|JRM's Kelley Earnhardt-Miller|
“It’s been a tough week,” admitted Earnhardt-Miller. “But we’re not looking back. We’re looking forward. Decisions like this are never easy to make, whether it’s family or not. It’s even more difficult when there is family involved, and you obviously take that into consideration. But unfortunately, the business must continue to move forward.
“We haven’t performed the way we want to,” she admitted, adding that on-track success is just one of the yardsticks she and brother Dale Earnhardt, Jr., use to measure the team’s progress. “This business is performance based, but it’s not just about drivers and cars and what they do on the race track,” she said. “Performance includes leadership within the organization and working with the resources we have to be the best we can possibly be. It’s managing the employees and providing them with leadership and direction. (It’s) utilizing the resources of Hendrick Motorsports. There are so many things that go into the whole package.
“We want to improve all of that.”
Earnhardt-Miller said she has been the target of public criticism since the changes were announced, and called that criticism misinformed and unfounded.
“I’ve read a lot (on the internet) about how we should change our drivers, or change this and that,” she said. “But if you’re not here every day to see what’s going on, it’s not really your right to judge, since you don’t have all the facts to put it together.
“There are more than 65 employees here who work hard to put good race cars on the track,” she said. “We have to make decisions that are in the best interest of all those 65 people, and this company. We can’t let one person cause us to waver. There’s got to be a total buy-in on this program and what’s happening here; improving and promoting the company and leading by example. If we don’t have that total buy-in from everyone, we’re not going to get very far.”
Earnhardt-Miller said one of the team’s main goals is to discover and nurture new driving talent.
|JRM owners (L-R) Earnhardt-Miller, Rick Hendrick and Dale, Jr.|
“Our company has always been about going out and doing well with rookie drivers,” she said. “We did it with Brad Keselowski, and while I know (drivers like him) don’t come around every day, that’s what this company was built on. It’s about giving drivers like Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick a chance to do this.
“What’s been difficult about this season is that we’ve had two rookies in our cars. With rookies, their feedback is not as helpful as when you have a veteran to throw things back and forth with. That has been challenging, but Dale is not passionate about this unless he has someone he can put on the race track and help become successful. That’s what he likes to do, working with rookies. He wants to be able to (help) some kid reach their dream.”
She admitted, however, that JRM may have to re-examine that mission statement in an effort to become more competitive in the future.
“I have no idea who’s going to be in the 7 car next year,” she said. “But with a seat opening up, maybe we need to look at the opportunity to put a more seasoned driver in the car. We’ve got a lot to figure out, for sure."
Despite the team’s struggles, Earnhardt-Miller said she remains devoted to her team and its employees.
“We just had our annual JR Motorsports Family Day last week, and we gathered everyone together at a place in Mooresville and rode go-karts and played in the arcade,” she said. “I looked around at all the families and kids, and realized how glad I am that we can provide a work environment people love coming to, and that gives them an opportunity to provide for their families.
“It’s a big responsibility, and hard decisions sometimes have to be made. But at the end of the day, it’s something that I love.”