CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When it comes to keeping his pit crew intact throughout the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a strong proponent of the status quo.
Never mind that Earnhardt’s No. 88 team picked up front tire changer Scott Brzozowski from Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 squad after the 24 hired free agent Nick O’Dell, late of Joe Gibbs Racing.
That change aside, Earnhardt wants to keep his over-the-wall gang as is—for strong reasons—even though some have suggested Earnhardt might benefit from the temporary reassignment of some of Jimmie Johnson’s crew, with Johnson eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in last Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.
“I really would like to keep my guys—I’ll be honest with you,” Earnhardt said on Tuesday during a Chase Contender Round question-and-answer session with reporters at the NASCAR Hall of Fame heading into the round’s opener Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC). “I don’t think you build a guy’s trust … he needs to know you believe in him. The same way for the driver.
“The driver needs to know the team believes he can do it. I think the carrier, the changer, all those guys want to know that the driver and everybody involved believe in them when they go over the wall. If I take the 48 guys because I think they’re better, then what am I going to do next year?
“I’ll have to start from scratch again. All those guys that are on my car now are going to be (ticked) off because I didn’t believe in them, because I took the 48 guys when the going got tough. So I don’t believe in doing that. I believe that my guys can do it. I think that we’ll find a combination that works for the rest of the year and beyond.”
Now that Brzozowski is on his team, Earnhardt would prefer to keep him, too. The front tire changer has been a mainstay on Gordon’s team since 2013.
“I hope that Scott wants to stick around beyond this season,” Earnhardt said. “I actually talked to him a bit today. It’s not like we need too many changes. We just need one key guy that can come in and elevate the standard and push everyone. Over the past couple years, when we’ve had great crews, a lot of the guys that we’ve been working with this year have been on those teams.
“But if you get one guy in there who’s kind of a key player, or a bit of a superstar, like a wide receiver or a quarterback is to a football team, he can really elevate the play of everybody around him and boost the entire crew—just the confidence those guys having going over the wall when he’s a part of it changes the whole consistency of the team.
“We really want Scott to wrap his brain around staying with us.”