Spot on: Gordon crew chief Letarte signs multiyear extension after team signs new spotter
LONG POND, Pa. – Jeff Gordon has a new spotter this weekend at Pocono Raceway. He won't have to look for a new crew chief for at least three more years.
Steve Letarte, who has done it all with Gordon except win a championship, signed a three-year extension this week with Hendrick Motorsports and has earned more time to bring home that long-awaited fifth Cup championship.
Letarte, who replaced Robbie Loomis, has been with Gordon since the September 2005 race at New Hampshire. Gordon has 10 wins, 14 poles and leads NASCAR in top-five finishes since then, but is winless since Texas in April 2009, a span of 49 races.
"I don't think we can do anything different to try to win races, but that is definitely our number one priority," Letarte said Friday after the deal was announced.
Letarte made another big call this week when he decided the time was right to change Gordon's spotter. Hendrick Motorsports hired Jeff Dickerson on Wednesday only days after he split with Kyle Busch.
Dickerson, considered one of the top spotters in the sport, replaced Shannon McGlamery. McGlamery will still be a mechanic at Hendrick Motorsports, building the cars for Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson.
"Shannon has done a great job for us, but there's just been moments in time when I felt the chemistry, the information that I was looking for, versus what he was giving, wasn't always in sync," Gordon said. "We agreed on that, and the other thing, somebody became available who was known to be strong in the garage area."
Letarte said Dickerson will help Gordon at the end of races.
"Some of the double-file restarts get pretty wild," Letarte said. "I think his style might maybe suit the races better."
Dickerson had been with Busch since his early days at HMS, and the driver often credited Dickerson for guiding him on the track to several victories.
Dickerson became Busch's business manager and agent following his 2007 firing at Hendrick Motorsports, negotiated Busch's deal with Joe Gibbs Racing, and continued to represent Busch until this past winter.
Since the start of this season, his only duty had been spotting for Busch.
Busch was vague when asked why the two split at this point of the season. He said Dickerson had other plans at the end of the season and decided to cut ties now.
He used Eddie D'Hondt last race at Indianapolis.
"Jeff is one of the best spotters in the business," Busch said. "Will he make a difference for Jeff Gordon to be able to win races? I don't think a spotter can help you win races."
Mired in the longest losing streak of his career, Gordon will take all the help he can get these days. He's second in the points standings, but would be seeded much lower when the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship starts if he doesn't start winning races. He's the only driver in the top six of the standings who doesn't have at least one victory.
"We're just trying to find little pieces here and there to get ourselves in better shape and position to win races as well as win this championship," Gordon said.