As the NASCAR world learned that Steve Letarte would not return as crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 2015 there was a panic sent through the fan base. Most fans threw their hands up in the air over the revelation. They began to not only chalk up 2015 as a loss, but throwing in there 2014, despite Letarte still being here for that year. This year is not a loss and neither is 2015.
The biggest difference in this whole situation is Letarte is leaving for a job with NBC to be on the broadcast team. He’s not leaving for another organization and isn’t being forced to another team because of a team shake up.
That concept is not lost on Earnhardt, who will stay out of the decision process, Earnhardt does have a hope for owner Rick Hendrick. “I would love to have input from Chad Knaus (crew chief for Jimmie Johnson)and Steve. 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,” suggested Earnhardt when talking to the media Friday morning at the Daytona International Speedway.
I fully believe that is exactly what will happen when they begin their search for the next crew chief. Hendrick is too smart of a businessman not to use all the resources at his disposal, which includes the current crew chief and crew chief of his 6-time champion team.
One thing is certain, don’t expect a former crew chief of Earnhardt’s to pop back up. Despite admitting that he now knows how to talk to a crew chief versus early in his career, Tony Eury, Jr.’s name can be taken off the list. There is no way I could see Hendrick bringing him back nor would Earnhardt want to go down that path again.
The focus should be on the 2014 season, which hasn’t even started yet, not 2015. That will come at a much later time. And for those who think this lame duck season will affect both Earnhardt and Letarte, think again. Earnhardt stated that he’s known about the change since the Charlotte race last October. They still went out and almost won some races after that fact.