CONCORD, N.C. — Marshall Carlson figures nearly half of Hendrick Motorsports’s 500 employees lend a hand in winning a Sprint Cup race.
“From the first guys who unload the raw steel coming in on a flatbed truck all the way through to Victory Lane, including all the engine components that are in the cars — the gears and transmissions — I’d bet there are more than 150 people who touch the car,’’ said Carlson, HMS president and chief operating officer. “If you look at the fielding of the team, I’ll bet there’s another 100 folks, if you look at all the infrastructure.’’
At HMS, however, there is a New England touch to any winning effort, given the presence of at least four natives among the company’s roster. They include:
■ Steve Letarte, of Portland, Maine, who serves as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief.
■ Greg Morin, a native of Waltham, Mass., who works as the pit crew coach for Earnhardt’s No. 88 team and Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team.
■ Mark Whitten, of Gloucester, Mass., who works as the chassis shop manager.
■ Scott Maxim, of Augusta, Maine, who works as manager of engine tuners.
While each ventured south to find their way in racing, Morin was an unwilling participant in his father’s job-related move to Raleigh, N.C., when he was a junior in high school in Enfield, Conn.
“Did not like it at first, not at all,’’ said Morin. “But I’ve grown to like it down here. I’m still a New England boy. I love my Sox, B’s, C’s and Pats.’’
Like Morin, Maxim was a lover of Boston sports in addition to University of Maine hockey. Maxim shared those interests with Ricky Craven, whom he first met at Wiscasset Speedway in Maine and later followed south in 1993 when Craven began racing in the Busch South Series.
“Ricky and I started our own Busch team in 1994,’’ said Maxim, who oversees a team of 15 engine tuners at HMS, including eight full-time on the Sprint Cup side, and has not missed a Cup race since 1995. “We finished second in the points that year and lost to David Green, but it was Bobby Labonte’s team, by 46 points. Damn it. Just can’t let it go.’’
When Craven was hired by Rick Hendrick to drive the No. 25, he brought Maxim with him to HMS. “He got hurt a couple of different times and he ended up leaving in the middle of ’98, but I knew shortly after I got here that this is where I wanted to be,’’ Maxim said. “I never really thought about leaving for somewhere else.’’
Whitten made his way south when he was introduced to Hendrick driver Ken Schrader by Bentley Warren, for whom Whitten worked on the Super Modified circuit. “Schrader said any time you want to come on down, call me, and I did,’’ Whitten said. “I could weld, but I was always a spring and shock kind of guy at the race shop, but if I wanted to be here I had to work on the chassis and weld.’’
Letarte made a similar move south as a teenager, in search of a job in racing. He found his way to HMS, where he started out pushing a broom in the shop. He rose to become crew chief for Jeff Gordon and, later, Earnhardt, who ranks second in the Sprint Cup standings.
Morin, Maxim, and Letarte will make the trip to Loudon, N.H., for Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
“I wanted to take my little boy to Fenway Park at least one time,’’ Letarte said. “But the Sox don’t have a game, so I’ll have to figure out a way to take him there.”