Recent comments by former NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick have not sat well with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Harvick was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hours” when he said that Dale Junior, who won most popular driver 14 times, has had “a big part in stunting the growth of NASCAR.”
Dale did his best disappointed dad routine when responding to those comments. After praising Harvick for his accomplishments during his time with JR Motorsports from 2014 to 2016, Earnhardt expressed his dismay at the comments themselves.
“I have an incredible amount of respect for him,” Junior said via ESPN. “I found some of those comments hurtful. I still respect him as a champion and ambassador for the sport.
“That’s just the way it is, I guess. I hate that’s how he feels.”
He went on to address the criticism behind those remarks, that Earnhardt underachieved throughout his career and hurt the popularity of NASCAR because of that:
“I certainly hope that’s not the case,” he said “I put a lot into this sport, and I know that I might not have met everyone’s expectations, but I certainly exceeded my own and I’m super proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.
“I hope that I brought something to the table and left a good impact.”
It was a classy and measured response from Earnhardt, considering how much more Harvick said during that radio show.
When the topic of fan attendance was brought up on the show, Harvick ran with it.
“I’ve been totally shocked by the vibe of Dale’s last year,” Harvick said . “I really thought it was going to be tons of fans showing up to the race track, buying crazy amounts of souvenirs and the souvenir sales aren’t up for the sales that he has in his last year so far. The crowds really haven’t changed. In my opinion, it’s been from his lack of performance. He hasn’t performed well in the race car.”
It is a well known fact that this year has been frustrating for Junior, he has admitted so himself, but Harvick wasn’t just talking about this one disappointing season. He took aim at all of Earnhardt’s career and questioned why NASCAR’s most popular and most successful driver isn’t the same person.
“(Earnhardt) hasn’t been anywhere close to being our most successful driver,” Harvick said. “For me I believe Dale Jr. has had a big part in stunting the growth of NASCAR because he’s got these legions of fans, this huge outreach of being able to reach these places none of us have the possibility to reach. But he’s won nine races in 10 years at Hendrick Motorsports and hasn’t been able to reach outside of that. I know those aren’t the most popular comments but those are real life facts that you look up and see on the stat sheet.”
Harvick continued to explain that he thinks Jimmie Johnson, who is typically third or fourth in merchandise sales, should be far and away the sport’s most popular driver because of his seven(!) championships. He also said that Junior deserved all of the fanfare he was getting in his farewell season but seemed to imply his overall popularity relied more on his pedigree than his performance, saying:
“His dad was popular because he became Dale Earnhardt because of the fact he won seven championships and he was out there grinding every week. That hasn’t happened.”
Earnhardt Jr. won the Busch series championship twice but was not able to win a championship after his move to the cup series.