NASCAR

Speed Mail: No DEI sabotage; no HMS raid

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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.

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Don from South Daytona, Fla.: Has any top-level Cup driver had as many engines blow in one season as Dale Earnhardt Jr. has this year? Also, what are your thoughts on this happening to one driver on the team? Larry McReynolds: Because of the hype around the No. 8 car and the timing of his engine failures, everybody thinks that car is the only one having trouble. Not true. Crew chief Ryan Pemberton looks after the No. 01 car, which is now a Dale Earnhardt Inc. car, and it had trouble three weeks in a row. They had an oil pump issue at Michigan. Aric Almirola missed a shift in practice at Bristol, which was obviously a self-induced problem. Then they lost an engine in practice at Fontana. Martin Truex Jr. lost an engine in practice at Michigan. It's not just the No. 8 car. I've been in this sport 27 years, and I see black helicopters landing and taking off every day. Unless I am so naive that I can't see the forest for the trees, I couldn't in my wildest dreams fathom that anyone at DEI — Teresa Earnhardt, Max Siegel or someone else down the line — would do such a thing. I just don't believe it and never will believe it.

What Dale Earnhardt Jr. has said in interview this season could very well be a big part of it, and it's always been the case with engine-building. It's like walking a tightrope between horsepower and durability. Dale Jr. raved about the amount of power that DEI started making this year. It sounds like they have flirted well beyond that fine line of durability. Dale Jr. said something else that I swept under the rug and forgot about for the last several months, but I addressed it with Joe Gibbs Racing's head engine builder Mark Cronquist. I asked Cronquist if everyone had reached a comfort level with unleaded fuel. Before I even finished the question, he said, "Absolutely not." Every time he thinks he's OK with it, an engine that looks terrible comes back to the shop. Unleaded fuel isn't a bad thing, but these guys have to approach it much differently than they do when they are tuning engines with leaded fuel. It's not a pattern that teams have yet to get their arms around. In addition to making more power, Dale Jr. has said his team hasn't figured out unleaded fuel. If the No. 15, No. 01 or No. 1 had zero engine problems, then I might raise an eyebrow, but that's not the case.

Hendrick won't raid DEI

Nancy from Chester, Va.: What are the chances of Jeff Clark, D.J. Copp, "Hootie" Chase and the rest of the "Bud Crew" going with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Eury Jr. to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008? Also, any ideas on what Dale Jr.'s number will be? Larry McReynolds: Your second question still seems to be the $64,000 question. We're going to be hearing announcements regarding sponsorship and numbers soon. Even though Rick Hendrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Eury Jr. want to dot every "i" and cross every "t" to make sure they cram in every bullet and come out with guns blazing during Daytona Speedweeks, I don't see a bunch of Dale Earnhardt Inc. guys joining Hendrick. I don't think Rick, Dale or Tony's goal is to wipe out DEI. It was a very smart move to lure Tony Jr. over there because it cuts down the learning curve between the driver and the crew chief. A few crew members might trickle over there with him, but I do not see a big band of them because HMS has solid race teams in place. Crew chief Alan Gustafson will work with Casey Mears, and they will do well together. Current No. 25 crew chief Darian Grubb will go back to a position with which he's more comfortable. It'll be more of an engineer/competition director role.

Speed Mail Larry McReynolds

As the No. 25 turns

David from Los Angeles: When do you see the No. 25 returning? Do you think Rick Hendrick would allow it to go to another team if they asked for it? Larry McReynolds: I'm sure he would. You can only have four teams, and he's got four. I don't see why he would try to hold onto it. It could possibly surface as early as next year. Hendrick said it really hurts not to run the No. 25 because it's been part of his organization since 1986. He's heard from fans and media about the curse of the No. 25, and he thinks it's time for a change. He's applied for a few new numbers, the No. 28 being one of them. Hendrick has been in the business for 24 years, and he never dreamed that the driver change with Dale Earnhardt Jr. joining his team would bring this much buzz and hype. In the late 1980's, it was big when Darrell Waltrip left Junior Johnson and made the move to Hendrick Motorsports with Tide, but it couldn't hold a candle to this change with Dale Jr. It's the biggest change there's ever been. He knew it would create some buzz, but he never anticipated what's happening now. It's not going to be the same sponsor every week, and I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the dollars it will take to sponsor the race car.

No. 25 points

Jim from Colonial Beach, Va.: With Casey Mears moving to the No. 5 car next year, will the owner points from the No. 25 car transfer to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s new number? Larry McReynolds: Absolutely. That's not even an issue.


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 www.crewchiefclub.com.

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

Tagged: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola

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