Tuesday, September 18, 2012

JRM Proves Family And Business Don't Mix

The events of the last few days at JR Motorsports prove the age-old adage about never mixing business with family.

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


  1. Anonymous4:31 PM

    Your overriding assessment that this proves family and business does not mix is way off the mark as far as I'm able to see. Eury, Jr's statements regarding his departure so that. So the business relationship comes to an end, but there is no public evidence that the familial relationship is scarred. Though I grant that you have access we do not, so you may have that evidence.

    From my perspective, your assessment is akin to the mother watching her child perform all sorts of feats and yelling for the child to stop that before he hurts himself. You shout this warning enough times and you're going to eventually be right because at some point, all children hurt themselves. Look at the length of this relationship. It's been business and family between these three for at least 15-ish counting Junior coming into the Nationwide Series.

  2. Paul Modlin12:10 AM

    I really hope they go after Elliot Sadler. He would be a lot of help to Cole. If he doesn't go to Joe Gibbs. As far as family an business, it has worked for them a long time. I just think after the season Jr has had he is seeing a different light on the team an what a few changes can make. Hopefully they will get it turned around. It could be a long road ahead for them. I hope not though.

  3. Anonymous3:32 PM

    Probably the best comments I've seen so far Re: this matter..Earner

  4. Anonymous4:22 PM

    I agree that the performance has been down a bit, but one of the biggest problems, whether people like to hear it or not, has been Danica Patrick. She's been great on road courses (and decent at Daytona/Talladega) in the #7, but that's about it. She really hasn't progressed much as a driver this season. The crew chief and spotter have to talk her through each lap, as though they're driving the car for her! Think about all of the talented Nationwide drivers who are being forced to start and park while Danica has huge money behind her; something's not right here!

    1. I get that you don't like Danica, and that's fine. But does that explain why Dale Jr. and the other Cup drivers who haven driven JRM equipment periodically on the past 2-3 years have had so little success?

    2. KY Boy6:05 PM

      Absolutely right Dave. The Eurys were not up on the technical side of the sport. You cant just jack 3 rounds of wedge in and fix these new cars. Seems to me they have to be really good out of the shop. I like Tony Jr., but I dont personally think he was ever that good of a crew chief. I know Danica has a lot to learn, but I said they should do this exact thing during the last off-season.

    3. Anonymous2:04 AM

      It's not that I don't like Danica; I'd love to see her do well. However, I just don't think she has it, as far as driving ability. Her lack of ability/progress has hurt the already-struggling JRM, and it doesn't seem to be getting better (and I don't see a crew chief change really helping the situation).

  5. The Eury's never adjusted to the Car of Tomorrow. For that matter, Jeff Gordon never did either. Both had their maximum dominance prior to the "new" car.