Steve Letarte, crew chief of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr., took the lead in the battle for the prestigious MOOG Steering and Suspension “Problem Solver of the Year” Award by winning weekly MOOG Problem Solver honors for the fourth time in Sunday’s NASCAR Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Letarte was named MOOG “Problem Solver of the Race” following the No. 88 team’s impressive fourth-place finish after being forced to start at the rear of the field in a backup car.
Sponsored by global vehicle components manufacturer Federal-Mogul Corporation, the MOOG Problem Solver of the Week Award is presented following each Sprint Cup event to the crew chief whose car posts the greatest improvement in average lap speed from the first half to the second half of the race while finishing on the lead lap. Earnhardt and the No. 88 Chevrolet improved by 0.364 seconds over the final 101 laps at MIS.
Earnhardt’s fourth-place finish put him back on an upward trajectory in the Sprint Cup standings – to third place – after two consecutive disappointing finishes. It appeared his bad luck would continue when he crashed late in Saturday’s final practice session, forcing a move to a backup car that hadn’t been tested at MIS. It also put the MOOG-equipped car in 42nd position for Sunday’s start.
“Dale’s crash came so late in practice that they didn’t have a chance to put any laps on the backup before Sunday, so the pressure was really on Steve and his crew to get the chassis setup as close as possible before the start,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “As it turned out, they were a lot better than anyone expected at the start and Steve kept making the car faster with each pit stop. They very well could have won this race if a few things had gone their way at the end.”
Earnhardt had improved to 10th by Lap 100 and ended up leading 25 laps on the day and running in the top five over the final 40 miles.
Letarte’s fourth weekly MOOG Problem Solver award gives him a one-win advantage over fellow crew chiefs Steve Addington (#14 Chevrolet) and Chad Johnston (#56 Toyota) and a two-win margin over Jimmy Fennig (#17 Ford), Chad Knaus (#48 Chevrolet), Alan Gustafson (#24 Chevrolet), and Brian Pattie (#15 Toyota) with 13 races remaining in the 2012 season.
According to the company, MOOG Steering and Suspension components are the leading choice of automotive repair professionals and top crew chiefs and have helped drive an unprecedented 46 consecutive NASCAR Cup champions to victory.
For additional information regarding MOOG steering and suspension components and the MOOG Problem Solver of the Race and Problem Solver of the Year awards, visit the brand’s technician-focused www.moogproblemsolver.com website or contact your MOOG supplier. To identify the right MOOG part for virtually any application, use the convenient, free www.FMe-cat.com electronic catalog.