DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND STEVE LETARTE
DALE EARNHARDT JR.
Born Oct. 14, 1974/Kannapolis, NC
•;The son of seven-time NASCAR Cup
champion, Dale Earnhardt, Junior
started racing aged 17 in Street Stock
•;Won the Busch Series in ’ 98 and ’ 99
•;Best Cup Series finish: 3rd in ’03
•;Scored his first win for Hendrick
Motorsports at Michigan in 2008
Craig Jones/Getty Images
Junior made five Winston Cup starts in ’ 99
driving for his father’s Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
team and scoring one top- 10 finish.
Brian Czobat/LAT MIchael Levitt/LAT
good momentum ever since.
Bob Rosato/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
great in the race – and we’ve just had
In just his 12th Cup start, Earnhardt Jr.
scored his first win, at Texas in 2000. He
would stay at DEI to the end of ’07.
Dale Jr. won the Daytona 500 in 2004. It
was the first of six wins that season, which
helped him to fifth in the championship.
What’s going right this year that
wasn’tin the previous couple of seasons?
What pieces of the jigsaw have fallen
into place in 2012?
LETARTE I think Jeff brought a good
chunk to the table when he worked with
me. What Dale brought is a different
perspective and I think we have a very
honest perspective of one another and I
think he pushes me in areas. For example,
I’ve had a very, very good track record of
my car making the Chase and running
pretty good. But that’s it – just “pretty
good.” Never “great.” And certainly never
“No. 48 great,” never winning five or six
races a year. And I think Dale is that guy
who, when we’re third, fourth or fifth
quick in practice, won’t allow me to kind
of roll back. He keeps going and going.
So I think his personality and mine
teammates have nine
Cup titles between
them, so advice is
always well taken.
(TOP LEFT) Earnhardt
takes his racing more
seriously than ever
before, and that’s
mirrored in his results.
(ABOVE RIGHT) Pit
stops for the No. 88
team have been a
strong point in 2012.
mesh very well. When there are ups and
downs, I do a good job of keeping the
playing field flat. Dale does a good job of
taking the attitude, “Well, our peaks
aren’t high enough,” and he keeps
pushing, pushing, pushing, and that kind
of sets the tone for our race team.
EARNHARDT And to go back to the
other part of your question, comparing
this year to last year, I think Steve and the
engineers got together and uncovered a
sort of pattern in setups and narrowed
down what worked for me and what we
did great with last year. Then we brought
in new ideas, added whatever the
teammates are thinking and sort of
blended all that together. We’ve really
channeled in on some baseline setups
that are working really good for us and
that we’ve been competitive with every
week. It really just kind of goes down to
Steve and the engineers doing their
homework, going that extra mile to in the
86 SEPTEMBER 2012