Steve Letarte talked about the final race of 2011 on Sirius XM this morningArchived Message
Posted by magic8ball on 11/21/2011, 9:45 am
Steve Letarte called into Sirius XM this morning and talked with Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone. They asked Steve how he is today and he said he is a little sleepy as it was a late night down in Homestead. It was an amazing race and good way to finish up the season. He said the 88 didnít get the top 5 or the win they were looking for but they had a solid run and brought it home 7th in the points. Steve said it capped off a pretty successful season for Dale and him.
Mike asked Steve to reflect on 2011 and some of the positives. Steve said they can use the Homestead weekend as an example. It is a track that Dale has not consistently run well at and they had a fabulous weekend. They were fast in both practices and good in qualifying. They need to continue to bring cars like that and have weekends like that. It is good to be disappointed with 11 th place. We have seen steady improvement at tracks that Dale has not run well at. After a year together, they can spend the off season with good communication and figure out how to get stronger. They will have fun, relax and enjoy some time off. They will be fresh and ready to go for Daytona.
Pete said Homestead not a great track for Dale but he did well. Steve said they talked about it in Texas a few weeks ago about bringing a new setup to Homestead. They knew they had to get better. HMS builds itself on winning races and championships. This year hasnít been the greatest year for the company. They tried some new setups. They were fast off the truck in Homestead. Started the race and drove right up to the top 5. Couple rain delays changed the track on them. They got a hole in the nose at one point. It wasnít the best race with a great race car.
Pete asked Steve to talk about the rain delays and what it did to them. Steve said normally when the track cools off, the car turns better but it got tighter. It took them a little bit to get their arms around it. They passed a lot of cars. They had a few mistakes on pitroad. Those happen to everyone including the 14 car. Their mistake was later on in the day. They could have been better on the last run but Dale drove a great race all day long.
Mike asked what Dale said when they left the track last night. Steve said after the race, he thanked Dale for his hard work and told him he really had fun. Dale told them the same thing over the radio. Dale said he really had fun. Steve said that is all he really needs to hear. Dale has been in the sport a long time and there is always a lot of pressure on him to perform. The fact that Dale can look back this year and say he had fun is a big improvement over the last few years. Steve said after Dale got out of the car, he took a minute to shake all the guys hands and patted them on the back. He appreciates the work they have put in and they appreciate the work Dale has put in. Steve said we have a good group of guys and they know the goals. Steve said they are having fun. There are ups and downs all year long but if you can look back and say it was an enjoyable year and you like what you are doing, Steve said you have a better chance at being good.
Mike said a positive attitude takes care of a lot of things. He has heard many drivers say they hate a particular race track and it canít help things. Steve said next thing you know you are not looking forward to going to the track at all. They started off the year strong and it was great. Steve said the biggest accomplishment for the 88 team is that they hit the summer slump and worked hard, never made excuses and made it into the Chase. Steve said this was a huge accomplishment. This race team, driver, owner and sponsors all worked hard. Steve thanked Rick for the opportunity to work with Dale, thanked Dale for his commitment to the team and thanked his guys for the commitment to the team. Steve is disappointed they didnít get a win. Everyone in the top 10 had a win except them. They need to continue to work hard to get to victory lane yet it shows how competitive they were go get in the top 10 in points without a win.
Pete asked what is next for Steve such as some down time, family time or vacation time. Steve said you do all the appointments that you havenít been able to do for the last 10 weeks. They will be in the shop this afternoon. Steve said they are building speedway cars plus EFI is on its way. Chad and him manage 85 people and they have to review all of them. They need to talk about what they need to do as a team. Daytona testing right around the corner too.
Mike reminded that one year ago HMS switched crew chiefs and asked if there will be a major shuffling. Steve does not believe so. Steve said he has been talking to the boss the last few weeks. While they didnít get the wins, they still got 3 cars in the Chase. Their equipment needs to be faster. Change is coming naturally with Kahne coming on board. There will be personal changes within the teams and that happens every year. It is a competition based sport but the majority of teams will stay intact. While they didnít win the championship, they improved the 88 car to run with the 24 and 48. He thinks the addition of Kahne and Francis will be a huge improvement to the 5 team.
Mike asked when Kahne and Francis will arrive on board. Steve said he doesnít know but is looking forward to them coming on board. He respects both of them and Kenny is a smart CC. Steve said the negative to his team is that he is home grown. Sometimes it is hard to think outside the box. Kenny will bring some fresh views from a successful crew chief.
Pete asked what the biggest improvement on the 88 team was. Steve said they are no longer walking into the unknown. In Feb, no one wanted to ruffle feathers and everyone was very polite to each other. It seems like a good environment but Steve said every race team that goes into battle, you have to be honest and upfront. He said Dale and him were able to accomplish that during the off season. Steve said it took some time for the team to get the confidence level with Dale and for Dale to get the confidence level with them. At Homestead, Steve saw a group of people that trusted one another, believed in on another and could say anything to one another to run better. He thinks they now have a seasonís worth of trust, relief and mistakes they can build on. There is no substitute for experience and the team now has 1 year of experience. They canít wait for year 2.
Mike told Steve to enjoy the trip to the dentist as he knows how that can be. He also told Steve to enjoy the weekend and spend some time with the family. Steve gave congrats to Darian and said there is not a guy in the garage that deserves it more. Steve said he feels bad for Carl. Steve said Tony and Carl put on a show to remember over the entire Chase. Steve congratulated Tony and Darian as they did a fabulous job and he loved to see them with the Championship.
Mike and Pete thanked Steve for joining them this year and will talk to him soon. Steve thanked them for having him on and said he really enjoyed it.
I too would like to thank Steve for taking the time every Monday to call in and talk to us. It was always great to hear from Steve and listen to his take on the race weekend. Wishing the best for the 88 team in 2012!