Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked Friday about the reality of facing the 2015 racing season without Steve Letarte, who announced Wednesday that he will leave his position as crew chief for the No. 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup team to join NBC Sports. Earnhardt, who is at Daytona International Speedway for NASCAR’s Preseason Thunder, told media members that Letarte has been a great cheerleader who helped take the pressure off him when they started working together.
“Yeah, I think the one thing that I fear is just trying to get a guy in there that's equally as talented,” Earnhardt told media members during a rain delay Friday morning. “I think -- I'm not really -- 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 you guys have all seen that over the last several years.”
Earnhardt said he was included in the discussion before the end of last season but will not make any suggestion about Letarte’s replacement at Hendrick Motorsports, leaving that up to owner Rick Hendrick and Doug Duchardt.
“I won't make any suggestions at all. I will leave that up to Rick, Doug. 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. 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.
The NASCAR Sprint drivers spent the first day of testing Thursday waiting for the rain to clear at the Florida track but were unable to get the cars on the track until Friday afternoon.