Hendrick Motorsports

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Steve Letarte blogs about gearing up for Daytona Speedweeks

With the Daytona 500 fast approaching, the next couple of weeks are going to be very exciting at Hendrick Motorsports.  Don’t expect the lights in the Nos. 48/88 shop to shut off any time soon because we’re working around the clock on all the fine details. I believe Daytona is all about the details. The last week leading up to it is where we generally find the majority of our speed, and hopefully we’ll be fast when we unload in Daytona.

We’ve done everything we can during the offseason to test the cars. We put the cars through straight-line testing in December and two Daytona tests (once in December, and again in January). We have also put the car on our seven-post simulator, the chassis dyno, Kinematics and Compliance testing and the wind tunnel multiple times. We’ve used every tool we can think of outside of a racetrack. In the week leading up to Daytona we get to put everything we’ve learned from our testing together and hopefully have one finished product.

You know, the offseason changes really haven’t impacted our team in the way a lot of people might think. I might have a different driver, but I still have the same crew and same car. It’s a common misconception that people think the drivers own the cars—the crew chief actually owns the car. The crew chiefs are the ones who decide how the car is built and manufactured. So when it comes to our fleet of AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolets, we are just adding Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the driver’s seat, putting his seat in the car, painting it green and white (or blue and white) and adding the No. 88 on the door.

It’s been an easy transition. Dale is great to work with and our personalities mesh very well. The most complicated thing I’ve had to do is remind myself not to time the No. 24 car when I’m standing on the top of the truck at Daytona. Hey, after 15 years of working with the same team, that was an easy mistake to make the first day of testing. But that was it. With all the testing and preparation under our belts, this No. 88 team is ready to roll in Daytona.

Steve Letarte

Crew chief of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet

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