Skip to content

Dale Jr.: Letarte leaving an initial shock, but pairing ready to end on a high

Jan 10, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

Ford EcoBoost 400 - Practice Getty Images

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.”

Latest Posts
  1. Ryan: Juan Pablo Montoya comes full circle at Indianapolis

    May 24, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT

    150524-Juan-Pablo-Montoya Getty Images

    In his second win at the Brickyard, the Team Penske driver delivered a performance that embodies his style.

  2. Rahal once again leads Honda’s charge, banking another top-five in Indy 500

    May 24, 2015, 7:24 PM EDT

    RahalIMSp5 Getty Images

    Once again in 2015, it’s Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing best of Honda’s brigade.

  3. Dixon leads most laps in Indy 500, 84, but ends unrepresentative fourth

    May 24, 2015, 7:12 PM EDT

    DixonIMSStop Getty Images

    A good, but not great day, occurs for Indianapolis 500 polesitter Scott Dixon.

  4. Kimball seizes his opportunity, ends third in Indy 500

    May 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    CK*3 Getty Images

    Kimball drives from 14th to third, a career-best in the Indianapolis 500.

  5. Montoya’s Indy 500 win extends his IndyCar points lead

    May 24, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    150524-Montoya Getty Images

    Montoya extends IndyCar points lead after Indianapolis 500.

  6. Power: “Anywhere else I’d be happy with second. Here, it sucks”

    May 24, 2015, 5:11 PM EDT

    PowerP2 Getty Images

    Power does what he needs in the Indianapolis 500, but comes up short at the finish.

  7. Montoya rallies for second Indianapolis 500 victory (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 3:38 PM EDT

    JPMmilk15 Getty Images

    Montoya completes comeback and wins Indianapolis 500.

  8. Williams endures a “race to forget” in Monaco

    May 24, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    (From L) Williams Martini Racing's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, Lotus F1 Team's French driver  Romain Grosjean and  Williams Martini Racing's Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 24, 2015, during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / POOL / BORIS HORVAT        (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    For the first time since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, Williams fails to score any points as Bottas and Massa struggle to P14 and P15.

  9. Verstappen “feeling fine” after heavy crash (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    Verstappen 245 Getty Images

    17-year-old crashes hard in the final stages of the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.

  10. Dale Coyne Racing crew member injured in frightening pit-lane crash (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Collision in the pits involves three Dale Coyne Racing cars.

  11. Castroneves leads Indy 500 at halfway mark under third round of pit stops

    May 24, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT

    Roger Penske, Helio Castroneves Roger Penske, Helio Castroneves

    Castroneves leads at Lap 100, but Indy 500 thus far dominated by Dixon, Kanaan and Pagenaud.

  12. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff apologizes to Hamilton

    May 24, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton drives at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 24, 2015, during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    An error on the pit wall cost Hamilton a near-certain victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.

  13. Hamilton: Impossible to express how I feel after Monaco defeat

    May 24, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton reacts after taking third place  on the podium after the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix on May 24, 2015, at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo. AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVAT        (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    British driver gutted to lose the Monaco Grand Prix following an error by Mercedes on the pit wall.

  14. Karam, Daly out before first lap complete after separate problems in Indy 500

    May 24, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT

    Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

    Karam and Daly – two of America’s young hopes – out of Indy 500, while Sato, Briscoe and Tagliani also have issues.

  15. Perez hails “very important” result with P7 in Monaco

    May 24, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Sahara Force India F1 Team's Mexican driver Sergio Perez  during the qualifying session at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 23, 2015, ahead of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Force India strikes back in Monaco with Perez finishing seventh.

  16. Vettel: Ferrari there when it mattered to cash in on Mercedes’ mistake

    May 24, 2015, 11:43 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrates on the podium after finishing second during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After running in third for the majority of the Monaco Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel managed to move up to second place thanks to Mercedes’ error with Hamilton in the pits.