Dale Earnhardt Jr. is transitioning from his NASCAR career to his role as an analyst with NBC Sports, and he’ll be working alongside a former co-worker.
Earnhardt will join his former crew chief, Steve Letarte at NBC. Letarte was Earnhardt’s crew chief from 2011-2014, and Dale Jr. revealed that there were early concerns between the two at Hendrick Motorsports.
Earnhardt said he had a “super fast car” heading into their first race at Daytona, but he wrecked the car in practice after winning the pole. Then, they went to Phoenix and were running last, and Earnhardt was concerned his team was going to give up on him early in the year.
But at Phoenix, Cole Whitt crashed and took out several cars with him, and Earnhardt was able to secure a solid finish.
“We were running like 30th, hard as we could go, and finished 11th in that race somehow,” Earnhardt said. “So, that bought us another week.”
In Las Vegas the next week, Earnhardt was running last in practice, and he admitted he was getting nervous that the partnership with Letarte and Hendrick wasn’t going to work. Letarte said he was nervous, too.
After struggling in practice, Earnhardt stayed behind with the team and wouldn’t leave. Letarte said they all started working together to try and figure things out, and he said the team “turnover a major stone” that day.
Earnhardt didn’t win a race that year, but he still managed to finish seventh overall. Letarte and Earnhardt eventually had a successful stint together through 2014.
Now, they’ll transition into working together as analysts, and it should go much smoother than the beginning of their partnership as driver and crew chief.