Steve Letarte and Dale Earnhardt Jr. did not hold back their criticism of Wood Brothers Racing driver Harrison Burton and other young drivers and their teams for playing it safe in the lead up to the Daytona 500.
Letarte shared one of his major pet peeves with Jr. during a recent episode of The Dale Jr. Download saying, “I was down there for the Duels, watching them, scanning a bunch of cars, and a bunch of cars with young drivers I heard, ‘Man, just stay in line we’re gonna take care of our equipment. We just, hey, let’s not wreck this car. It’s our car for Sunday.'”
“And I was dang near boiling up there. And this is my pet peeve. This is the only mulligan you get in your racing career,” he stated.
Letarte then made it clear one of the drivers and teams he was referring to was Wood Brothers Racing and Harrison Burton, “I’ll pick on the 21 because I was scanning the 21 and their strategy, which was executed very well by their driver was, ‘Hey, cruise here single file. Don’t worry about it. We’re going to start top 10 Daytona 500.’ And I’m losing my mind because I’m like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. Zig, zag, push, shove, and if you stuff it in the fence that’s great because we’ll just get the other one out.”
“Because on Sunday I want you to line up, and he had the chance, against the ones you mentioned: the Hamlins, the Brads, the Loganos. And I’m expecting this 22 year-old young man who’s had very little practice in his Cup career. He’s had 1/100th of the laps of most of those other guys have in drafting, and you expect him to outduel them with 1/100th of the knowledge,” Letarte elaborated.
“So my pet peeve are these teams that — I’m not ignorant to the financial implications if he wrecks that race car, but if we’re so close we can’t wreck a race car in the Duels, what are we doing? Why are we going down there?’ That’s my pet peeve,” he asserted.
He continued, “My pet peeve is that if Kyle Larson, the front row guy, is zigging, and zagging, and dueling, and doing everything he can; he’s not doing that, in my opinion, to finish better, he’s doing that because it like, ‘Man, I’m not very good at this and I’m self-admittedly not good at this so the only way I know how to get better is to practice. So, here I go, I’m practicing.'”
“Practice is a joke because it’s four manufacturers or four from this manufacturer and four from this one running single file,” Letarte shared.
“So the only real drafting practice — it’s kind of like restart practice, the only way to get better is to lead races. Well the only way to get better at drafting, you’ve taught me this, is to draft,” he relayed.
Letarte concluded, “So my pet peeve is these teams that don’t allow their young drivers to go make a huge mistake on Thursday because it’s the only time all year long you can make one and not cost points. That was my pet peeve of speed weeks.”
Junior then shared his thoughts saying, “The other thing too is if I’m out there and I’m watching Harrison or a younger driver and he makes some great moves I’m really more likely to go with him on Sunday.”
“If I see him not doing anything or I’m not learning anything about him and his ability and how much he knows about side drafting and how to do that properly and what [not],” he added.
Burton finished 9th in the first Duel. Eventual Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 16th in the first Duel. Burton finished 26th in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
What do you make of this criticism? Is it justified or misplaced?