By admin | January 10, 2014
By Richard Allen
Since 2011, Steve Letarte has had one of the most thankless jobs in racing. He has served as the crew chief for NASCAR’s most popular driver and has taken a certain amount of criticism for that role. At the same time, the job is one that could also be viewed as reaching the pinnacle of his profession. But earlier this week, the pit boss announced that he would depart as the leader of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s team to take on the role of analyst for NBC when that network begins broadcasting races in 2015.
But the reason for Letarte’s departure has nothing to do with him being blamed for his driver not winning last season or for discord between himself and Earnhardt. Rather, his reason for leaving is much bigger than either of those things.
Letarte has decided that fatherhood is his most important job. The dad of two children plans to spend more time at home with his son and daughter and less time on the road and in the shop after the conclusion of this season.
”If I’m going to be unsuccessful in anything I do, being a father shouldn’t be on the list,” Letarte said in a press conference during Daytona International Speedway’s Pre-season Thunder event.
The crew chief says he came to the decision after consulting with Earnhardt after the opportunity became available.
As a father of three myself, I commend Letarte for making the decision he has made. While he will still travel a great deal while working for NBC, that will still only be half a season instead of a full campaign. And while his new job will come with the responsibility to be prepared, he will not have to be at the Hendrick Motorsports race shops for countless hours throughout the week.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a NASCAR crew member, and many no doubt handle the responsibilities that come with both work and family very well. But if one has to be sacrificed, it is better that it be the job than the family.
Later, Earnhardt said that he is concerned about replacing his crew chief. ”My fear is just: Can we replace Steve? This guy is going to be hard to replace.” He then added that the coming season will be difficult in some ways. “It’s definitely going to be emotional and difficult at times, just because we really enjoy working together.”
After his press conference, Letarte took to Twitter to assure the fans of his driver that he is fully committed to the upcoming season. “I’m excited to join the @NBCSports team. But want to reaffirm my commitment to Dale, the 88 team and #JuniorNation We have races to win in ‘14!”
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