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The Adventures of Steve Letarte

Posted By Joseph Hopkins On Jun 16 2011 @ 10:21 pm In NASCAR | No Comments

As I write this, this weekend’s race will be the three-year anniversary of the last Dale Earnhardt Jr victory.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been impressed by the #88 team this year. I put Junior way back in 18th in my Top 20 NASCAR Drivers of 2011 article (which you can find to the right). They’re legitimately good this year. A lot of the credit has rightfully gone to Steve Letarte.

I’m a Jeff Gordon fan, so I have plenty of memories of Letarte’s decisions. He clearly wasn’t bad. They could just never be complete a whole race. By the time they figured what was wrong with the car, it was too late to make a bid for the win. They were also always strong in the Spring, and then would fall apart as the year progressed.

But it is pretty incredible how he just can’t get into Victory Lane. He’s come close so many times. The last time he went was in 2009, at Texas; and even then they barely won. Had it lasted another lap, Jimmie would have surely passed Jeff. That would have pushed their last win back to Charlotte, in the fall of ’07.


Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America

But man has Steve provided some heartbreakers. So I decided to make a list of all of the heartbreaking finishes that I could think of since his last win to honor the occasion.

Here it goes:

New Hampshire-Lenox Industrial Tools 301
June 28, 2009

Jeff Gordon was putting on a commanding performance late in the race with 64 laps led and was running second behind Joey Logano, who was capable of staying on track longer due to a later pit. That gave them the oppurtunity to conserve fuel and hope for rain. The storms came. The stategy played in Logano’s hands, and made him the youngest driver to ever go to Victory Lane.

2nd place finish

Michigan-Carfax 400
April 16, 2009

Fuel-mileage finish. Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers are the two cars ahead. Jimmie, who was the most dominant driver in the race, runs out with 2 to go. Vickers just barely sustains enough fuel to grab his second career win.

2nd place finish


Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Daytona-Budweiser Shootout (non-points)
February 6, 2010

On the green-white-chechers, Jeff started 6th. He was stuck behind Greg Biffle who took only two tires. Ended up spinning him and ending under caution. Kevin Harvick wins.

6th place finish

Las Vegas-Shelby American
February 28, 2010

Very fast car. Kurt Busch was the pole sitter, and he didn’t even lead the first lap before the #24 went by him. Would lead the race for 219 laps, a track record. The win was in the bag until they took two tires with about 30 laps remaining. The rest of the field took four. Jimmie Johnson would take the lead with 18 laps remaining and win it.

3rd place finish

Martinsville-Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500
March 29, 2010

Was leading with two to go. Kyle Busch got spun and the officials wave the yellow just prior to the white flag so they could should show off their new green-white-checker finish system. Jeff ends up getting slowed on the restart by Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin takes home the Granfather Clock. Gordon would slam the #17 into the wall and he end up finishing 18th.

3rd place finish

Texas-Samsung Mobile 500
April 19, 2010

The #24 leads for 124 laps in another commanding performance. Drove the same car as the one at Vegas. Jimmie and Jeff had been the leading cars the whole day, and both opted for 4 tires in the last caution, putting them fairly deap in the field. The #24 and #14 would end up making contact, putting them out of the race. Denny Hamlin would win.

31st place finish

Richmond-Crown Royal Presents the Health Calhoun 400
May 1, 2010

The #24 was leading at the end of the race with a 144 laps led performance. Sam Hornish caused a couple late cautions, forcing Gordon to beat the 18 on the restarts. The final caution, Busch would take the lead and the checkered flag.

2nd place finish

Darlington-Showtime Southern 500
May 8, 2010

The #24 led the most laps with 110. On the last green-flag pit stop as the leader, the yellow came out, putting them back in the field.
Denny Hamlin would again win it.

4th place finish

Martinsville-Goody’s Fast Relief 500
April 3, 2011

Dale Jr. Takes the lead late in the race. Harvick ends up taking the lead from him with 7 to go and taking the checkered flag.

2nd place finish

Charlotte-Coca-Cola 600
May 29, 2011

The granddaddy of fuel-mileage finishes. Green-white-checker finish; Junior and Kahne starting up front. Kahne runs out at the green. Junior takes the white flag and runs out of fuel on turn 4. Harvick swoops by to snag it. Letarte throws his headset and probably says to himself, “Ahhh, **** my life!”

7th place finish.

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