Earn­hardt says Har­vick’s com­ments ‘hurt­ful’

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - NOAH TRIS­TER

Dale Earn­hardt Jr. said Thurs­day he’s proud of his ac­com­plish­ments af­ter Kevin Har­vick sug­gested NASCAR’s growth has been hin­dered be­cause Earn­hardt hasn’t won enough.

“I put a lot into this sport, and I know that I might not have met every­one’s ex­pec­ta­tions, but I cer­tainly ex­ceeded my own,” Earn­hardt said while ap­pear­ing at Chevro­let’s event in­tro­duc­ing the Ca­maro ZL1, a new race car for next year’s NASCAR Cup Se­ries.

“I’m su­per proud of what I’ve been able to ac­com­plish, and I hope that I brought some­thing to the ta­ble and left a good im­pact,” Earn­hardt added.

Har­vick said on Sir­iusXM this week that he felt the sport’s growth “has not reached the lev­els that it should have be­cause our most pop­u­lar driver hasn’t been our most suc­cess­ful driver.”

“Dale Earn­hardt Jr. has won the most pop­u­lar driver for how­ever many years in a row, and he has been our sport’s most pop­u­lar driver, but he hasn’t been any­where close to be­ing our most suc­cess­ful driver,” Har­vick said.

Har­vick men­tioned foot­ball and bas­ket­ball as ex­am­ples of sports in which the most pop­u­lar ath­letes are also among the most suc­cess­ful.

“I be­lieve that Dale Jr. has had a big part in kind of stunt­ing the growth of NASCAR be­cause he’s got these le­gions of fans, and this huge out­reach of be­ing able to reach dif­fer­ent places that none of us have the pos­si­bil­ity to reach, but he’s won nine races in ten years at Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports.”

Earn­hardt said he re­spects Har­vick, who has driven for his JR Mo­tor­sports team.

“We still have suc­cess to­day be­cause of that im­pact that he made at JR Mo­tor­sports, so I have an in­cred­i­ble amount of re­spect for him,” said Earn­hardt, who is set to re­tire af­ter this sea­son. “About his com­ments, some of those com­ments were hurt­ful. But I still re­spect him as a cham­pion and an am­bas­sador for the sport, and that’s just the way it is, I guess. I hate that that’s how he feels.”

Earn­hardt and Jim­mie John­son were among the driv­ers on hand for Chevy’s event — an out­door cer­e­mony in down­town Detroit. John­son drove the Ca­maro along Jef­fer­son Av­enue be­fore pulling in front of the Re­nais­sance Cen­ter, head­quar­ters of Gen­eral Mo­tors.

“I’ve never raced a Ca­maro, so I’m ex­cited to get on the race­track and be in a Ca­maro next year,” John­son said. “Looks amaz­ing, and I know it’s go­ing to per­form very well.”

Chevy will try to build on the on-track suc­cess of the Chevro­let SS, which has 70 Cup wins since 2013. The Chevy Ca­maro has only two Cup vic­to­ries to its credit, both by Tiny Lund in 1971. The Ca­maro SS has been Chevro­let’s en­try in the Xfin­ity Se­ries since 2013.

“I think a lot of peo­ple were hop­ing that, even be­fore the Ca­maro came into the Xfin­ity Se­ries, that they would bring the Ca­maro to the Cup Se­ries. It’s go­ing to make a lot of Chevro­let fans re­ally happy,” Earn­hardt said. “What you see to­day is still a work in progress. Teams will fig­ure out how this thing needs to be set up, and what’s go­ing to make it tick. I know those guys over there are re­ally ex­cited to get af­ter it. I don’t have to worry about that. I just get to watch it hap­pen.”

The blue car John­son drove was adorned with the No. 8, which was Louis Chevro­let’s rac­ing num­ber.

“I’m ex­cited about it be­ing a Ca­maro,” team owner Rick Hen­drick said.

“Selfishly, I’m a car sales­man, and I’ve got a lot of them in the lot.”

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