Late last week, the team announced the departure of Competition Director Tony Eury, Sr., who in addition to his competitive duties with JRM, is the father of team co-owner Tony Eury, Jr. and uncle to co-owners Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt-Miller. The move was difficult, emotional, even traumatic, with Earnhardt-Miller calling the discussion, “one of the most difficult I’ve ever been a part of.”
Eury, Jr., was eerily prescient in his reaction to his father’s firing, saying, “It may not be the last thing we change. Whatever we have got to do to make the sponsors happy…”
This week, the hammer fell once again, this time on Eury, Jr. He was released as crew chief of Danica Patrick’s NASCAR Nationwide Series team, with his continuing status as co-owner of the team still to be determined.
|Eury, Jr. and Earnhardt in happier times|
“Unfortunately Tony Jr. is no longer with the company," said Earnhardt Jr. in a prepared statement. "I had hoped he would be here for a long time, but as we’ve discussed the direction of JR Motorsports moving forward, it was clear our differences in ideas were too vast to overcome. I love him like a brother, and you’ll never hear me say a bad thing about him.”
Eury took his firing with restraint, saying, “They’re trying to fix the competition of the cars. They thought they could do better without me there. They hired Ryan (Pemberton) and Ryan’s their guy.”
The dual firings are, at the same time, both simple and complicated.
The simple fact is that JRM has not been competitive this season. After a breakout season in underfunded Truck Series equipment last year, Cole Whitt is seventh in Nationwide Series points, having managed just three Top-5 and 10 Top-10 finishes in 26 starts. Danica Patrick – Whitt’s ultra-high profile teammate – is 11th in the championship standings, with only on Top-10 finish to her credit this season. She trails veteran Joe Nemechek by 17 points, despite Nemechek having failed to qualify for a race earlier this season.
With sponsors like GoDaddy, TaxSlayer, Hellman’s, Degree for Men and Clean Coal gracing their quarterpanels. JRM does not have the luxury of running mid-pack. It is a high-profile team with high-profile sponsors; sponsors that will almost certainly find somewhere else to spend their money if JRM’s performance continues to disappoint.
This is not Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s House. This is big-time, professional stock car racing; a “What Have You Done For Me Lately” business with no tolerance for mediocrity. JRM could have stood pat for the remainder of the season, wasting another three months before beginning the process of fixing what is wrong.
Sappy sentimentality never won a race in NASCAR, and while firing family members is a rough way to do business, it’s the only way for a team that hopes to compete at the sport’s second-highest level.
Jason Smith/NASCAR/Getty Images