When you think of NASCAR drivers of the past 30 years, surely it wouldn’t take long for Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr. to come to mind.
Both are NASCAR Hall of Famers and both were named one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers earlier this year, coinciding with the organization’s 75th anniversary.
NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte knows this all too well, as he was formerly the crew chief for both drivers. He joined Brandon Contes on the Awful Announcing Podcast recently to discuss some of the similarities and differences between the two drivers.
“Jeff was very different from Dale,” Letarte said. “Jeff wanted to know what the plan was. He wanted to be included. Dale, if you tried to give him that much information, he’d lose his mind. Like, ‘Man, why are you tellin’ me all that?’ he just wanted to know ‘Am I going here or here or here?’ They’re very pointed at times. I think I have a long fuse and I think that helps me.” He continued.
Letarte understands it’s not always easy for the drivers to stay composed, saying, “For four hours they’re by themselves. We can talk to them on the radio but they’re by themselves and it’s 140 degrees. And these green flag runs can be a couple of hours if we don’t have a yellow. So they want to feel like you’re in the boat with them. And that’s the point of the communication. It’s a little bit of cheerleading, a little bit of motivating, a little bit of coaching, even a little bit of broadcasting the race, painting a picture of what’s happening.”
You can catch Letarte on the broadcast of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship, airing on NBC and Peacock at 3 p.m. ET.