Harvick said in August that Junior’s winning percentage over the last decade with his immense popularity played a “big part in kind of stunting the growth of NASCAR.” Junior said back then that Harvick’s comments were hurtful and told Dan Patrick on Wednesday that he felt Harvick made those comments as a personal dig.
Junior said it eats at him when he’s not on good terms with a driver and made the comments about Harvick in the context of driver feuds.
“I think what Harvick said about me … that stuff will stick for a really long time. That bothered me pretty bad. But I don’t have a feud, feud. I don’t have a guy that spun me out that I never got back.”
Why didn’t Junior talk to Harvick? Because he knew the comments were personal.
Whether or not you believe Harvick’s comments had any merit, it’s indisputable that NASCAR’s popularity is continuing to wane without Earnhardt Jr. participating. Television ratings for the first races of 2018 have continued a years-long decline and the Daytona 500 was the least-watched in years.
Is that because Junior isn’t out there? It’s fair to think his absence is playing a part. But it’s also very fair to think that NASCAR’s problems over the past few years are far more complicated than stemming from Junior’s failure to win a title.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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