DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Steve Letarte, crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., will join NBC Sports as a booth analyst after the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the network announced Thursday.
Letarte completes a broadcast team that includes lead announcer Rick Allen and analyst Jeff Burton, whose hiring was announced late last year.
Letarte has served as Earnhardt’s crew chief for the past three seasons and led the No. 88 team to a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup each year. From 2005 through 2010, Letarte was crew chief for four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion driver Jeff Gordon.
“As soon as I met with (NBC Sports executive producer) Sam Flood 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 released by the network.
“Their excitement, along with my love for racing, solidified my decision to move away from the pit box and into the broadcast booth.”
During a question and answer session at Daytona on Thursday, Gordon said he believes Letarte’s impending job change won’t distract from his crew chief duties in his final year with Hendrick Motorsports.
“I think only time will tell how it’s going to affect them, but I think Steve is very, very good at compartmentalizing the commitment and what it takes to do his job as a crew chief and be the best crew chief that he can be,” Gordon said.
“He and Junior have a great relationship, and I’m sure when the news first broke to Junior, it probably was a bit of an adjustment, but I feel like they’ve worked through all the details on how to maintain that level of competition, the momentum that they had from last year, and keep that going through this year.”
In a statement from Hendrick Motorsports, team owner Rick Hendrick affirmed that Letarte would remain in his current role throughout the 2014 season, the final year of his contract.
“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,” Hendrick said. “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.”