NASCAR Cup Series

EXCLUSIVE: Danica Patrick Stands By Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Danica Patrick has Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s back.

Monday at Stewart-Haas Racing, Patrick and Roberts Yates unveiled another fabulous throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 Labor Weekend at Darlington Raceway.

There, Patrick will drive the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford with a Quality Care/Ford Credit paint scheme like Dale Jarrett drove in 1999, when he won the NASCAR championship. It’s a killer paint scheme, one that honors NASCAR Hall of Fame members Yates and Jarrett and it looks great.

After the formal part of the presentation, I got a few minutes with Patrick and I asked her about last week’s comments from Kevin Harvick, who said Dale Earnhardt Jr. had stunted the growth of NASCAR by not winning enough races.

Specifically, I asked Patrick whether it was fair to think any one driver could raise the bar for NASCAR.

“I think Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) did (raise the bar),” Patrick said. “I’m a little bit defensive of situations like that, because I am more popular than my results. And it’s not my fault — if that’s the right way to say it. It’s not as though I’ve done something to steal something, you know what I mean?”

Patrick said other factors in addition to on-track performance factor into the popularity of drivers.

“The fact is, Dale would have loved to have won every race he entered into, just like I would,” Patrick said. “But that’s not the way it goes, so then it goes beyond that to a personality.”

And Patrick said Earnhardt’s personality is a strong and charismatic draw for race fans.

“Dale, while he has some personality traits that are reserved and definitely not available, it’s also what I feel makes him sought after,” Patrick said. “Because he’s elusive and you don’t really know that much about him.

“I think it all works out. He is who he is,” Patrick said. “And he has a humongous fan base.”