It's become evident over the past few years that Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet has plateaued, and is now heading downhill.
Stand on the brakes. Stop.
Hendrick Motorsports made the widely awaited announcement this week, sharing their driver and crew chief pairings for the 2011 season.
While Jimmie Johnson sticks with his five consecutive championship winning crew chief, Chad Knaus, the rest of the Hendrick team has been shaken up. Alan Gustafson, crew chief to Mark Martin for two years, now claims the position of crew chief for Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 car. Following that, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, Lance McGrew, will now sit on the stand of Mark Martin's No. 5 team. This leaves open positions at driver and crew chief. Steve Letarte will now move from his position on the No. 24 team to the crew chief of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team.
With this switch, the cars have also switched buildings. What used to be the "248" building, housing the No. 24 and No. 48 cars, will now be the home of the No. 48 and No. 88 cars. This means the former home of the No. 88 car will now be taken up by the No. 5 and No. 24 cars. The switch relocates the team and car, but keeps the crew chiefs in their original buildings.
Think this'll shake things up?
"We've made the right adjustments," Hendrick Motorsports owner, Rick Hendrick, commented in an interview, "I am excited to go racing with this lineup."
Could this switch mean a turn around for Dale Earnhardt Jr? Could it bring back the fans who walked away for a final time with their heads hung low, after another rough ending to a race for Jr? Will it finally give Jr. the opportunity to show the fans he can still win and run up front week after week?
Steve Letarte sure does have his work cut out for him, but as they say, things can only go up from here.
Is the old Jr. still there? Of course he is and the 2011 Sprint Cup season is going to give him the opportunity to prove that.