“Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows that he can impact this sport in a lot of ways other than just driving a race car.” – Jeff Burton
“I don’t know if anyone has been through more than Dale Jr. If he were my son, I would be extremely proud of him.” – Dale Jarrett
“I was hoping he wouldn’t come back after all the trouble he had last year.” – Richard Petty
STAMFORD, Conn. – April 25, 2017 – Following are highlights from tonight’s edition of NASCAR America on NBCSN, which included in-depth analysis and discussion about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s decision to retire following the conclusion of the 2017 NASCAR season.
Earnhardt’s former crew chief Steve Letarte (@SteveLetarte), Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett (@DaleJarrett), “The Mayor” of NASCAR Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton), and auto racing icon Kyle Petty (@KylePetty) shared their thoughts on the announcement and Earnhardt’s impact on the sport. “The King” of NASCAR Richard Petty, and NASCAR America’s recurring guest analyst Greg Biffle (@gbiffle) also joined tonight’s show and shared sentiments about Earnhardt’s more than 600 races behind the wheel.
Following are highlights from this evening’s show:
Kyle Petty on Dale Jr.’s announcement: “I’m always sad when a driver retires. When you are a little boy and you go to sleep at night, you dream about holding on to that steering wheel and winning the Daytona 500. We witnessed a guy today start to put that dream in a box. I watched my dad go through it. I’ve watched a lot of drivers go through it. I went through it. He will always be a part of the sport, but the dream is being put in a box.”
Jarrett on Dale Jr. as a man: “I left Dale Jr. a voicemail earlier today, telling him that I was very proud of what he has done for this sport, the man that he has become, and that his dad would be very proud. I don’t know if anyone has been through more than Dale Jr. The expectations that were put on him from the very beginning by being Dale Jr., and then having everything thrust upon him after his dad’s death in 2001. All of a sudden the weight of a sport was thrown onto his shoulders. None of it he was asking for. All he wanted to do was drive a race car, and have the opportunity to show what he could do. If he were my son, I would be extremely proud of him.”
Richard Petty on Dale Jr.’s decision to retire: “I was hoping he wouldn’t come back after having all the trouble he had last year. I realize how hard it is to get out of the race car, because that is what we do for so long and enjoy so much. Whether you win or lose, its hard to give up. I’m glad he went along and made the decision.”
Burton on Dale Jr.’s impact outside the race car: “Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a passion for the sport. There is no question about it. He knows that he can impact this sport in a lot of ways other than just driving a race car. His team ownership at the XFINITY level is of huge importance to NASCAR and the development of young drivers. You look at what he is doing with William Byron, and what he has done with Elliott Sadler. It’s so important for the XFINITY series to be healthy. So as a car owner, having Dale Jr. be involved is huge.”
Kyle Petty: “I think it is part of the cycle of the sport. We see Champions, and most popular drivers, and race winners, but eventually they all retire. That’s just part of the sport, and eventually their place is taken by younger drivers. Dale Jr. took someone’s place at some point in time, so did Greg Biffle, and so did I. Now it’s time for some other driver to come along.”
Burton: “He will continue to be an influence on the sport. He’s greatly respected in the sport. Trust me, if he calls, Mike Helton is going to answer whether Dale Jr. is driving a race car or not. He will continue to be an influence in the sport, because he has passion for it. That’s not going to go away just because he’s not driving.”
Letarte on future candidates for the No. 88: “I see Rick Hendrick going young. I do not think William Byron is the answer in 2018. I think Hendrick understands that drivers need to mature. We have already seen the struggle of Daniel Suárez this season, who is the XFINITY Champion, perhaps getting moved up a little too quickly. I think that can be a detriment to a driver’s career. I have Alex Bowman circled on a piece of paper. I think Bowman is the perfect guy. I don’t mean a five year contract, maybe a one or a two-year deal.”
Biffle on Dale Jr.’s influence: “Look at the marks Dale Jr. left on the sport. The change in the concussion protocol would not have happened without Dale Jr. and the decision he had to make to get healthy again and get back in the car. The awareness and the marks he has left on this sport are going to benefit the young drivers that are in these cars today.”
Letarte on the timing of Dale Jr.’s announcement: “I think the timing is clear. It needed to be done. Rick Hendrick and Dale Jr. sat on the info for a month. It gets to a point where you have to move forward with sponsor and driver discussions. I think the timing actually shows Hendrick and Dale Jr.’s commitment to the fans. The fact that they did not want the info leaked, and Dale Jr. wanted to speak to everyone from the heart shows his commitment.”
NASCAR ON NBC
In 2017, NBC Sports Group will present the final 20 NASCAR Cup Series races, final 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series events and select NASCAR Regional & Touring Series events.
NBC Sports Group’s NASCAR programming also includes NBCSN’s daily motorsports show NASCAR America, coverage of NASCAR’s Awards Ceremonies, the annual NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as well as original programming specials. NBC Sports Group concluded the 2016 NASCAR season presenting more hours of trackside coverage and programming than ever before.
In 2016, NBC Sports Group continued to innovate and entertain race fans with 630 hours of NASCAR programming including interactive watch parties, documentary specials and new shoulder programming, in addition to its 366 live trackside hours from 22 different states. In 2016 overall consumption of NASCAR content on NBC Sports’ Digital properties was up 50% vs. 2015 and NASCAR on NBC’s social platforms generated a triple-digit increase in video views, as well as double-digit increase in fan base and impressions compared to the 2015 season.
–NASCAR ON NBC–