“If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”
Athletes like NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana have used that phrase through the years. When you reach the upper echelon of competition, athletes and teams are constantly trying to find an advantage through whatever means possible. If that means cheating, so be it. NASCAR is no different.
With NASCAR recently unveiling the new Next Gen car for 2022, which levels the playing field by providing all teams with the same equipment, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on his podcast that it’s imperative for teams to cheat and create whatever advantage they can or they can expect to finish in the middle of the pack or worse. He also warned that cheating doesn’t come without risk and whoever goes that route and first gets nabbed by NASCAR also better be prepared to pay a heavy price.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. says cheating is crucial to success with Next Gen car in 2022
When NASCAR finally revealed the Next Gen race car in early May, the clock started ticking. The new car, which is designed to level the playing field by providing “standardized parts,” will make its official track debut at the 2022 Daytona 500.
With the chassis built using manufacturer-sourced parts for the first time in NASCAR history, coupled with carbon composite bodies supplied by the three carmakers, teams are looking to find any advantage possible to make their car faster than the competition. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on the “Ask Jr.” portion of the Dale Jr. Download that one sure-fire way to achieve this is cheating.
“If you’re not trying to figure out how to cheat, you’re not going anywhere,” Earnhardt bluntly said. “With this new car, with new parts, new pieces, absolutely you’ve got to find an advantage. You’ve got to find an advantage secretly, and keep it secret, keep it to yourself as long as you can, before everybody catches on and before word gets out, or somebody sees the part.”
First team caught will pay a serious price
While Earnhardt said cheating is critical to success, he also acknowledged it’s a high-risk-reward proposition. And those willing to take the risk must also be willing to pay the price when caught by the NASCAR police.
“You’ve got to be willing to take that gamble that NASCAR is probably going to come down super hard on the first guy that gets caught for messing with some of their stuff,” Earnhardt admitted. “Because NASCAR takes offense, man. They’ve given you these parts. They’re trying to make this car the next great thing. They’re working real hard to have all these vendors making these pieces. It’s this big production. And you’re going to go screw it up and cheat it up. They’re going to be real upset about that so get ready for them to come down hard on the first guy they catch.”
Despite those risks, Earnhardt still maintains it’s all worth it.
“But if you’re not trying to figure out how to take advantage and find a gray area in the rulebook or blatantly break the rule, you’re going to run in the middle of the pack, or the back. I don’t know that I’d want to drive that car,” he said with a laugh of honesty.
Earnhardt confesses to Tony Stewart about his cheating days
Make no mistake about it, Earnhardt is no stranger to cheating. In 2019, he sat down and interviewed Tony Stewart on his podcast, and the pair talked about cheating during their careers.
“I put some trick fuel in my car and went to Myrtle Beach and burnt the motor up as soon as I cranked it,” Earnhardt confessed as Stewart laughed. “So I drove four hours to Myrtle Beach and burnt the piston out of the number one cylinder and drove home. Because I didn’t mix the fuel. It went right to the bottom of the fuel cell.”
Earnhardt is still a huge ambassador for NASCAR, hosting his podcast and offering his commentary during NBC’s coverage of the sport. But it’s hard to believe officials at NASCAR headquarters in Florida are happy hearing his full-throated endorsement of cheating even though they’re well aware it’s inevitable with this newest vehicle.