Unexpected exit: Letarte leaving Dale Jr., Hendrick after 2014
JAN 09, 2014 11:35a ET
Hendrick Motorsports has confirmed that Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, Steve Letarte, is stepping down at the end of this season to become a TV analyst for NBC Sports.
Letarte will join fellow analyst Jeff Burton and race announcer Rick Allen for the network's NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series coverage on NBC and NBCSN, which includes races, pre- and post-race shows, qualifying, and studio programming.
Letarte's new appointment will be discussed in further detail in a press conference Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway.
"I want to thank Rick Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for the opportunities they have given me over the last 18 years, and I want to reaffirm my commitment to Dale Jr. and the entire 88 team to go win races and challenge for the championship in 2014," Letarte said in a news release from NBC.
A longtime Hendrick employee, Letarte joined Earnhardt Jr. as crew chief in 2011. They have one Sprint Cup win together, at Michigan in 2012. Earnhardt Jr. and Letarte have made the Chase for the Sprint Cup the past three seasons.
"You never want to see a talented and all-around quality person like Steve move on, but we understand this is an exciting opportunity for him and his family," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a statement issued by Hendrick Motorsports. "He has all the tools to be a terrific broadcaster, and I know our fans will enjoy hearing his perspective.
"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."
Prior to pairing with Earnhardt Jr., Letarte worked as crew chief for Jeff Gordon, also at Hendrick, earning Chase berths from 2006-10. He joined Gordon as crew chief after the 26th race of the 2005 season, and they earned a win six weeks later.
Letarte joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1995 at the age of 16 and worked on Gordon's crew for all four of his championships.