DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND STEVE LETARTE
He went 143 Cup races without a win,
but the “88” has been a front runner
all year. June 17 at Michigan, site of his
previous win, Earnhardt was dominant.
THE DAY THE DROUGHT BROKE
Scott Le Page/LAT
change the outcome of a race. People
underestimate when you win a race how
many things had to go right! There’s a lot
of opportunity to fumble the ball.
every racetrack and I understand the
reasoning. That’s fine. Sometimes the
tires mesh pretty well with the track and
sometimes they don’t.
Do you go to each track now and expect
to fight for the win or are there still some
bogey tracks for you in terms of driving
style or car setup?
EARNHARDT I genuinely feel like we can
compete everywhere we go.
LETARTE One thing we do really, really
well is that when we put the car on the
truck back at the shop, our plan is to go
win. That is our purpose: that’s why we’re
going to the track. But we’re also very,
very honest with each other, and we don’t
get so frustrated when the performance
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How and when does the mindset change
to “Chase for the Sprint Cup-mode?” At
what point do you start “assuming” you’re
in it and start driving/setting up the car
accordingly and trying out trick stuff?
EARNHARDT Well, I don’t know what
Chase mode is…
LETARTE Ha! Yeah, it’s a great story to
make like there’s this whole second mode.
But we build new cars every month, one
every three weeks. We race to win all year
long. We have partners and sponsors that
deserve 36 full-effort weeks, so I don’t
know if there’s a Chase mode now.
You take a weekend off to rest your
guys. We have a Saturday night race at
Bristol, and a Sunday night holiday race
at Atlanta, so we will be very conscious
of making sure our guys are well-rested
to ensure our key people who travel with
us have the energy to push the last 10.
That might be the only thing we do
different. But I don’t think our equipment
needs anything to be Chase ready. We
come to every racetrack with the car
as good as it can be.
Earnhardt hasn’t led
the most laps this year,
but 15 top- 10 finishes in
the first 20 races is a
feat matched only by
Jimmie Johnson. That
consistency is reflected
in his lofty points position.
just isn’t there, because there are always
going to be weekends when that is the
case. At Loudon, at no point in three days
did we have a winning car. We had a good
car the whole three days, but never a
winning car. But we started on the front
row on the last restart and gave ourselves
an opportunity to win. With one guy
having a bobble or a mistake on pit road,
we could have even won that race.
So that’s what we’ve done: we have
fast enough cars to compete anywhere
we go, and the weeks it’s not started out
that way, we’ve raced our way to the front.
That means a lot, because rarely does the
fastest car win: you’ve got to have the full
team effort. You have double-file restarts,
and a lot of different things that can
So is there any reason why the No. 88
can’t win the Sprint Cup Series title?
88 SEPTEMBER 2012