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An analyst thinks Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s leadership in a surprising area will be what NASCAR misses most Chris Graythen/Getty Images

NASCAR is going to miss Dale Earnhardt Jr. This is undeniable fact at this point. He was the sport’s most recognizable personality, regardless of on-track results, and won 15 straight most popular driver awards.

He served as a mentor to this year’s champion, Martin Truex Jr, and grew into a respected voice among drivers. Analyst Dave Caldwell of Forbes, though, thinks the biggest thing NASCAR will miss with Earnhardt Jr. moving to the booth is his leadership. And Caldwell’s example might not sit well with fans.

He thinks Earnhardt’s leadership will be missed on the political side of the sport. Namely, the national anthem protests. Caldwell says that NASCAR found itself on the wrong side of the controversy earlier this year when Richard Petty threatened to fire anyone on the spot that didn’t stand for the national anthem.

Related: Following a wild weekend, NASCAR may have to rethink its anthem stance

Earnhardt never directly addressed Petty’s words, but quoted a JFK quote to make his stance known:

The tweet was a level-headed honest response from Junior and we have grown to expect nothing different, but to say that his stance on the Anthem helped smooth over the NASCAR world overlooks that many fans sided with Petty in the first place.

Moving forward, Caldwell thinks the Confederate flag issue is the next stumbling block that will hurt NASCAR, and that Earnhardt’s voice of reason won’t be around to mitigate the impact. We can agree that Earnhardt is leaving a massive void and NASCAR overall is lacking the experienced drivers it has had in the past, but Caldwell might be overestimating politics’ impact on NASCAR.

Most fans do not take issue with the culture of NASCAR, or would rather ignore the politics and focus on the race.

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Anthony Brown About the author:
Anthony Brown's crowning achievements are rebuilding a $500 Honda VFR and getting rid of his wife's beige Camry. He has owned nine cars in the last ten years, none of them automatic.
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