year when DW gets choked up. TNT continues to try new innovations and reflect on the sport's history in The Pride of NASCAR. There is no love in the ESPN booth, just men in suits that can not connect with each other or the viewers at home. There is no passion in the middle of graphics and statistics. After 4 years of promises, ESPN has done nothing with the Nationwide series. It seems like an obligation they have to cover until November, then college football won't be interupted. ESPN covers the Cup stories they want to cover through the finale, then immediately drop the sport into the wastebasket for FOX and Speed to deal with. Four years later, and I am still stunned this is the network I loved in the 90's.

---End Rant

Anonymous said...

This is a pretty big story. I was flabbergasted, tho in retrospect not particularly surprised, that ESPN dropped the ball on it. What gets my goat is the fact that they seem to treat other sports differently... particularly stick and ball sports. As others have mentioned, ESPN basically ignored this story as it was breaking...the very time to have been on it. However, if we were talking about some basketball player with a hangnail in the off season, they would be on it like flies on... well, you know.

It seems obvious that the management at ESPN looks upon NASCAR and perhaps other forms of auto racing with little more than disgust. That's a shame because when ESPN covered NASCAR the first time around they basically wrote the book on it. Just check out any of those ESPN Classic NASCAR races that pop up from time to time.

Oh, and speaking of the HMS shakeup. It's easy to point the finger at Junior, but I don't think it's as simple as that. It's no secret that Jeff and JJ haven't been getting along all that well for a couple of years now. They've had some run ins on and off the track. I think Rick Hendrick wanted to break them up as much as anything. As to whether this will help Junior... I don't know. I somehow doubt that Chad is going to share anything with anybody... inside or outside of HMS. Junior and Steve will probably still have to figure things out on their own. I for one hope they're successful.

Just sayin..

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:00pm made a comment about Espn as "...just men in suits" that struck a nerve. I'll never be able to shake the fact that I look at everything through the prism of 37 years in the Corporate world. Any time I have Espn on before/after a Nascar event, I'm always impressed with the number of " in suits". I often comment on the costs for those up-front people and hoards behind the scenes that make it all happen. I'd love to see their financials. But despite all the positive comments from Brian France about Espn, no one could convince me that Espn cares even the slightest about Nascar racing.

Chadderbox said...

I saw Tony Stewart with his head in JJ's car Sunday after the race. Didn't see Gordon - at least it wasn't shown on TV. Made me wonder how the relationship between Jeff and JJ has been lately. I would like to see the media give us some info on that one. Obviously, anyone at HMS will tell us everything is great, but after JJ and Chad take his team did anything change with Jeff?
Maybe there is not a story there, but maybe there is?
Jimmy vs Jeff ??

Darcie said...

ESPN just showed it's true colors with regards to their feelings about Nascar. It's obvious they don't give a rat's patoot.

As far as this change goes, I think it's about both Jr and Gordon. I have a bud who lives in the area, and has friends who work for HMS, and he said this is about prepping for Gordon's retirement, perhaps as early as after the 2012 or 2013 season, if not earlier. This is also an ultimatum for Jr---produce or else we invoke the performance clauses in your contract and you're out, to Ganassi/Earnhardt. We all know Jr would never go crawling back to his step mommy, so he reportedly has agreed to substantially cut his extracurricular activities, spend more time in the shop, and re-dedicate himself to racing. If not, he knows he's gone, and will be the one to make room for Kasey. From what I've read, Jr and his sponsors are the only things that moved to the new shop. Everything else is from the 24. So if Jr can't produce with a successful team from the 24, he's out.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments from Darcie, Chadderbox, anon. The hub will not touch any of those or anything else that would be considered a hot topic. Hub and all other nascar shows seem to be nothing but fluff - I get a lot better info here. MC

PammH said...

Chadderbox-I heard from folks that were at the race that JG was indeed there to congrats JJ. But I'm also listening to Sirius rite now & Buddy Baker is saying that things have chilled between JG & JJ over the last yr or so. Will watch RH later tonite.

sbaker17 said...

As far as ESPN is concerned, NASCAR ended with the checkered at Homestead.
Next we hear anything from them regarding NASCAR will be the promos for their 2011 coverage.

51 yr. fan said...

I thought Race Hub tonight was one
of the best this season. It was
fun for the boys to let go a little
bit and crack on some of the season's highlights. It did, however, start to head south at the
end with the NA$CAR lovefest.

Give Thanks for all our service
people around the world.

Darcie said...

