Speed Mail: DEI's Chase goal despite engine failures

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

Marcie from Fort Bragg, Calif.: Will Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s engine department overcome its changes? They may be trying to pass Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s latest failure off on the driver, but I am not buying it. Seven engine failures is waaayyyy too many for a top team! Larry McReynolds: I've seen e-mails from fans accusing DEI of giving Dale Earnhardt Jr. lemons because he's leaving at season's end. I believe with all my heart that the goal of Dale Earnhardt Inc. is to get the No. 8 and No. 1 in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. They also want to keep the No. 01 in the top 12 in owner points although Sunday's effort didn't help. Anybody that sees anything differently is totally wrong.

Dale Jr. had an engine failure at Indianapolis and again at Watkins Glen. I'm not sure what happened at Indy, but he took a lot of the blame for The Glen. I'm sure they're going to tear it apart before they can accurately say anything, but he said that he over-reved the engine over the course of the weekend while downshifting, especially in practice when his car wasn't driving very well.

What's Hmiel's deal?

Tom from Colorado Springs, Colo.: Do you think that Steve Hmiel will go with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Hendrick Motorsports? I know that Junior has said that Steve is who he wants as a spotter. Larry McReynolds: I'm hearing now that several key members from the No. 8 team and DEI are being actively pursued to go with Dale Jr. to Hendrick Motorsports. If Dale Jr. feels that Hmiel is one of those key people, Rick Hendrick feels that way and obviously Steve feels that way and isn't under contract or in an agreement that he can't get out of, I'm sure that's very important to Junior. The crew chief and spotter are very critical to Junior's success. That's not to say that someone else can't fill those positions. They're the two people that are in his ear non-stop during practice and races. He's used to Hmiel and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. and has a comfort level with them so it would totally make sense if they can make it happen.

Winning formula

Dan from Chandler, Ariz.: Why did NASCAR change the points system? I understand that you need to value wins, but you also have to value what place each racer finishes. They should have combined the two systems. Have the 12 Chase members separated by five points and then add the 10 points per race win. It is a slap in the face to the person who finishes 1st in the standings if they don't get any added advantage! Larry McReynolds: No one in our sport dislikes this change. Everybody is excited about it, and Jeff Gordon confirmed it in his postrace interview on Sunday. He said he's in the Chase, but he wants more bonus points for winning so he was going for it. He said he drove a little over his head and stepped too far across the line. If Carl Edwards was just trying to finish as high as he could in the points, he would have made a run at Tony, but he probably wouldn't have overdriven Turn 10 that badly. But he was going for it. Why? He wants 10 more bonus points for a win. As much as I've questioned Chase changes, they nailed it this time because it still rewards consistency. It's still about finishing as high in the points as you can. But now it's put a little bit of a reward on winning. And I haven't heard anybody — drivers, owners, team members, sponsors or even media — challenge it. I challenge anybody that says this system isn't good.

Speed Mail Larry McReynolds

Seeing red?

Bill from Largo, Fla.: Why wasn't work on the No. 29 car under the red flag stopped sooner at Watkins Glen? Larry McReynolds: I didn't see any work done on the No. 29 car under the red flag. They were working while the race was under caution, but until the red flag is actually displayed, they can continue to work. That's exactly what I witnessed, and NASCAR was right there on top of them. They can build pieces and do anything that's not touching the race car, whether it's putting together a radiator or building fenders. You can do anything as long as you're not touching the car. You can survey and build parts as long as you're not physically working on the actual race car. That's exactly what I saw Sunday.

FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at

"How to Become a Winning Crew Chief" is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from

Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin

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