NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. would like to talk to Kevin Harvick about comments
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not looking for an apology from Kevin Harvick, but a phone call might nice.
Earnhardt, NASCAR’s 14-time Most Popular Driver who is retiring from Cup Series competition after the 2017 season, was blasted by rival and former Cup champion Harvicka earlier this week. Harvick claimed that Earnhardt “stunted NASCAR’s growth” due to his not winning enough.
Speaking on his weekly “Happy Hours” SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show, Harvick said he believed attendance and television numbers would be stronger if Earnhardt was a perennial contender.
Earnhardt was asked at Michigan International Speedway on Friday if Harvick owed him an apology.
“No,” Earnhardt said. “I would appreciate a conversation. 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.
“We can even talk about my conversation from The Glen that he didn’t like, and just find some kind of common ground. That would be great. Like I said, I think a lot of the guy, and there is no denying what he did for our company over those few years.”
Earnhardt said that while did didn’t win as much as some might have expected (26 wins in 19 seasons), he exceeded his own expectations. On Friday, he explained that comment in a little more detail.
“I have watched a lot of guys come in behind their dad and struggle,” Earnhardt said. “There are a lot of guys that came in behind their dad and made it, but there are a lot of guys that didn’t. My dad put up some pretty steep numbers (76 Cup wins, seven championships), so I knew that was going to be a challenge trying to feel any kind of self-worth and doing well enough to satisfy people.
“I hated working for a living, so I was hoping, this is silly, but the way I thought in 1997 was, ‘Man, if I could get into an Xfinity car and could win just one race, what do I need to do just to say that I think that is enough to keep me around?’ When I won my first few races in the Xfinity series, I thought, ‘Well, all right. I’ll be able to keep a job in this sport for a while because of this little bit of success I’ve had.’ ”
Harvick believes seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson should be considered the sport’s most popular.
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“I didn’t come here to be the most popular guy,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t come in here thinking I was going to win seven championships. I just wanted to be able to do. I just didn’t want to flame out in two years and be gone and have to work. Honestly. I just wanted to be able to make a living doing it, and it has turned out to be much, much more than that for me.
“Every time I win a race, it is a surprise to me. Any time we did anything really big like win the Xfinity Series championship, or the Daytona 500, even to this day, it is hard for me to believe it happened to me. That is what I mean when I say I exceeded my own expectations because they were pretty low.
“I don’t know why, but I was a screw-off when I was a teenager. I was late to work every day. I didn’t put in the effort. I just didn’t have my head on straight, so I shouldn’t have amounted to much. But I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gotten the opportunities I got with my father and luckily enough I had great people around me on the Xfinity deal that carried any of my own personal limitations until…I finally figured it out late, late in my career what I really was supposed to be doing this whole time as far as my job and being an asset, and being accountable and applying myself. It took a while, but some of us are late bloomers.”
“I didn’t think I would win another race after 2010, 2011. I thought that was it. I thought I was going to squirm around in the back until everybody had just had enough of me. But somehow or another we got back in victory lane a few more times, so that was pretty cool.”