Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, received Federal-Mogul’s Moog Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Race” Award after the No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet SS secured its fifth top-five finish of the season in Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pa. The No. 88 team now has a firm hold on fifth place in the Cup points standings with six races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup field is finalized.
The Moog Problem Solver of the Race Award is presented following each Sprint Cup contest to the crew chief whose car delivers the greatest second-half improvement in average lap time while finishing on the lead lap. The Moog-equipped No. 88 Chevrolet started 25th but ran most of the afternoon in the top 10. Letarte was able to keep improving the car’s handling with every pit stop, leading to a race-best 0.618-second-per-lap jump over the final 80 laps of the 2.5-mile tri-oval. The race was won by Kasey Kahne and the Moog-equipped No. 5 Chevrolet.
“It might not have been apparent to racing fans, but Steve and Dale were battling their car all afternoon. In fact, Dale said it seemed as though they had either adjusted or replaced everything but the engine before it was over,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “Steve did a great job enhancing the chassis setup during each stop, and that gave Dale a legitimate chance to steal a win at the end.”
With his second weekly Moog Problem Solver win, Letarte moves into a second-place tie with Jamie McMurray crew chief Kevin Manion (No. 1 Chevrolet) in the battle for the $100,000 MOOG “Problem Solver of the Year” Award. Leading the year-end Moog standings are Joey Logano crew chief Todd Gordon (No. 22 Ford) and Matt Borland, crew chief for Ryan Newman (No. 39 Chevrolet), with three weekly Moog awards each.
After 21 Sprint Cup races, a total of 15 different crew chiefs have taken home the MOOG brand’s weekly Problem Solver honors. “Any one of those 15 could end up winning the year-end award. As a matter of fact, any crew chief on pit road still has a shot at that $100,000 purse,” Nelson said.