Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dale Jr. Meets the Media at Daytona Testing (4)

Interview Part 4 of 8

Dale Earnhardt Jr. met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed the departure of Steve Letarte as crew chief in 2015, his outlook for the 2014 season and other topics.

NASCAR Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Testing at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Testing at Daytona

Question: You mentioned that you've had several months now to wrap your head around this and kind of come to terms with it, but when he first sat you down maybe sometime last fall or something and was like, hey, not even saying that he was going to do it but there was a possibility, was it like a gut punch to you? Were you taken by surprise? What was your initial reaction?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. I think I heard about it at the Charlotte race, the second Charlotte race, and I asked him to come over to the bus. I usually don't take my bus to Charlotte, but I had it there. Yeah, I was in shock. I didn't know what was going on. I thought it might be something I didn't know what exactly the rumors were kind of sketchy and unclear, and I didn't know the specifics of what he was thinking about doing, just that he would even want to do anything different blew me away because we were all having such a good time and the team was moving forward and the trajectory was great for what we were trying to accomplish. We were getting closer and closer to realizing our potential.

So yeah, it was a huge shock at first, and the more just 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.

You know, he's a good guy. He deserves these opportunities and he's earned it.

Question: At this stage in your career how much input do you want to have on who your next crew chief is? Will you make suggestions? Will you have say in the final decision? How will that work?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 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 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.

I think 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.

But I don't really want to have any influence on the choice. I want I think that those guys are the ones that can make the choice and have the most success with that decision. I'll just kind of it was Rick and upper management that decided to put me with Steve. I didn't know how that was going to work out. I didn't know much about Steve. I knew him and Jeff were not really clicking at that point in time in their careers, so 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.

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