Steve Letarte, crew chief for Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Sprint Cup Chevy and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr, was on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain recently discussing the team’s performance and the Chase.
Letarte said that right now the team is concentrating on racing their way into the Chase. He implied that the team is being cautious because they want to secure their place in the Chase before they’re willing to take some risks and take chances at winning races.
This explains why, in the last few races, when Earnhardt Jr could have stayed out on the final caution and gambled at getting top 5s or top 10s, the team has elected to go the safer route and pit, often coming home around 15th.
When the crew chief change (or driver, to hear HMS describe it) occurred, one of the main goals of the No. 88 team was to make the Chase, Letarte said. They do want to win races, but their main goal was to get into the Chase, so that’s what they’re focused on.
Once their spot in the Chase is secured, Letarte said, they’ll take the gloves off and go back to racing for wins.