Jan 10, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
The racing element of Steve Letarte leaving Hendrick Motorsports and joining the NBC Sports NASCAR broadcast team for 2015 is how Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be affected. Earnhardt said Friday at Daytona he had an idea of the decision at last year’s season finale in Homestead, and has spent the offseason trying to process it.
But when he was first informed this was a possibility, at the fall race in Charlotte, “Junior” was “in shock.”
“It’s definitely a unique situation,” he said Friday morning during NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona. “He actually included me in on the discussion before the end of last year, and I had a pretty good understanding, whether he knew or not, what he was going to do. I had a pretty good understanding what his decision was going to be when I left Homestead.
“So I’ve had time to really wrap my brain around it. It was hard because we are such good friends, and I really do enjoy working with him a lot.”
Still, Earnhardt acknowledged Letarte’s desire to spend more time with his family is a good one.
“But at the same time I’m happy for him because it gives him the opportunity to spend time with his family,” Earnhardt said. “It’s something that’s really important to him, and the way these races are broadcast and how they’re presented to the fans is a big part of how the sport remains healthy, and I think that he’s going to be incredible in that role. I think that he’ll – I think that he’ll be really good.
“I’m excited for him because I know he’s really looking forward to it,” he added. “You can tell when he talks about it how genuinely enthused he is about the opportunity.”
Earnhardt said he will not be involved in the process of finding Letarte’s replacement. His biggest fear, he said, was finding someone as talented. An early name to consider could be Ron Malec, longtime car chief on the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, but it’s way too early to have any prognostications of who will be on the No. 88 box in 2015.
“I won’t make any suggestions at all. I will leave that up to Rick (Hendrick), Doug (Douchardt),” Earnhardt said. “I would love to have input from Chad Knaus and Steve. I think that Steve knows what makes this team work.
“I think it’s important that Chad has got a lot of influence because he knows how well the shop works together and what the culture is in the shop and how a guy, a particular guy may mesh in that environment. But I don’t really want to have any influence on the choice.”
Earnhardt acknowledged this will be Letarte’s last go-‘round in the garage area and there’s an extra bonus, and extra incentive, to ensure Letarte can go out on a high. In the last three years, Tony Stewart’s crew chief Darian Grubb, Dodge as a manufacturer, and Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing have delivered titles or near-titles in their final seasons in their current roles.
“Fortunately we get to work together one more year,” Earnhardt said. “I feel almost lucky in that regard that I get the opportunity to work with him for one more season.
“He’s not going to work for another driver or another team, so it’s kind of his last hurrah, and hopefully he never has to come back to that job again and his broadcasting career takes him on into the rest of his life. And I think it will. I think he’s going to be fantastic.”
Jan 30, 2015, 5:02 AM EST
After a disastrous 2014, Sauber aims to hit back this year with a new image and two new drivers.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:30 PM EST
When he went looking for a new crew chief to replace the soon-to-be departing Steve Letarte, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ultimately didn’t have to look very far.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:00 PM EST
Kasey Kahne looks for success with new crew chief… and another Super Bowl for his Seahawks.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:30 PM EST
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway was arrested last week and charged with indecent exposure and lewdness.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:09 PM EST
Conor Daly finally set for an IndyCar test this offseason, with SPM.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:33 PM EST
After coming so close last season, Ryan Newman is ready to fight for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015 — and he’s bringing his brass knuckles to give him a hand.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:01 PM EST
Car owner Rick Hendrick said he consulted with Jeff Gordon about if to retire the No. 24 after this season.
Jan 29, 2015, 5:42 PM EST
One week after announcing he was retiring after the 2015 season, Jeff Gordon told NASCAR America that he wants to win his final Daytona 500 and also walk away with his fifth career Sprint Cup championship.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:42 PM EST
IndyCar’s Brasilia, Brazil race set for March 8 has been canceled.
Jan 29, 2015, 4:35 PM EST
Jimmie Johnson will again embark on a quest for his seventh Cup title, but he acknowledged and embraced Thursday he’s not the story at Hendrick Motorsports for 2015.
Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship
Jan 29, 2015, 4:12 PM EST
There’s nothing like putting a little pressure on a guy, especially in his final season. Team owner Rick Hendrick expects Jeff Gordon to win 14 races and the championship in 2015!
Jan 29, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Today’s NASCAR AMERICA runs for an hour and has a heavy No. 24 theme.
Jan 29, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
Ganassi, Sabates praise McMurray’s start to 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:41 PM EST
Although he grew up a Jeff Gordon fan and was counseled by Gordon on his future, Kyle Larson will watch someone else drive the No. 24.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:35 PM EST
Fresh off a team win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Kyle Larson not only is keeping time better, he says it’s also time to win some races and contend for the Sprint Cup championship in 2015.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:52 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion is announced as Jeff Gordon’s successor a day before his father, Bill Elliott, is inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
British youngster will combine this role with a full season in GP2 with DAMS.
Jan 29, 2015, 12:10 PM EST
The 2014 Xfinity Series champion will make his Sprint Cup debut in March before moving full time to NASCAR’s premier series in 2016.
Video from NASCAR America
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- Why Hendrick won’t retire the No. 24 6
- Brasilia IndyCar race is canceled 3
- Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship 4
- Column: Chase Elliott’s promotion perfectly timed for NASCAR 11
- Chase Elliott will replace Jeff Gordon as No. 24 driver next season 5