SOUTHFIELD, Mich. They qualified a distant 29th and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted he has yet to feel comfortable racing at Kentucky Speedway, but the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet team led by crew chief Steve Letarte pulled out all the stops to earn their Sprint Cup Series-leading ninth top-five finish in Saturday night’s NASCAR Quaker State 400. Following the race, Letarte was named Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ MOOG Steering and Suspension Problem Solver of the Race for the third time this season.
The weekly MOOG Problem Solver award is presented to the crew chief whose car posts the greatest second-half improvement in average lap time while finishing on the lead lap. Letarte’s third weekly Problem Solver award, based on the 88 car’s race-best 0.295-second-per-lap improvement at Kentucky, gives him a one-win lead in the season-long battle for the $100,000 MOOG Problem Solver of the Year Award.
After struggling in qualifying and both practice sessions, Earnhardt gave all the credit for Saturday’s finish to Letarte and the Hendrick Motorsports crew, who worked throughout Friday night and all day Saturday to improve the 88 car’s performance. Those extra hours paid almost immediate dividends Saturday night as Earnhardt drove the MOOG-equipped Chevrolet SS into the top 10 within the first 35 laps. While the 88 was vastly improved, Letarte’s smart fuel and tire strategies played equally important roles in helping Earnhardt pick up more than a dozen positions in the early going. The Hendrick Motorsports crew was stout as well, delivering a succession of flawless stops that improved the 88 car’s running position.
“Steve would be the first to say that everyone on that team deserves a share of this MOOG Problem Solver win,” said Tim Nelson, director of motorsports for Federal-Mogul Motorparts. “Dale says he’s still trying to figure out how to race here, but he did a great job tonight. And the Hendrick crew demonstrated brilliant execution on pit road. They put all the pieces together on a track where the odds seemed to be stacked up against them just 24 hours earlier.”
MOOG Steering and Suspension is the preferred brand of professional technicians and NASCAR crew chiefs, and MOOG components are recognized as the automotive service industry’s “Problem Solver,” with innovative parts that improve on original designs by providing increased durability, enhanced performance and easier installation. NASCAR Cup champions have driven to victory with MOOG parts for an unprecedented 48 straight years.
For more information regarding the MOOG Problem Solver awards and MOOG products, visit the brand’s technician-focused www.moogproblemsolver.com website or contact your MOOG supplier. Like MOOG on Facebook at www.facebook.com/moogproblemsolver.