NASCAR Crew Chief: Tougher Than It Looks

Adam SteevesCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 29: Chad Knaus, crew chief of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, sits in the pit box during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2009 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Everyone is talking about the Tony Eury-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. relationship this week. Both sides are being blamed. People are saying the driver is solely at fault. The other side is saying the crew chief is the one making bad decisions.

I say, both are to blame.

The job of the driver is simple: Drive the car. Communicate to your crew chief what the car is doing. Tight in, loose out, etc.

The crew chief has to speak the language of the driver to be able to understand what the driver is saying. He must be aware of track temperature, air temperature, tire wear, sunny or cloudy and many more factors.

He then has to check previous notes to determine what changes worked before, to solve the current problem. He then must make the decision on what needs to be done during the pit stop to help that problem.

Note to everyone out there about ready to start an argument with me: The crew chief is the head coach. It should be his decision whether the team pits and what takes place during the pit stop. The driver might have an opinion of what the team should do, but ultimately the decision should be in the hands of the crew chief.

The crew chief makes changes that often don't fix the problem. How many times during the race do you hear of a team undoing what it did on the last stop? Often! Good crew chiefs take note of that for next time and don't make that mistake twice.

The reason Jimmie Johnson is so successful is because he is a great driver, and because he has Chad Knaus. They understand each other. They communicate well. And Johnson knows that Knaus has the final say on everything.

That is Knaus' job.

Knaus is a genius. He takes detailed notes on computer and refers to them often throughout the race. He is always ahead of the curve. Success has come through experience together.

The relationship between Earnhardt and Eury is completely different. They understand each other, but they just co-exist. Eury will suggest to Earnhardt what they should do, and Earnhardt will decide whether that will work or not.

Earnhardt experimented with a different crew chief several years ago, but it did not work, because Earnhardt was unwilling to listen and do what he was told. During that same stretch, Eury, Jr. and Martin Truex, Jr. were having a successful run as a team with the No. 1.

That was short lived, because Earnhardt wanted his cousin back.

So who is to blame?

The crew chief or the driver?

How about the owner!

Hendrick has evidence right in front of him. The 48 team works, because the chain of command works. The 88 team is lackluster, because chain of command is being ignored. Rick Hendrick can solve this easily, by telling Earnhardt and Eury to do their jobs.

Eury, you the crew chief!

Earnhardt, you are the driver! Drive!

The job of a crew chief is one sided. The driver gets all the credit. The crew chief gets all the blame. Always has, always will.