NASCAR AMERICA: Dale Jr. & Steve Letarte’s winning chemistry (VIDEO)

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After winning Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about having a “fighting spirit” in the closing laps that he had not always possessed since his migration to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

Some of the credit for that can certainly go to his crew chief, Steve Letarte, who has helped guide Earnhardt to his first multi-win season in a decade.

With Letarte heading for NBC Sports to work on their NASCAR coverage next season, Earnhardt knows he has one chance to give him a championship. It’s something he desperately wants to do.

“It would be very disappointing and sad if this was his last year and we struggled,” Earnhardt said Sunday. “But we’ve won two races, and I won my first Pocono race, he won his first Daytona 500. It seems a bit storybook, and we’re having a real thrill.

“We’ll continue to be such great friends after working together this year. I still have him as a big part of my life, and I think that will continue to positively affect me in whoever I work with in the future.”

Today on NASCAR AMERICA, veteran crew chief Frank Stoddard talked about how Earnhardt and Letarte’s chemistry has led to the No. 88 team emerging as a title contender. You can check out his thoughts in the video above.

A new episode of NASCAR AMERICA comes at you tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra. For more clips, head over to the show’s archive page.

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”