Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday that he found Kevin Harvick’s theory about Junior’s popularity and NASCAR’s success “hurtful.”
Harvick wondered on his SiriusXM show Tuesday if NASCAR had been “stunted” by Junior’s lack of success. Earnhardt Jr., the sport’s most popular driver who is retiring at the end of the season, has won 26 races in his Cup Series career but hasn’t won a championship.
Harvick mentioned football and basketball, where the sports’ most recognizable and popular athletes are those who have won championships. When asked about Harvick’s comments Thursday, Junior reflected back on the previous business relationship he had with Harvick. After Harvick shut his Xfinity Series team down and before Stewart-Haas Racing moved to Ford, Harvick drove Xfinity Series races for Earnhardt Jr.’s team.
After mentioning the positives of the relationship he had with Harvick, Junior said he hated that Harvick felt the way he did.
“I have an incredible amount of respect for him and I found some of his comments hurtful,” Junior told reporters at the unveiling of Chevrolet’s 2018 Cup Series car (via ESPN). “But I still respect him as a champion and ambassador for the sport and that’s just the way it is I guess. I hate that’s how he feels.”
While Harvick is wondering if NASCAR’s current state of popularity is intertwined with Junior’s, we’re wondering just what brought his comments on. Harvick is one of the most calculating drivers in the Cup Series; it’s hard to think that he hadn’t given his idea about the sport and Junior much thought.
Junior’s sister and co-owner in Junior Motorsports, Kelley Earnhardt, tweeted her support for her brother Thursday afternoon.
Extremely proud of this guy. He was hurt by those comments & rightfully so. Yet still…he is complimentary & respectful. Not many like him https://t.co/BlRGYL99Uq
— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) August 10, 2017
Kelley Earnhardt is right. Junior could have taken a swipe at Harvick if he wanted to, but he took the high road. That’s the right move. Had Junior muddied it up with Harvick it would have created an odd and unnecessary storyline to the final season of his Cup Series career.
– – – – – – –