NASCAR

NSCS: Steve Letarte Leaving Hendrick Motorsports for NBC Booth After 2014

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Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

 

By Joseph Wolkin-Associate Editor (@JosephNASCAR)

January 9, 2014

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.–¬†Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have a new crew chief beginning in the 2015 season. Though it is seemingly a long time away, the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season will arrive in the blink of an eye.

Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, has opted to take a position with NBC in 2015 as one of the three broadcasters in the booth. NBC recently signed a deal to broadcast NASCAR races until 2025.

The broadcasting company, which returns to NASCAR for the first time since 2006, will have their lead announcer with Rick Allen, their analyst with Jeff Burton and Letarte will play a role similar to that of Larry McReynolds with FOX Sports. Letarte has some minor experience in broadcasting as he helped co-host the Prelude to the Dream at the Eldora Speedway several years ago.

Letarte has not had the greatest success since he replaced Robbie Loomis as Jeff Gordon’s crew chief in 2005. Since being assigned to Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Letarte has led NASCAR’s most popular driver to win just one race from 2011-2013. Though he did help Earnhardt Jr. break a losing streak which spanned over three years, Letarte did not have the success which was originally expected he would have.

He started out as Gordon’s crew chief, and they nearly won the 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship if were not for their teammate, Jimmie Johnson.

“You never want to see a talented and all-around quality person like Steve (Letarte) move on, but we understand this is an exciting opportunity for him and his family. He has all the tools to be a terrific broadcaster, and I know our fans will enjoy hearing his perspective,” team owner, Rick Hendrick said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

However, even though he is leaving the organization, the combination still has some unfinished business to do. After having limited success in 2012 and 2013, Letarte is still attempting to help bring that elusive championship to add to Earnhardt Jr.’s resume. In 2013, Letarte lead Earnhardt Jr. to a fifth place finish in the standings, his best since joining Hendrick Motorsports and his best since 2006.

“We’re looking forward to a successful year in 2014 with Steve and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) 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.

Hendrick has not announced a replacement for Letarte and does not plan on announcing for the time being. The No. 88 team is looking to return to victory lane after another win-less season. Earnhardt Jr. finished second on several occasions in 2013, but now it is time for him to win races.

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