Steve Letarte to join NBC Sports in 2015

JENNA FRYER (AP Auto Racing Writer)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- NBC Sports Group has filled its NASCAR broadcast team with Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief Steve Letarte.

Letarte will be formally introduced as an analyst Friday at Daytona International Speedway. He'll continue to crew chief Earnhardt through the 2014 season and remains under contract at Hendrick Motorsports, and will join NBC's multi-platform NASCAR coverage beginning in 2015.

He will join lead announcer Rick Allen and analyst Jeff Burton, who were previously announced by the network.

''I've always been impressed with Steve Letarte's interviews, and feel smarter after hearing him break down the crucial elements of each race,'' said Sam Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports and NBCSN. ''It wasn't long into our first meeting about this potential role on our broadcast team when I realized that Steve is going to be 'Must See TV.' ''

Letarte has been Earnhardt's crew chief since 2011. The duo has one win, at Michigan in 2012, but has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship the past three seasons.

Letarte was Jeff Gordon's crew chief from 2005 through 2010. They won 10 races together and Gordon finished second in points in 2006.

Letarte has worked for Hendrick Motorsports since he was 16. He graduated early from high school to join the organization, and was traveling with Gordon's No. 24 team in 1996 as a full-time mechanic and tire specialist. He had moved up to car chief in 2002 and was named crew chief when he was 26.

Letarte said he was committed to Earnhardt and Hendrick Motorsports for 2014. He has been dabbling in broadcasting the past few years.

''As soon as I met with 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. ''Their excitement, along with my love for racing, solidified my decision to move away from the pit box and into the broadcast booth.''

Rick Hendrick said he understood the NBC opportunity was an exciting offer for Letarte, who has two young children.

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

Hendrick praised the chemistry between Letarte and Earnhardt, and said he was confident the two would be successful in their final season together. He also said he would not address the 2015 crew chief vacancy until after the season.

''Everyone with the team is focused on 2014 and committed to having another great year,'' Hendrick said.