After stepping away from NASCAR for the past four years, Tony Eury Jr. will be back on the pit box for the Daytona 500, calling the shots for Danica Patrick.
Before heading down to Speedweeks, the longtime crew chief talked about working with her, as well as his involvement in the short track racing scene.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into Daytona?
TONY EURY JR: I’m looking forward to it. It’s good to be back in Daytona and it’s good to be back with Danica (Patrick) and GoDaddy. Just looking forward to the race. We have to really pay attention, and be careful. We have basically one bullet so we have to make sure we get through the Duels and first couple of practices here without any incidents, and then concentrate on Sunday and just trying to be there at the end.
This is kind of a unique situation with the scheduling where it’s a totally different set-up plan where NASCAR used to mandate what rear springs, what rear shocks – now it’s ground zero rules, anything goes, so you have to basically re-do your whole set-up. So you basically only have two hours to make it right for qualifying and you’re impounded to the Duels, so we just want to go into conservative mode and make sure we know where the car is at. Then we have four hours after the Duels to get the car tuned up for the 500.
PS: Having been away from NASCAR for awhile now, what is it about this deal that brought you back?
EURY: Basically, friendship. We mean a lot to each other and had a lot of success together. I’ve been away from the Cup Series and XFINITY Series for four years, but I’ve also during that time started a chassis company with Fury Race Cars, where I’ve been bringing up young kids through the ranks to get them up there. I’ve still been crew chiefing – just a different capacity, keeping up with things going on in the sport all the way down through it. We’ve had some good kids come through our program. William Byron was probably our first one. We’ve got Zane Smith, Christian Eckes who won the Snowball Derby with us two years ago – we’ve had some really extremely good kids come through our program.
When Danica called and asked me to do this deal, I just told her that I’d be glad and honored to, just for GoDaddy and her, just for the appreciation that I had for what we were together when she first came in the shop. For her to be going out and for me to associate with that deal and GoDaddy, it’s a really cool deal and good storyline. I look forward to it, and you can never turn down a chance to come to Daytona.
PS: When you guys started working together when she came into the sport, what were your initial impressions?
EURY: When I first met her, she was very determined. She’s a very good racecar driver. It’s like I told a lot of people – I would put her up against anybody in the garage, as far as one-on-one lap and driver feedback. She can give you the information that you need. The problem was IndyCar is totally 180 degrees different from NASCAR, where the closing rates, the position to pass – everything is totally backwards. So that was our biggest challenge in trying to get her accustom that when you go to pass somebody, you have to four foot off their back bumper, whereas IndyCar it’s five car lengths back. That was probably our biggest obstacle.
She’s gotten better over the years, but compared to a kid coming out of Late Models and that’s all he drove his whole life, that’s an easier transition. She’s done well. She’s had shining points throughout her career to where she’s looked good. She’s just learned more and more, but I think that was the biggest obstacle when she got into the sport.
PS: You mentioned Fury Race Cars and the success you’ve had with that. How did it come about?
EURY: Well, I had a friend that used to work for me and he works for a spring company now and he decided that he wanted to build modifieds. He needed some help building a modified, and we established a company over the last four years. Now we’ve changed it over to Fury because he moved back north. He’s got an LFR brand of modifieds; we still build the modifieds for it. Then I design my own super late models.
We’ve got probably a 140 super late models across the country. Like week, I was in Bakersfield, California for a big race with some customers. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do because no matter what, I love building cars that go fast. So it’s at the top level or entry level, it’s a lot of fun to me.
PS: Putting Fury on the map, how important was it for you guys to win the Snowball Derby in 2016 with Christian to get the name out there?
EURY: I mean, that was a huge win – there’s no doubt about it. Let’s face it – if you’re going to sell chassis, you need to win races. So that win really turned a corner for us, got some more people involved, wanting to be part of the program. We’ve got Harrison Burton in the program right now. We’ve won four races this year, and won three of them so far. So I think we have some pretty good stats to back-up what our chassis are all about now. It’s a lot of fun to me. I’m just having a blast with that part of the deal, and I told Danica that if she gets bored and wants to run one of these on a weekend, we can do that to.
PS: Now the latest thing with Fury is you guys are going to be expanding up into Canada. What will it be like for you guys getting involved in the APC Auto Parts United Late Models of Ontario Series?
EURY: I’m looking forward to that. That’s car has actually gone to the powder coat, so I’ve got some stuff going in that direction. I’m really excited. I’ve got a couple Canadians with my chassis – Cassius Clark has one. But to get into that series, it’s just going to help expand, give us another marketplace to get into.
We’ve also got a track day road course car that we’re working on right now. There’s a lot of activity around that we’re really pumped up about. I’m just trying to finish up the last little bit so we can get into production. But that day, we’ve taken it to the track several times and it’s an awesome piece.
PS: Jumping back to NASCAR side, you’ve won a bunch of races through the years. What’s been the most memorable?
EURY: I would say down here at the (Daytona) 500 (in 2004 with Dale Earnhardt Jr.), because we were so close so many times. Like the two years prior, we had dominant cars and won everything down here but the 500. So to come down here the next year and win that race was great. Our streak at Talladega (2001-2003) was pretty awesome. The (2001) Pepsi 400 was the most emotional –that and the Wrangler car (XFINITY Series at Daytona, 2010). I think that really got me because it meant so much because one was right after Big E (Dale Earnhardt)’s death, and the other, the No. 3 Wrangler car, was in his memory. So coming down here and winning that race, that was a full blown effort – there was only one thing that was going to happen, and that was winning that race. Anything else would’ve been a failure. I would say the Wrangler car was my most emotional win that I’ve ever had in my career, because it meant so much to me just to do something for Big E.
PS: We saw the stage racing play out last year. What are your thoughts on that adjustment with the rules?
EURY: I liked the stage racing. The only downside is you can take out some strategy that someone could start out at the beginning of the race if they’re not having a good day to start with. The best part about it is you could have the best car all day, and something happen at the end, and you’ve got nothing to show for it – but now with the stage racing and points given out, it actually means something at the end of the year. So it gives you the ability to show that you had a dominant car for most of the year, despite a couple things happening.
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