Letarte to Join NBC in 2015
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on January 9, 2014 | 11:50 A.M. EST
Steve Letarte, who will join Jeff Burton (right) and Rick Allen in the booth for NASCAR races on NBC and NBC Sports Network in 2015, meets with the media on Friday at Daytona. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Steve Letarte will leave his duties as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief after this season to work as an analyst for NBC in 2015, the network announced Thursday.
Letarte will join lead announcer Rick Allen and analyst Jeff Burton in the booth for NASCAR races on NBC and NBC Sports Network next year.
Letarte stressed in NBC’s announcement that he’ll remain focused as Earnhardt’s crew chief this season.
“I want to reaffirm my commitment to Dale Jr. and the entire (No.) 88 team to go win races and challenge for the championship in 2014,’’ Letarte said.
Earnhardt said Thursday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's “Dialed In with Claire B. Lang’’ that he’s not worried about Letarte looking ahead to his new job next year.
“I feel really, really confident that the team can run well all season,’’ Earnhardt said. “Steve is going to stay dedicated. He is that kind of guy. We’re going to have an opportunity to continue to improve on what we’re doing.’’
Earnhardt admits there will be challenges in his fourth and final season with Letarte as his crew chief.
“It’s really a tough deal to go through,’’ Earnhardt said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Steve’s really put the team in a difficult situation because we all enjoy working with him so much. It has been rewarding for me, personally, to work with him, something you would love to continue to do. He’s a family man, and he has the opportunity to be with his family more with this position that he’s been offered at NBC. I’m happy for him as a person and a team. It’s something he’s excited about.’’
Letarte has been Earnhardt’s crew chief since 2011 and helped Earnhardt finish fifth in the points last season - Earnhardt’s best finish since 2004. Letarte served as Jeff Gordon’s crew chief from late in the 2005 season to 2010. Letarte was a member of Gordon’s team for all four of Gordon’s Sprint Cup championships. Letarte has been with Hendrick Motorsports since 1995, joining the team when he was 16 years old.
He noted that the opportunity with NBC was one he couldn’t pass.
"As soon as I met with Sam Flood (executive producer, NBC Sports) and his team at NBC Sports, it became obvious to me how excited they are to be covering NASCAR in 2015 and beyond,’’ Letarte said in a statement from NBC. “Their excitement, along with my love for racing, solidified my decision to move away from the pit box and into the broadcast booth.
Said Hendrick in a statement: “We’re looking forward to a successful year in 2014 with Steve and Dale leading the No. 88 together. They have some of the best chemistry in the garage, and we know they’ll build on last season and continue to be a championship-contending team.
“We don’t expect to address the crew chief position until after the season. Everyone with the team is focused on 2014 and committed to having another great year.’’