INDIANAPOLIS – Dale Earnhardt Jr. blames the controversial crew swap with teammate Michael Waltrip on immature and childish behavior.

Now that he realizes he was partly to blame for souring the relationship with former crew chief Tony Eury Jr., who is also his cousin, it appears the two could be reunited as soon as next season.

“Tony Jr. is awesome. I always felt like he was going to be one of the best crew chiefs in the business,” Earnhardt said. “I do want to work with him again. I think we should.”

Richie Gilmore, vice president of Dale Earnhardt Inc., said Saturday that it would be up to team owner Teresa Earnhardt to move Eury back to crew chief of the No. 8 Chevrolet. But it’s clear to everyone involved that separating the two and sending Eury to run Waltrip’s team did wonders for their relationship.

“I think that they gained a lot of respect back for each other,” Gilmore said.

The crew swap at DEI has been widely viewed as a bust for Earnhardt, who has struggled with his new team. He fired the first crew chief he was given after 11 races and has been trying to salvage the season with technical director Steve Hmiel running the show on a temporary basis.

Still, he has just one victory this season and is 14th in points heading into Sunday’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Waltrip’s team, with Eury calling the shots, is 19th in the points but has run much better than its standing.

But Earnhardt insists the switch was a good idea regardless of on-track performance.

“We didn’t change the teams because of a performance issue. We changed it because of an attitude issue between me and Tony Jr.,” he said. “We changed it, maybe not for the right reasons, but the change did what it was supposed to it. It fixed his attitude and it fixed my attitude.

“It’s not always greener on the other side for either one of us. We both look at each other and talk to each other today totally different. I think that gives us that opportunity to work together in the future that we wouldn’t of had if we would have run ourselves totally apart.”

Now forced to fight his way into NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, Earnhardt has just six races left to qualify for the playoffs. If he does get in, Gilmore said Saturday that DEI would not move Eury over to his team for the Chase.

But no one is ruling out teaming the two in the future. In fact, Waltrip is leaving DEI at the end of the next season because the organization would not guarantee him that he would work with Eury in the future.

However, Waltrip could end up with Eury anyway.

Gilmore said Saturday that Eury has no contract with DEI and admitted Waltrip could take him to his next team. But he said early indications were that he would stay at DEI.

“The Eurys have never had contracts, they’ve always just been there,” Gilmore said. “It’s always been an agreement and a year-to-year deal. Tony Jr. has told me he’s not going anywhere and we’re working on a deal and it would be his first contract – ever.

“That’s the only place Tony Jr. has ever worked.”

Now that Earnhardt and Eury are getting along again, its likely that Eury won’t leave. The cousins have always been close. When paired together on a race team, the two fought like brothers. It got so bad in the end that Earnhardt said the two hardly spoke the entire weekend of last year’s season finale in Homestead, Fla.

Teresa Earnhardt then swapped the teams a few weeks later, separating Earnhardt and Eury to give them a break.

Now, the old adage “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ has never been more fitting.

“We were driving ourselves apart with our attitudes toward each other,” Earnhardt said. “Sometimes we act like children and sometime you need a lesson, and we had to give it to ourselves.

“We’re just both really immature for our age, and that’s due to the fact that our fathers let us raise ourselves pretty much. The more mature we get, the easier it is for us to work together.”

AP-ES-08-06-05 1742EDT


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