McGrew Sees "a Light at the End of the Tunnel" for the 88 Team

Jim BobCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2009

JOLIET, IL - JULY 09:  Lance McGrew, crew chief of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on July 9, 2009 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

As it if it wasn't tough enough to struggle for a top-10 finish this season, the No. 88 team has spent the last two weeks wondering what went wrong.

Starting with Kansas, it seemed that the team was poised for a top-five, possibly a victory, before lug nut issues during a green flag pit stop led to an eventual engine failure which led to yet another poor finish.

Then, last weekend, the series headed to California.  Once again, it appeared to be a day for a top-ten for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the team.  However, a wreck late in the race set the team back, again.

Interim crew chief Lance McGrew knows what has gotten away from the team as far as finishes go in recent weeks, and he says there is hope down the road.

"To me, it's luck," McGrew said. "It's racing luck. I can go on and on about the reasons why we haven't been finishing well, but the most important thing, and the thing that keeps me coming to work every day, is you see a light at the end of the tunnel. You see we have speed. You see we can consistently run in the top 10 pretty much everywhere. But the bottom line is still the bottom line, and every Monday morning you're graded. Right now we're not doing so well."

Regardless of the team's finishing record of late, many changes have become apparent as the team continues their efforts to figure out what is wrong with the team, which is statistically the worst performing Hendrick Motorsports Chevy in the four-car stable, which sees its other three cars in the championship battle.

There are things that have been changed that once were contributed to the team's lack of success.  McGrew says the biggest one is the team's communication with NASCAR's most popular driver.

"I would definitely say communication (has improved the most)," McGrew said. "I tend to ask him (Earnhardt Jr.) better questions, and when you ask him the right questions, he'll give you the right answer. I think that the team has stepped up, the pit crew has stepped up, and the shop has stepped up."

Earnhardt Jr. and crew heading into Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend, as they continue to strive to get their luck turned around, at a track Earnhardt Jr. likes.

"I'm always excited about racing at Charlotte," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I love racing there. I've got a lot of family that really enjoys seeing that race and coming there. It's always fun to race at Lowe's. It's always a good time. It's close to home, and I enjoy the Saturday night racing."

Earnhardt Jr. has recorded 20 Sprint Cup Series starts at Charlotte, completing 94.1-percent of 7,114 scheduled laps for nine finishes in the top-ten. Lowe's Motor Speedway is also where Earnhardt Jr.'s career began.  His first Sprint Cup Series race was at the Coca-Cola 600 event, held at Charlotte, on May 30, 1999 where he finished 16th after starting eighth.