As a rookie NBC Sports analyst, Dale Earnhardt Jr. watched the 2018 Round of 8 action unfold. He looked on not only as a professional journalist but also as a future NASCAR Hall of Fame driver.
Late in the race at Martinsville Speedway, Earnhardt observed Joey Logano position his machine to make a run at the Cup’s defending champion, Martin Truex Jr. Earnhardt instinctively announced his friend would not do what’s necessary to repeat.
Upon hearing of his friend’s analytical call, Truex was pissed.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: ‘Martin (Truex) is not going to do anything! He’s too nice!’
To earn passage to the Championship 4 race, Logano outmaneuvered an obliging Truex.
Earnhardt, the commentator, criticized Truex’s not-resistant approach. During his call, his attitude was apparent. As an analyst, it was exactly what NBC Sports executives envisioned when they handed him a microphone.
“I said something about I didn’t think he was going to win the championship,” Earnhardt told Beyond the Flag. “… When him [Truex] and the 22 [Joey Logano] were going at it that year, I was like ‘Martin is not going to do anything! He’s too nice!’, and what happened at Homestead?”
Exactly what Earnhardt prophesized would happen.
Driving for Furniture Row Racing before it shuttered its garage, Truex held the Championship 4 race lead with 15 laps remaining but didn’t do what was necessary. Logano, however, did, claiming the drivers’ title.
Earnhardt called it: “The 22 goes around him on the outside, and Martin never did anything! He just sat there and watched it happen!”
As an NBC Sports analyst, Earnhardt, a former driver, attempts to cover NASCAR races objectively
After the season finale, Earnhardt emphasized in his reporting that Truex could have — should have? — earned consecutive NASCAR championships but proved too courteous. A mindset, as a driver with two Daytona 500 titles on his resume, he understood.
“I gave Martin a hard time because he’s too nice,” Earnhardt said. “And the reason I can say that is because I was the same way in my own career. I should’ve roughed up a lot of guys that didn’t get roughed up that deserved it.”
Earnhardt did his job as an analyst, even if his friend held a grudge. When a hunting trip came up during the offseason, Earnhardt casually reached out to Truex as a friend. No different from past offseasons, right?
“It’s so funny,” Earnhardt said. “I’ll call Martin and be like, ‘We got a hunting trip planned’ or something, and we’ll get in a conversation, and he’ll tell something that I did that annoyed him, and I’m like, ‘Martin, it ain’t nothing personal, buddy! We’re just up there in that booth trying to sell tickets and trying to get people interested in what’s going on!'”
Earnhardt: ‘I have friends … that race today that is annoyed by me’
Along with his NBC Sports gig, Earnhardt remains co-owner of JR Motorsports, which fields an Xfinity Series team but has aspirations of moving up, and co-hosts The Dale Jr. Download podcast.
In retirement, Earnhardt, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 21, keeps busy. It’s a shame part of his off time is dedicated to smoothing over comments he made during past broadcasts.
“I have friends … that race today that is annoyed by me,” Earnhardt said.
He’s just doing his job.