Brant James
Wednesday October 1st, 2008

He walks country, talks country, looks country with his crew cut and North Carolina drawl, despite all the Hendrick spit and polish, but Tony Eury, Jr., the cousin and crew chief of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is far more cunning than many realize. It was Eury Jr. who chatted up the shock guys, the engines guys, when his cousin decided to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. last season. It was Eury Jr. who silently eased the transition and helped his cousin validate his move by earning a berth in the Chase for the Championship in his first season with his new team.

It's been a lot like going to college, Eury Jr., said, and in some ways its been less fun than when he and his cousin and a whole bunch of guys who were either related or were as close as brothers won races, broke stuff trying and had a lot of fun with the No. 8 Chevrolet. He sat down with SI.com to talk about this season and the change.

SI.com: How validating was it for you to make the Chase this year?

Eury: We'd have been very disappointed if we hadn't made the Chase, so that was goal number one. Goal number two was to run for a championship.

If we're in the top three when we get down to Homestead or Phoenix, I'll be that much more ecstatic. I ain't going to sit here and say we can win it, but if I can have a shot at the end, I'll be really happy.

SI.com: Was the pressure worse on you or your cousin?

Eury: I think there's pressure on both of us. He knew he had to step up and I knew I had to step up also. You didn't really know what you were coming into. You knew it was the best company in racing, so you didn't know how you were going to fit in, you didn't know how far along they were or things like that, so its been ... I've been really happy I've been able to keep up and feel like I'm a part of it.

SI.com: Did you know you were capable of winning at Hendrick before you got here?

Eury: We knew we were capable, we were pretty sharp because we could run with these guys week in and week out. We felt we got beat by them a lot, but we could still race with them at times.

You come over here and you don't really know what to expect as far as tools they got. But once I got over here, they were doing a lot of the same things I was doing, so that made me feel good, that not having all that technology I was somewhat in the ballpark. That's real self-satisfying to know that they have all this and they're capable of doing it and I had just a little bit and we could still do the same job, we were still on the same trail. There were a lot of things we were real close on that you wouldn't think about, so that was pretty impressive to me to keep up.

And it was nothing more than you pay attention to your surroundings, you listen to what people day, you listen to scanners and that's how you pick up on it. When you don't have resources, that's the way you do it, but when I got over here, some of the things I was working on at DEI, like I did all my own geometries and stuff, and those kind of things these guys use probably twice as much.

Pie systems, they use that, so I kind of had to teach myself pie systems when I came over here. I knew how to run the old version, but the new version, I didn't know how to run, so I had to do things like that. They had some simulation over here and I was really interested in that. That was my number one goal when I got here, I had to know all those things they had and I had to learn to run everyone of them.

SI.com: How much was different at Hendrick?

Eury: [At DEI] I was doing things just because I knew they worked. I could put it on a car and it would run faster and I knew it worked, but didn't understand why. I came over here and there was a person who could tell me why. That's what's cool. It's like going to high school and you're like, "Hey, I want to go learn about, business." You go into a class and you can balance a check book, but when you go to college to learn about business you need to know how to do business. That's kind of what I did. I kind of had the groundwork laid out, but they've taught me a lot.

SI.com: Was DEI more fun than here?

Eury, Jr.: It's more work. It was kind of like fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, but, yeah, it was fun over at DEI. We were Saturday night racers, doing the best we could with what we had and had a lot of fun doing it. When you come over here, you have a lot more resources, you study a lot more, you're working a lot harder. I tell people: they have the resources to make it easier, but it's harder because you have more stuff you have to go through. You have a better understanding so, you're like, 'well, that's messing with that. That's messing with that." It's harder from that standpoint, so it is more work.

It's satisfying when you win over here, but you're expected to win over here. The expectations are through the roof. We're supposed to win every week. It's more business over here and it ain't as fun. Over there, if we won a race, we beat everybody. It's like, all right, here's this little bitty team that waxed everybody, and everybody ... the company as a whole was smaller.

I didn't have but 33 people that worked on the 8 car, basically. I probably had eight more outsiders that touched the car and that was it. Here, I'm working on a team that's got two cars in each building and I got 110 employees in one building. The volume is there, but there's people I might not see all day. Over there, I talked to every person in that shop at some point that day, so that's sort of the difference you're dealing with.

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