NASCAR has changed a lot since Dale Earnhardt Jr. was born in 1974.
Through 1985 the series ran 10 short track races per year until the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway was taken off the schedule. From 1985-96 short track fans had eight weekends to anticipate.
In 1997, North Wilkesboro Speedway’s two dates were divvied up between Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway.
Now there are only six short track dates and that has created a fundamental change in competition at the Cup level, according to Earnhardt.
Fan reaction after last week’s Martinsville finish when Joey Logano bumped Martin Truex Jr. out of the lead was electrifying. One has to go back to the 2017 edition of that same race and the contact between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott for a comparison.
“(The finish at Martinsville) is something that I think I saw a lot when I was younger, even when I was a kid going to the races. This is something I felt was happening once a month,” Earnhardt said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.
And he asked Dale Jarrett if that opinion was shared.
Jarrett agreed and credited the lack of short track racing as one of the causes.
“First off, we don’t have as many short tracks,” Jarrett said. “(Lower) speeds allow you to do things like (the bump and run at Martinsville). … You can’t go to Texas this weekend – and if you run into the back of somebody, they’re gonna crash hard and there’s the chance you might crash too.”
While not technically a short track – a course less than 1 mile in length – Rockingham Speedway featured the same style of racing, according to Jarrett.
“As the speeds get lower, you have those opportunities to make moments and have moments,” Jarrett added. “And quite honestly, that’s what this sport was built on.”
For more, watch the video above.