Championship fire burns strong in No. 88 crew

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
With 10 laps to go at Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked to have a solid top-15 finish when suddenly contact between the No. 20 of Matt Kenseth and the No. 9 of Marcos Ambrose triggered a huge wreck. The No. 5 of Kasey Kahne plowed into the front of Earnhardt Jr., who had nowhere to go.

The No. 88 was destroyed and the driver was angry at Kenseth. The good points day and finish looked to be over. However, with a great leader like crew chief Steve Letarte and a Chase spot on the line, giving up wasn't an option.

Letarte wasn't about to give up on getting Earnhardt Jr. back on track.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"Let's go, could be green-white-checkered, we don't know. They're not done wrecking yet," said Letarte on the team scanner.

Letarte was busy getting to work. The No. 88 car didn’t even go inside the garage – the team worked behind the wall non-stop and replaced the radiator within five laps. With four laps to go, Earnhardt Jr. was back on track.

The team may have finished their day 30th, but instead of taking the DNF and losing more points, they ended up gaining at least three points.

"That's three points, boys. That's three points. That's great practice for the final 10,” Letarte told Earnhardt Jr. as they came to the finish.

With just 10 laps left when the crash happened, the No. 88 team could have called it a day and taken a DNF. They didn't have to take the time to fix the car and get it back running on track. But for Letarte to get the ball rolling and for the crew to get that car back on track as quickly as they did shows just how serious they are to win the title.

This is how champions are made - by not giving up and throwing in the towel. It’s easy to admit defeat and say, “Oh well, we’ll get them next time.” But to actually get back on the track with less than four laps to go and gain at least three points is important. Every point counts.

With a great leader in Letarte, I have hope that we could finally see Earnhardt Jr. as a champion. If not this season, then maybe next year. Great leadership and great determination are what it takes to be a champion.

The top-15 finish the No. 88 may have had at Watkins Glen was cut short, but the team’s never-give-up attitude shows they’re ready for that championship.
Championship fire burns strong in No. 88 crew Championship fire burns strong in No. 88 crew Reviewed by Lacy Page on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 Rating: 5