CHARLOTTE – Despite a few problems in the pits Sunday at Dover International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is lobbying to keep his new crew intact through next season.
It’s as much about chemistry and trust as the swiftness of its pit stops, which were slow at Dover because of loose lug nuts and a loose wheel – both on the left rear.
The team had a new front-tire changer, Scott Brzozowski, whom Earnhardt talked with Tuesday about staying with the team.
“I hope that Scott wants to stick around beyond this season,” said Earnhardt, who rallied at Dover to finish third and advance to the second round of the Chase. “It’s not like we need two new changers. We just need one key guy to elevate the standard and push everyone.
“Over the last couple of years, when (Hendrick Motorsports) had great crews, a lot of the guys we’ve been working with this year were on those teams. If you get one guy who is a key player or a bit of a superstar, like a wide receiver or quarterback is to football team, he can really elevate the play of everyone around him and boost the entire crew.
“Just the confidence those guys have changes the consistency of the team. We really want Scott to try to wrap his brain around sticking with us. I like him to raise his ability and the rest of the group. I’ve got a lot of faith in our guys. It’s not like we need to go crazy, blow it up and look outside the system.”
The addition of Brzozowski, who moved over from Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 when Nick O’Dell was hired, was the second change in three weeks on Earnhardt’s team. Dave Mayo, who had been promoted to tire changer before the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, returned to a backup role on the No. 88.
Earnhardt said the team’s backup changers helped on pit stops at Dover.
“When those guys get moved off and put on second string, sometimes it hurts you,” he said. “I looked over during one stop Sunday, and the backup guy is blowing the left-front wheel to get the brake dust off, another backup guy is catching tires.
“Everyone was trying to be a part of the pit stop and getting the car out as fast as possible. Everyone puts their egos to the side. If we can keep Scott and get him to where he sees an opportunity with us and wants to be part of the future, that can change things for everybody and the whole team.”
Earnhardt said the decision ultimately will rest with his crew chief, Greg Ives, and Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt, but he isn’t interested in poaching any members of Jimmie Johnson’s crew now that his teammate has been eliminated from the Chase. In 2010, Johnson won the championship after his pit crew was swapped with Jeff Gordon’s crew over the last three races.
“I’d like to keep my guys,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I might find out tomorrow someone got changed, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“I don’t think you build a guy’s trust that way. He needs to know you believe in him. The driver needs to know the team believes he can do it. It’s the same for the carrier and changer. You get in position where I take (Johnson’s) guys because they’re better, what do I do next year? All those guys are going to be pissed off because I don’t believe in them. You find a combination that works for us and gets us to the end of the season and beyond.
“I know teams have (changed) before, and I just feel you might get somewhere in the short term, but you’ve basically destroyed the integrity of the team you have. Having those guys back won’t be an option. They won’t work for you once you take them off the car in the middle of the Chase.”