It's been two months since Tony Eury Jr. was removed as the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt continues to struggle with his No. 88 Chevrolet, and that makes the breakup even tougher on Eury.
Eury talked about his famous cousin while working as the crew chief for Brad Keselowski last week. He talked about their relationship and the pressure of being so close to the sport's most-popular driver. Here is an excerpt of that interview:
Q: What have you done since you left Earnhardt's team?
A: You know, just been chilling a lot, kind of spending some time with the wife. I haven't done that in a real long time so kind of enjoying that. I've been down at R & D (Research and Development) trying to learn what Rex (Stump, lead chassis engineer) and them do, what they expect me to do. I would say the first two or three weeks, I didn't even watch a race. It was really cool to just get away because I've never been able to do it before and I've enjoyed it, to be honest with you. But I'm glad to be back here at the racetrack because I get to see a lot of my friends and a lot of people that I've spent years and years with so it's going to be exciting.
Q: Have you talked with Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
A: We just let everything ease up. We sent a couple texts that first weekend. We talked on the phone and it was kind of emotional for both of us. In no way shape or form am I going to let this sport get in between me and Dale Jr. It was a job, I enjoyed being around Dale - still do. He's family and we go deeper than this racing deal. I've always wanted him to have the opportunity, if he has to be with somebody else, if that brings him up a scale then I've always been for that. Me and Dale Jr. have plenty of hunts planned together and we're going to go do things outside of racing. To be honest with you, I don't think we really talk a whole lot of racing when we do talk. I think that's pretty cool.
Q: What was your reaction to being removed as his crew chief?
A: I think it was mixed. In one shape and form it was like, 'Cool, I'm glad this is over with,' and the next one felt like I let my cousin down. I've done a lot for him, he's done a lot for me, but we enjoy racing together. I think a lot of people put him on a pedestal that he doesn't need to be on. They put a lot of pressure on him to be somebody that he's not going to be. Dale Jr. is a great race car driver, but I just think that he's got so much pressure on him that he doesn't enjoy it right now. Hopefully, that's what I told him, 'Man, you just need to start enjoying yourself more,' and that's kind of where I was at.
We obviously have a very big dependency on sponsorship, and our company is going through restructuring and hurting, sure. Does that have an effect? Yeah. All of that has an effect. But we are still, you know, as we were last weekend, the largest sporting event of the weekend by any metrics, largest in attendance, largest in television viewership, largest in radio viewership, you name the medium, we are either No. 1 or No. 2 every weekend.
Q: Is there any chance Mayfield didn't have methamphetamines in his system?
A: Tests have to be, either they are certain or they are not. So, of course, we believe in looking at that particular test, chain of custody, how it was tested, who tested it; and we wouldn't have suspended him if we didn't think it was that way. These are tough decisions. We know what it means, to anyone, to get such a positive test back. So, yes, we are very comfortable that that test is accurate and reliable and will hold up, ultimately, when all of the facts are heard, which if you're us, that I mean, everybody can say, you know, they don't believe they did something. That kind of happens when people do something wrong typically. They don't like to think they didn't do it.