Dale Earnhardt Jr. is synonymous with NASCAR. He’s been a tremendous ambassador of the sport for more than two decades on and off the track. However, don’t mistake that passion for someone who blindly follows the organization and agrees with its every decision. Junior proved that on the latest Dale Jr. Download when he called out NASCAR for its gimmicks of late, including next year’s reported race in Portland.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is big fan of Bristol and short tracks
Following the weekend of races at Bristol that ended with Kyle Larson winning the Cup Series race and Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott feuding, Dale Earnhardt Jr. candidly shared his thoughts during the closing moments of the broadcast at Bristol.
“This used to be our best-selling ticket. Now we’ve come to the point to where they think they need to put dirt on top of it to put on a great show,” Earnhardt said. “But we’re back to being able to show people what this racetrack can do, and it’s amazing to me that as much has happened here tonight and in the history of this racetrack, we’ve never replicated it anywhere else. You just can’t. The place is just so unique. I think that’s pretty amazing.”
Earnhardt has been a vocal proponent of short tracks like Bristol for years. During last week’s podcast, he talked about the 2022 Cup Series schedule and admitted he wished there were more short tracks included.
“I was hoping for some more, I guess,” he said. “More short tracks. I’ve been saying that for years. I’m kind of even tired of hearing myself say it. We need some more short tracks just cause they’re fun.”
Earnhardt not impressed by Portland and calls out NASCAR for gimmicky tracks
This week NASCAR is expected to announce the 2022 Xfinity Series schedule. Among the reported dates is a stop in Portland, which last hosted a Truck Series race in 2000. When questioned on the “Ask Jr.” segment of this week’s Dale Jr. Download about the possible race in Portland, Earnhardt was less than enthusiastic.
“We’ve been out there before. I don’t even know what shape the place is in. It’s a road course. It doesn’t do anything for me,” Earnhardt bluntly admitted. “If you’re out in Portland, you’re excited about this. I’m happy for you. If you want to go to the racetrack and you’re thrilled that they’re coming there, that’s a good thing. That’s the whole point. But for me, it’s just adding another road course, and we’ve added a lot of road courses over the year.”
Earnhardt said the addition of so many road courses is not what he expected after NASCAR President Steve Phelps visited the Download just over a year ago.
“We’re getting back, not to our roots, but we’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel,” Earnhardt said of the conversation with Phelps. “I took it as we’re not going to try to introduce a lot of new. We’re going to try to bring back some of the old. That made me think, OK, well, we’re going to maybe introduce a couple of short tracks. We’re going to do less mile-and-a-halfs. We’re not going to try any kind of new gimmicky thing, right. But it just seems like there’s a few new gimmicks coming down the pike.”
Open to giving the LA Coliseum a chance
While Earnhardt isn’t exactly pleased with the thought of more road courses and other “gimmicks,” he’s willing to give the LA Coliseum a chance.
“Not to say the Coliseum thing won’t be great,” he said. “It’s an exhibition. It’s a test. It’s a short track. It’s extremely short, but it is a short track, so it should be pretty aggressive. It will really be on the drivers’ shoulders. When we go to the Coliseum race, that working or not working I think will be the responsibility of the drivers. They’ve got to go, and they’ve got to want to duke it out. I think the Coliseum idea is to try to force them into a position where they have to fight it out. If they do, if they’re willing to go push each other around a little bit, that’ll be a pretty fun deal. But I’m not interested in road courses all that much.”
If the Coliseum plays out like Earnhardt thinks it could, NASCAR just might have a new style of race it can transport to other big stadiums around the country like Jerry’s World in Dallas. It might not be the typical short track he would like to see, but it’s a start. And more importantly, it’s not a road course.