Tony Eury Jr. looked at the car. Actually, he looked at what was left of it. He glanced up at the scoring pylon, then looked back at what had been a race car only moments earlier.
“The old points system, that right there just took you out of a championship for the whole year,” Eury said. “Now it doesn’t mean anything to anybody; they’ve got the ability to race like that.”
Wide open. Go for broke. Push and shove and root and gouge and when the dust at settles you’re either in the winner’s circle or hooked to the saddest end of a wrecker.
Stage points and bonus points and playoff-earning wins make the NASCAR world go ’round these days and that’s either good or bad, depending on where you wind up at the end of the day.
Years ago, when championships were determined based solely on points earned throughout the entire season, one bad day could definitely put a dent in a team’s title hopes. It might not ruin the entire year, but it held that potential.
That’s still the case today, in some ways, but regular-season missteps aren’t the title-killers they once seemed to be. They’re potholes. A minor nuisance.
Maybe that’s part of the reason for the multiple multi-car incidents in Sunday’s Daytona 500. The penalty for a mishap was enough of a deterrent at one time. That time has passed.
It’s just as easy to say the incidents were the result of the racing being the Daytona 500 and you don’t get many opportunities to win that race and if it takes getting a little bit more physical, then so be it.
I’ve heard drivers apologize for incidents that occurred during a race from time to time. I’ve yet to hear one apologize for winning a race, however. And I’ve never heard a driver, crew chief or owner apologize for winning the Daytona 500.
Eury has served in a variety of roles during his two-plus decades in NASCAR. From 2006-08, he was crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the most popular driver wound down his career at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and made the move to Hendrick Motorsports.
Eury served as Danica Patrick’s crew chief when she began competing in the XFINITY Series and stuck around for a couple of years before she made the move to Cup.
That relationship is what brought them back together this past week at Daytona.
Their race ended much sooner than hoped as Patrick was swept up in the third multicar crash of the day. Officially, her final start resulted in a finish of 35th.
She wasn’t injured. Her car wasn’t as fortunate. It barely resembled the familiar green Chevrolet that had begun the race a couple of hours earlier.
One race remains for one of NASCAR’s most popular personalities – a final trip to Indy in May for the Indianapolis 500.
Eury, meanwhile, says he has no inclination to climb back into the fray.
“I’ve had a couple of people talking to me about ‘Hey can you do a couple more of these?’ he said.
“It’s like I’ve said before, I like the competitiveness of the Cup series, I don’t like the schedule. When you’ve done it for 23 years, you know everybody at every front desk of every hotel. To me, you’re not living life, not being with your family.
Eury said he likes being able to spend time with his father, Tony Eury Sr. – the two operate Fury Race Cars in Mooresville, N.C. The elder Eury won Cup races with Earnhardt the father and Earnhardt the son. A pair of XFINITY Series championships with Junior, too.
“A very important part of me is to be with my dad as much as I can right now,” Eury Jr. said. “That’s probably the biggest reason I’m not doing this (fulltime).
“I spent half my life in this Cup garage … I thought it was time to take a step back and take care of family.”