Steve Letarte to the Broadcast Booth in 2015

A surprising announcement today left Dale Earnhardt Jr. needing a Crew Chief for the 2015 season.

NBC Sports Network announced today that Crew Chief Steve Letarte will be one of their new broadcast analysts starting in 2015 joining driver Jeff Burton and play-by-play announcer Rick Allen.

Mar. 1, 2013; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (left) talks with crew chief Steve Letarte during practice for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Although Letarte refused to speak to the press on Thursday in Daytona, a statement was released by NBC showing his excitement about this opportunity.

“Their excitement, along with my love for racing, solidified my decision to move away from the pit box and into the broadcast booth,” Letarte said. “I want to thank Rick Hendrick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for the opportunities they have given me over the last 18 years, and I want to reaffirm my commitment to Dale Jr. and the entire 88 team to go win races and challenge for the championship in 2014.”

Under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through 2014, Letarte’s role with “Junior Nation” won’t change in 2014.

Hendrick Motorsports released this statement about Letarte’s departure Thursday afternoon.

“You never want to see a talented and all-around quality person like Steve (Letarte) move on, but we understand this is an exciting opportunity for him and his family. He has all the tools to be a terrific broadcaster, and I know our fans will enjoy hearing his perspective.

“We’re looking forward to a successful year in 2014 with Steve and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) leading the No. 88 together. They have some of the best chemistry in the garage, and we know they’ll build on last season and continue to be a championship-contending team. We don’t expect to address the crew chief position until after the season. Everyone with the team is focused on 2014 and committed to having another great year.”

Letarte has been with the Hendrick Organization since the age of 16 and has been on top of the pit box for both Earnhardt Jr and Jeff Gordon. His absence at HMS in 2015 will definitely be felt.