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When Junior came to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 he was paired with cousin and longtime crew chief Tony Eury Jr. That pairing came to an end in the middle of the 2009 season, when Lance McGrew took over for a couple of underwhelming years.
This season, Junior was given a new crew chief in Steve Letarte, who had been calling the shots atop Jeff Gordon's pit box for the past several years.
Letarte is one of the most supportive and encouraging crew chiefs in the NASCAR garage, and the pairing seemed to produce an immediate turnaround in both Junior's results on the race track, as well as in his attitude. Junior is more optimistic and happier and he credits Letarte for the change:
"No matter what happens during the day, during practice, whatever, when things look bleak, [Letarte] don't change his tone, he don't change his opinion about things, he don't change his expectations and outlook on the day,'' Earnhardt said. "I've learned a lot just being around him."
Earnhardt started off the year strong and rose as high as third in the points. While he has struggled a bit over the last couple of months, he's still ninth in the points and in the past two races he seems to have recovered from the bad luck that had been plaguing the No. 88 team.
The addition of Letarte to Junior's team has given Junior Nation fresh hope for a return to Junior's old winning ways. It's only a matter of time before the pairing pays off with a win. Once that happens, don't be surprised if Junior rattles off a few more before long.