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TV Guys Won’t Be Strangers To The Cup Garages

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 10 2014

Jeff Burton says he will keep one foot in the garages next year (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte are headed to new jobs as NBC broadcasters, but in many ways they’re remaining on the same side of the NASCAR fence.

They’ll still be a part of the fraternity of competitors. They’ll still be spending weekends living in the same motorcoach compounds that have been their homes away from homes for years.

In many ways their broadcast jobs allow them to retain their competitor identity since Burton will still be looked at as a driver and Letarte will still be considered a crew chief.

Burton said being able to keep his driver identity, even after he stops competing on the track, is part of the allure of the job.

“My life has been around being around a race track, and there’s a timeline on drivers,” he said. “You don’t drive forever, and when this opportunity presented itself, it just felt natural.

“And yes, some of my dearest friends are in this garage. The lessons of my life, honestly, have been learned in these garages. So yeah, being able to be a part of it and stay part of it is a huge attraction to me.”

He said that would not be the case if he were offered a similar broadcasting job elsewhere.

“If somebody called me and said would you like to do Sunday Night Football, I probably wouldn’t have any interest in that because it’s not what I know, it’s not my passion,” he said. “But to be able to stay involved and stay in touch with the people I know and have my identity, of course, that’s a huge amount to me.”

For Letarte, the bottom line in his decision is that NBC offered him a job that will allow him to not only remain in the company of his garage-area friends but also spend more time with his family back at home.

“When it comes down to it, probably the No. 1 thing is I have an eight‑ and a ten‑year‑old child, and I know the commitment it takes to be a top‑level crew chief,” he said. “I don’t know first-hand the commitment that it takes to be great on television…but I don’t think it’s quite the same time commitment and travel commitment….

“I’ve always said, I don’t think I’ve ever hidden it from anyone, that my family has always been my No. 1 priority, and it comes down to if I’m going to be unsuccessful in anything I do, being a father shouldn’t be on the list, so I’m going to put that one first, and this allows me to put that one first and still be in a sport that I love and join a great team.”

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, January 10 2014
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