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


  1. I am glad to see a real spark and dedication in the whole 88 team and love the fact they got the car back on the track. instead of just taking the dnf.... i hope they take alot of pride in getting the car back out even so late in the race and getting 3 more points for doing so... this is what i would like to see every single race the never give up never surrender additude.

  2. Steve LeTarte is the best thing that could have happened to Jr and the 88 team!

  3. I believe it was Jr that plowed into Kahne.

  4. Well it was not Jr's fault that he ran into Kahne, he had nowhere to go after Kenseth ran into Kahne and wreaked him. Just hard racing unfortunate because he was driving his heart out all day. Started 25th and was going for a top 10.

  5. So proud of Jr and Steve, and the whole team! Jr, is my driver, if he wins or not. He is a very polite guy and a down-home , no stuck up man! T is why, he has so many fans!! can't say, the same about most of the other drivers!

  6. Thank you everyone for taking the time and reading my article :-). I'm also looking for some diehard fans to do a few question interview I love hearing fans :/)

  7. I agree........Steve is the best crew chief Jr has had in forever....HE does his job...the crew does their JR does what he does best....DRIVE. The results are there....remember when Jr couldn't find a top twenty finish on the road-courses? Now look at him go...outside of wrecks not of his making, he's had good solid finishes in the last 3. And points the Chase all year long. GO TEAM 88.

  8. Also was good to see some 'fire' in Jr when he went looking for Kennseth..Jr is NOT usually the type of guy to go looking for payback and we all know that; but, sometimes enough is just enough. I see some sparks that I have not seen for quite a bit from him...won't be long, I'm sure, he be acting like he did in that beloved red Bud 8 car: 'get outta my way I'm coming thru'.

  9. Just watched the wreck that caught Jr, and Kasey. Heard the guys in the booth want to blame the 88 car for that wreck. NOT!!!!! IF Jr had caused that wreck, we all know Jr ....he'd have said so. He's not afraid to take responsibilty for his actions. And would not have been angry at Kennseth.