Dale Earnhardt Jr. won't be going to Rick Hendrick with a list of candidates to replace Steve Letarte as his crew chief in 2015.
On Wednesday, Letarte and NBC Sports announced that Letarte would be leaving his spot as Junior's crew chief following the end of the 2014 season to be an analyst for the network when it picks up NASCAR television coverage in 2015.
"I won't make any suggestions at all," Junior said Friday at Daytona's Presason Thunder. "I will leave that up to Rick (Hendrick), Doug (Duchardt). I would love to have input from Chad Knaus and Steve (Letarte). I think that Steve knows what makes this teamwork. Steve knows how I can be successful and how the individuals within the team can be successful. I think he'd be a good guy to sort of pick at and hope that Doug and Rick would include him in that conversation at times
"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. I want -- I think that those guys are the ones that can make the choice and have the most success with that decision. I'll just kind of -- it was Rick and upper management that decided to put me with Steve. I didn't know how that was going to work out. I didn't know much about Steve. I knew him and Jeff were not really clicking at that point in time in their careers, so I didn't know exactly what was going to happen, but I just wanted to trust their judgment, and that's what I'm going to do."
Letarte was the crew chief for Jeff Gordon from 2005-10. He moved to atop Junior's pit box before the 2011 season and the two have won a race and had 24 top fives in three seasons together.
Junior also said that he first learned about Letarte's opportunity last fall at Charlotte. That was in the midst of a great Chase run despite a blown engine in the first race. After Junior finished 35th at Chicago, he was no lower than 15th in the final nine races of the season.
That run made him very optimistic about the future of the partnership with Letarte. But once he discussed it further with his crew chief, he supported his decision.
"So yeah, it was a huge shock at first, and the more -- just for me personally, it was difficult," Junior said. "And the more I sat down with him and talked about it, the more it made sense and the more I understood his situation, and I could put my own selfishness aside and kind of understand what was important to him and how this was good for him.
"You know, he's a good guy. He deserves these opportunities and he's earned it."
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- Sports & Recreation
- Steve Letarte
- Rick Hendrick