Steve Letarte, Crew Chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Named MOOG 'Problem Solver of the Race' at Phoenix
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Steve Letarte, Crew Chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., Named MOOG ‘Problem Solver of the Race’ at Phoenix

Steve Letarte, crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet, was named Federal-Mogul’s MOOG “Problem Solver of the Race” after the #88 team recovered from a late unscheduled green-flag pit stop to finish 10th in Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 Sprint Cup event at Phoenix International Raceway.

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Steve Letarte, crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #88 National Guard/Amp Energy Chevrolet, was named Federal-Mogul’s MOOG “Problem Solver of the Race” after the #88 team recovered from a late unscheduled green-flag pit stop to finish 10th in Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 Sprint Cup event at Phoenix International Raceway. Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt and Letarte’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, won the race in dominating fashion in the MOOG-equipped #24 Chevrolet.

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The MOOG Problem Solver award is presented to the crew chief whose car delivers the largest increase in average lap speed during the second half of each Sprint Cup event while finishing on the lead lap. The #88 Chevrolet improved by a race-best 0.415-second per lap on Phoenix’s flat one-mile oval.

Letarte and Earnhardt were working together for only the second time in their careers after team owner Rick Hendrick reshuffled the staffs of the #88 and #24 teams. The new lineup appears to be working for both cars, with Earnhardt posting his best finish at Phoenix in three years and Gordon claiming his first win in 67 Cup starts. But a top-10 finish seemed impossible for the #88 car with fewer than 100 laps remaining when Earnhardt was forced to pit under green due to a loose wheel.

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“Hats off to Dale and Steve – they faced a lot of adversity throughout today’s race, but they were able to bounce back with an impressive finish,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “Steve did an unbelievable amount of problem-solving today, from dealing with the effects of a rapidly cooling track to encountering a loose wheel with 72 laps to go. But he had the #88 car and its MOOG-equipped chassis running at their best when it really mattered.”

Earnhardt started 35th, but the #88 car consistently ran in the top 18 for most of the day. After falling a lap behind due to the unscheduled stop, Earnhardt was able to recover more than a dozen positions over a very effective 40-lap sprint. The #88 car moved into 10th place with just 10 laps remaining.

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MOOG steering and suspension components are the leading choice of crew chiefs and automotive repair professionals and have helped drive an unprecedented 45 consecutive NASCAR Cup champions to victory. The unique benefits of MOOG components and other Federal-Mogul products are highlighted in the company’s innovative "Smart Choice" campaign, which reinforces the message that longer lasting, better performing replacement parts are today’s best option for technicians and consumers.

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