Greg Ives

NASCAR AMERICA: Optimism about team, life suits Dale Earnhardt Jr. (VIDEO)

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In recent years, it’s become clear that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has found the happy balance between his lives in and out of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

A good amount of credit for that can go to two people in particular: Steve Letarte, who served as Earnhardt’s crew chief from 2011-2014, and Earnhardt’s girlfriend, Amy Reimann.

With Letarte’s guidance, Earnhardt re-emerged as a legit contender. In 2013, he finished fifth in the Sprint Cup standings and last year, he delivered his best season in a decade with four victories (Daytona 500, both Pocono races, Martinsville fall). And through it all, Reimann has not just been by Earnhardt’s side but has also spurred him on to enjoy life more.

The son of the Intimidator is seemingly as positive as he’s ever been about himself and his future – which will include a new crew chief this coming season in Greg Ives (Letarte has joined NBC Sports as a NASCAR analyst).

In the past, Earnhardt may not have feared such a change, but he may not have been happy about it. Now, he’s optimistic. After all, his last big change did wonders for him.

“When I got put with Steve, I had a new bus driver, I had a new girlfriend, I had a new crew chief – everything in my life had changed,” Earnhardt recalled in a one-on-one interview with NASCAR AMERICA’s Dave Burns. “A lot of it was a bit unwilling. I was very scared about what was gonna work and what wasn’t. And fortunately, all of it worked out for me.”

For more of Earnhardt’s thoughts on Letarte, Ives, Reimann, and the upcoming retirement of teammate Jeff Gordon, check out the full interview at the top.