Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief won't change his mind about leaving

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It’s been a long time, if ever, since Steve Letarte has had this much fun.

Last Sunday’s win by Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the crew chief’s second of the year, and it essentially locked the sport’s most popular driver into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

And while Letarte finally has the support and blessing of Junior Nation, Letarte doesn’t have any second thoughts of walking away from the pit box at the end of the season to join NBC’s broadcast next year.

“Well, you guys only get to see the great stuff, which is a win at Daytona and a win here, but Saturday, my little girl had her first communion and I was in Kansas,” he said.

“When moments like that happen, it reaffirms why I made my decision.”

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Jimmie Johnson is known for jogging on racing weekends, often through the campgrounds and common areas around the track.

He often runs early in the morning, long before the revelers are awake in the infield. “I’ll get up early at sunrise, that’s usually the most fun,” Johnson said. “You run up and down Talladega Blvd. Texas is good for it.

“There’s a variety of tracks where an early morning run is more entertaining than it is a workout,” he said. “You see people halfway in their tents and still passed out in lawn chairs and all kinds of good things.”

Now that many fans bring bicycles and scooters to the track, it’s more difficult for Johnson to stay one step ahead of his fans.

So far, nobody’s been able to catch and corner him for an autograph.

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