As he is at every track he visits in his final season as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. drew a lot of attention on Friday at Michigan International Speedway.
Earlier in the week, Kevin Harvick took to his SIRIUS/XM NASCAR radio show “Happy Hours,” where he had this to say about Earnhardt: “He hasn’t been anywhere close to being our most successful driver. When you look at other sports – you look at basketball and you look at football and you look at their most popular (athletes), they’re also right on the top of the list as their most successful (athletes).
“So for me I believe that Dale Jr. has had a big part in stunting the growth of NASCAR because he’s got these legions of fans and this huge outreach of being able to reach these places that 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. So I know that those aren’t the most popular comments, but those are real life facts that you look up and see on the stat sheet.”
Earnhardt was asked about those comments Friday at Michigan and whether or not Harvick owed him an apology.
“No. I would appreciate a conversation,” Earnhardt said. “If we can have a conversation about it. I know Kevin, and I’ve known him for a long time. I feel like it would be great to sit down and discuss what he said, what he meant. …That would be great.”
Earnhardt applauded what Harvick had done for JR Motorsports, the team NASCAR XFINITY Series team Earnhardt owns with his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller.
“Like I said, I think a lot of the guy (Harvick), and there is no denying what he did for our company over those few years,” Earnhardt said. “We were in a good place, but he put us to another level. His understanding of how to run a team, he changed how everyone in the company thought…all the guys downstairs as far as how to get cars better. He brought a really great mentality to the company that is still there today. We’ve enjoyed a lot of wins together.”
As far as whatever disagreements, the two may have, Earnhardt added, “I would certainly like to clear it up, but just probably between ourselves.”
And Earnhardt got support from one of Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, Clint Bowyer.
“I think that legacy started long before him, and he carried the flag for that legacy for a long time – kept that fan base alive,” Bowyer said of Earnhardt. “That’s not on his shoulders to be able to do that. I felt it’s always been a little bit unfair for him to have that workload on him, but he’s done a good job with that and it’s time for us to hold up our end of the deal and to capitalize on that.”