Sunday, April 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Earnhardt fears ability to replace Letarte

Steve Latarte

NASCAR crew chief Steve Latarte answers question during a news conference at Sprint Cup auto racing testing at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. Latarte will join NBC Sports in 2015 as a commentator.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. is admittedly scared by the daunting task of replacing crew chief Steve Letarte.

He’ll leave it up to team owner Rick Hendrick and management at Hendrick Motorsports, and they’ve got the entire season to find a new crew chief. Letarte was formally introduced Friday as the third and final member of NBC Sports Group’s broadcast booth for its NASCAR coverage beginning in 2015.

Earnhardt and Letarte have been paired since 2011. Although the duo has just one win together, they’ve made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship the past three seasons.

More important, Letarte rebuilt the confidence in NASCAR’s most popular driver and instilled a structure around Earnhardt that the driver admits raised his professionalism in the race car.

“The one thing that I fear is just trying to get a guy in there that’s equally as talented,” Earnhardt said Friday at Daytona International Speedway. “Steve is a great cheerleader and definitely built up my confidence and changed me as a race car driver and as a person. Working with him has really helped me grow. I think that my fear is can we replace Steve?”

Earnhardt brought cousin Tony Eury Jr. with him to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. When that working relationship fractured, Hendrick replaced Eury with longtime company man Lance McGrew.

Only that combination failed to produce results, so Earnhardt was paired with former Jeff Gordon crew chief Letarte when Hendrick made a massive organizational shake-up shortly after the 2010 season ended.

Letarte’s influence on Earnhardt was immediate, so Earnhardt will once again put his trust in Hendrick. He’ll also want Letarte and Jimmie Johnson’s six-time championship winning crew chief Chad Knaus to be part of the decision making. Knaus works side-by-side with Earnhardt’s crew chief, so Earnhardt believes Knaus needs to have input.

“It was Rick and upper management that decided to put me with Steve,” Earnhardt said. “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 again.

“I would love to have input from Chad Knaus and Steve. I think that Steve knows what makes this team work. Steve knows how I can be successful and how the individuals within the team can be successful. 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.”

Letarte, meanwhile, finds himself in the unique position of entering his final season atop the pit box under an intensified spotlight to perform. Earnhardt’s popularity already brings immense attention and pressure to the No. 88 team, and with Letarte’s end-of-year exit looming, fans could be particularly harsh about results.

Letarte believes it will be business as usual.

“I think what makes this situation unique is I’m not going to crew chief for another organization,” he said. “I’m not working on being a broadcaster in 2014, I’m working on filling a trophy case, and to do that we have to win our first race.”

Letarte and Earnhardt first discussed the NBC opportunity in October, when Earnhardt heard rumors and summoned Letarte to his motorhome to discuss the whispers, and Letarte kept his driver involved as he weighed his decisions.

Ultimately, after 19 years in the garage, it was the ability to spend more time with his two children that made the NBC job more attractive than continuing as a crew chief.

“I don’t think I’ve ever hidden it from anyone that my family has always been my No. 1 priority,” Letarte said. “If it comes down to if I’m going to be unsuccessful in anything I do, being a father shouldn’t be on the list. So I’m going to put that one first, and this allows me to put that one first and still be in a sport that I love and join a great team.”

Earnhardt can respect that.

“For me personally, it was difficult. 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,” Earnhardt said. “He deserves these opportunities and he’s earned it.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Supervisor candidates vary on Plan Bay Area

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 15 Comments | Gallery

 
Earth Day means cleanup Day for Suisun City

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

Hop to it: Couple lights up home, yard for Easter

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1

 
Bay Area makes growth plans

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

Ranking the best Bay Area athletes

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
The Edge hosts Easter egg hunt

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3

Alooma Temple keeps children in mind

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield author to speak at women’s expo

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Piano scholarship competition set in Vallejo

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
The resurrection has changed the lives of Christians

By Perry W. Polk | From Page: C3

 
Armijo graduate completes basic training

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: C4

 
Understanding your health insurance

By Morgan Westfall | From Page: D4, 1 Comment

 
Record Store Day a commercial hit

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Easter egg hunt brings out the smiles

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Dutch Bros. joins Fairfield coffee corridor

By Barry Eberling | From Page: B7, 7 Comments | Gallery

City sets plan to dispose of property assets

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

 
Fairfield police log: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Counties tell Brown they need money for his law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
San Francisco probe leading to entrapment claims

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Exhibit recreates Warhol’s 1964 World’s Fair mural

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Ohio couple married 70 years die 15 hours apart

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Documents detail another delayed GM recall

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

At barricades, Ukraine insurgents await Easter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Official: 3 bodies retrieved from inside ferry

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

13th body pulled from snow in Everest avalanche

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Costa Rican a celebrity after certified miracle

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14 | Gallery

.

Opinion

Government … for the government?

By Bill James | From Page: A8, 9 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 20, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Neighborhood speeders don’t get it

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 7 Comments

 
Why would a person do this?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

Sound off for April 20, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Jeb Bush, love, and today’s GOP

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

 
 
.

Living

Today in History for April 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Bill Nye says he underestimated debate’s impact

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3, 10 Comments

 
Book details lives of cloistered nuns

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

Horoscopes for April 20, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: D4

 
Pete spends weekends at my house but he never invites me to his

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: D4

.

Entertainment

Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers has book deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Tartt, Goodwin finalists for Carnegie medals

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

New book on fracking illuminates pros, cons

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

 
.

Sports

A’s score 3 in 9th, rally past Astros 4-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Warriors beat Clippers 109-105 in playoff opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Kings, Sharks look to put Game 1 in past

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Stults, Padres hand Giants third straight loss

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raptors GM Ujiri uses profanity about Brooklyn

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Williams scores 24 as Nets beat Raptors 94-87

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Durant leads Thunder past Grizzlies 100-86

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Hawks take 1-0 lead by rolling past Pacers 101-93

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Federer beats injured Djokovic to reach final

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Indians set two new school records for track

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Wie shoots 67, wins LPGA LOTTE Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Rapids, Earthquakes play to scoreless tie

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Travis Bowl Highlights

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

 
Jimenez leads Langer by 1 shot in Greater Gwinnett

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Stars Recreation bowling results

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

 
Donald shoots 66, takes lead at RBC Heritage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Big names among prospective Buffalo Bills buyers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Award-winning archery champ shoots with his teeth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

Survivors keep busy as Boston Marathon approaches

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Business

US delays review of contentious Keystone pipeline

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Why high oil prices are actually good for airlines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Subscription sample boxes shake up beauty routines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Girls from modest families get lift in technology

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

Haunted house part of San Antonio apartment lofts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B13

 
Recalls this week: lanterns, exercise devices

By The Associated Press | From Page: B13

Review: Siri-like Cortana fills Windows phone gap

By The Associated Press | From Page: B14

 
.

Obituaries

Margaret Elizabeth Silva

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Lloyd G. Hoffmeister

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Ramon Isidro

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Rogelio Tinoco-Zamudio

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

James Leroy Barbour

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
William Paul Wehrly

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Sealwyn Shirley Brucefield Shepherd Malkiewicz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics