HEROY RELISHES OPPORTUNITY
Ever since coming to NASCAR from his days as an open-wheel engineer, Chris Heroy wanted to work as a crew chief.
He got the opportunity a few times in 2011 when JR Motorsports fielded a third car. But now he’s got the chance to be in charge full time.
Heroy has replaced Jim Pohlman as Juan Pablo Montoya’s crew chief. After several years as a Hendrick engineer, Heroy believes he is ready or the job after spending seven seasons at Hendrick Motorsports, primarily as the chief engineer for Alan Gustafson’s teams.
“I’ve known I wanted to do this for a long time,” Heroy said in a phone interview. “I realized that one day to have the opportunity to build my own team my way would mean a lot to myself. I kind of figured that out early on.
“The JRM stuff was finally getting the opportunity and putting your money where your mouth is.”
Having joined Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in December, Heroy is still learning about the company. His goals are to win races, make the Chase For The Sprint Cup and compete for championships. He had never had an in-depth conversation with Montoya until taking the job.
Montoya made the Chase in 2009 but has missed it the last two years. Crew chief Brian Pattie was released in July, and Heroy knew this was a job he wanted.
“Juan can drive,” Heroy said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. … I’ve watched him race for a number of years and the talent and just the pure speed is always something I respected about him.
“We obviously made a few changes. But Earnhardt Ganassi has a lot of big trophies and a lot of talented people. The expectations here is no different than Hendrick or anybody else.”
Heroy believed he had to leave Hendrick if he wanted to be a crew chief soon. Gustafson, Chad Knaus and Steve Letarte made the Chase with their drivers, and Kenny Francis has had a long association with Kasey Kahne..
“It seemed to fit,” Heroy said. “Hendrick understood. They have four great crew chiefs over there, and I’ve wanted to crew chief or a long time. I had been working for JRM, just doing extra stuff at nights, just kind of putting those deals together.
“They respected my wishes to move on and move up.”
Now it’s up to him to work with a team that is not that different from the one he left.
“This has got all the abilities of Hendrick – just a few less cars and a few less buildings,” Heroy said. “We can do everything we need to do here. Good communication with Juan, good communication with our key partners, good communication connecting the shop to the engineering staff to the fabricators … is the way the best teams are built that I’ve been on.
“I’m just here trying to develop what they have and improve what they have and just get systems in place that make us move faster in terms of development and improving our cars.”
To do that, Heroy will tap his knowledge from his experiences at Hendrick. He said he believes the EGR crewmen are motivated as he is.
“This is the hardest working offseason I’ve definitely ever had,” Heroy said. “It’s really just coming in here and just continuing what I did over there in terms of the people and the work ethic. I’ve found it to be very similar.
“I haven’t had to bring anything from Hendrick to here. It’s more just continuing what was in place over here.”