Well, I see that some of the Nascar faithful have now come around to our way of thinking. There are a couple of articles on Jayski today that comment on ESPN's terrible coverage of the Homestead race and how they only focused on the top three. They basically shamed ESPN and said their coverage was beyond awful. YEAH, finally some who agree with the Daly TV Police Force.

BTW, did you all know if the Chase had been around in 1992, Kyle Petty would have been a Cup champion?? Now, that's funny.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 357 - Perhaps I was unclear. I am not criticising the ESPN dress code. All the networks make their analysts dress appropriately. I am highlighting the fact that there is no chemistry in the booth. They are not pals like Bob Jenkins and Benny Parsons, or mesh together like Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach. All I can say about this booth is that they are just men in suits.

Anonymous said...

For me, Race Hub was a recap of the season, and therefore didn't interest me much. One conversation did get my attention and that was the one where they discussed why the television viewers have abandoned Nascar racing. Mike Joy went on and on about the cars not being easily identified with what the fans see on the street. Now, Mike is certainly entitled to his point of view, but if I were sitting there, I would have challenged him to explain what data, fan feedback or poll supported that position. Once again, look at what the bloggers have been saying for the last few years that the television ratings have declined. In summary,they complain that the Cot doesn't race well on the track(like in boring) and the races are way too long in most cases. Clint Bowyer let it slip several weeks ago. He had a great finish in one of the Truck races. He said the Truck was such fun to drive compared to "the nightmare" the Sprint(Cot) cars were. I watched every Truck,Nationwide and Sprint race this season and often the replays. The Truck and Nationwide races are much crisper than the drawn out Sprint races. Often,its a parade until the last pit stop. Then the finnish is often decided by a double file restart or a green/white checkers situation. Many times,I say, 'is it over?' only to see its at the half way point. Some of those 500 and 600 mile races seem to go on forever. I come from a business background where Customer Sat surveys and 'line of sight' to the customers were a vital business processes. Ivory Tower opinions didn't matter. It was 'what are the customers really saying or feeling?' If TDP asked its followers why they think the TV viewership is declining, not looking like street cars probably wouldn't move the needle. Why don't these 'analysts' ask the fans, drivers,crew chiefs and owners why they think the tv viewership is declining as a starting point?

GinaV24 said...

I watched RaceHub on Wednesday as well since I wanted to see what they would say about the HMS changes. The answer was - not much but that could also be because there isn't much info out there except for what was said in the teleconf and in the public statement. Larry Mac seemed to say it was all about Jr. Like some other people, I think it was a lot about Gordon and JJ. I hope that Jeff gets HIS pit crew back and that he has a decent shop group cuz they needed help with the car setup BEFORE it gets to the track.

I did think that Mike Joy's point about the COT and having "gone too far" with parity to the point of BORING made sense to me.

I enjoyed the roundtable discussion.

GinaV24 said...

Anon 3:29, LOL, supposedly that's what NASCAR's fan council is for, but I don't know who's tallying the info or who they are giving it to when they do. Certainly not to Brian clueless France.

Anonymous said...

I would be shocked by these developments if I had believed the media for the last few years. Rick Hendrick is always portrayed as a cross between a loving godfather and Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. Darryl Waltrip is the worst, but the rest aren't far behind. Kevin Harvick recently asked DW if he was still getting a check from Hendrick.

The Hendrick organization is portrayed as the place where everyone wants to work if they have a choice. It's a place without egos and everyone works for the betterment of HMS as a whole. It's all for one and one for all. All is sweetness and light.

Now Rick Hendrick shakes up his whole organization; and we hear rumors of jealousy, resentment, favoritism, damaged egos, etc.

The NASCAR media gives us happy talk and hero worship. If I believed what they told me in the past, the events at HMS would have surprised me. But who was I going to believe, the media or my lying eyes?

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that there are a number of interesting points being made regarding this thread. I don't recall a year where I've seen such animosity and bad behavior by the Sprint drivers to include team mate drivers. Twice,early in the season, Johnson acted childishly when Gordon(who happens to be part owner of the #48) passed him. More than a few drivers have acted like complete jerks at one time or another this season (some,quite a few times). As for Hendrick tire changers,etc, it looks like there's going to be an open call for auditions to fill those jobs.The TV talking heads certainly appear to know "who butters their bread" (only old bloggers will recognize that expression) as they avoid direct criticism of Nascar,track owners and team owners. Realisticaly, I don't expect much to change in that regard. But, I keep hoping!

JDurga said...

All this makes for an interesting 2011 in Nascar, something to look forward to. Good luck to all the teams on their new endeavors. Steve Letarte is coming in with a great attitude about it all & hopefully Dale Jr will do the same.