Dale Earnhardt Jr. said comments made by Kevin Harvick stating Earnhardt’s popularity negatively impacted the growth of NASCAR were “hurtful” but that he still has “respect” for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.
Earnhardt was responding to what Harvick said Tuesday night on his SiriusXM NASCAR Radio show “Happy Hours,” stating he believed the Hendrick Motorsports driver “had a big part in stunting the growth of NASCAR.”
Harvick also said it was “confusing” how Earnhardt, the 14-time most popular driver, had a larger following than seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
“(Earnhardt) hasn’t been anywhere close to being our most successful driver,” Harvick said. “For me I believe Dale Jr. has had a big part in stunting the growth of NASCAR because he’s got these legions of fans, this huge outreach of being able to reach these places 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. I know those aren’t the most popular comments but those are real life facts that you look up and see on the stat sheet.”
Earnhardt refuted Harvick’s belief that he has played any part in harming the state of NASCAR, which he has competed in since 1996 in the Xfinity Series and full-time since 1998.
“I certainly hope that’s not the case,” Earnhardt said “I put a lot into this sport, and I know that I might not have met everyone’s expectations, but I certainly exceeded my own and I’m super proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.”
Harvick and Earnhardt have a recent professional relationship after Harvick competed in 34 Xfinity Series races for JR Motorsports from 2014-16 and won six races.