While Dale Earnhardt Jr. might have fell short of his goal of winning a NASCAR Cup Series championship, he leaves behind a lasting legacy as one of the sport’s most influential and admired drivers, as evidence by the 14 times he was voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver.
It is true that Earnhardt Jr. won 26 career races in NASCAR’s top series, including two Daytona 500 victories, but it’s never been about his success on the track that’s made him so popular. While his father, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., had a reputation as being one of NASCAR’s most feared drivers–willing to intentionally wreck his competition in order to pick up a victory–the younger Earnhardt has always had a more laid back demeanor, which has made it easier for him to identify with causal racing fans and his fellow athletes.
That’s might be why Dale Jr. felt comfortable speaking up right after President Trump and a few NASCAR legends criticized the peaceful demonstrations that were being performed by NFL players over the weekend.
President Trump sent this Tweet on Sunday:
So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag – the said it loud and clear.
In response, Dale Earnhardt Jr. quoted former president JFK in support of the right of peaceful demonstrations.
All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK
This Tweet quickly became the most popular that’s ever come from Dale Earnhardt Jr., according to NBC Sports. It has been retweeted 133,000 times and earned another 350,000 likes. In comparison, his previous most-popular Tweet–a picture of himself standing next to a statue of his father following his 2014 Daytona 500 victory–was only retweeted 26,468 times and has 42,507 “likes”.
Caught in-between President Trump’s dismissal of the protests and Dale Jr.’s support, the sport of NASCAR issued this statement.
Sports are a unifying influence in our society, bringing people of differing backgrounds and beliefs together. Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events. Thanks to the sacrifices of many, we live in a country of unparalleled freedoms and countless liberties, including the right to peacefully express one’s opinion.
That’s exactly where Dale Jr. fits in.
In his retirement season, Dale Jr. hasn’t won a single race, but he’s spoken up about a number of important topics, such as driver safety, his desire for burnouts to excluded from post-race celebrations, and his tweet yesterday showing support for peaceful demonstrations.
While his father’s legacy was solidified with seven championships and 76 race wins, it could be argued that Dale Jr.’s legacy could be just as important as he’s brought much more attention to NASCAR and not just via his driving skills, but also for his willingness to speak up about important topics.