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Kevin Harvick’s stance of Dale Jr. ‘stunting the growth of NASCAR’ has holes

During his “Happy Hours” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday night, Kevin Harvick said Dale Earnhardt Jr. played a “big part in stunting the growth of NASCAR” because of being the most popular driver but not being, remotely, the most successful driver.

According to Harvick, Jimmie Johnson should be the most popular driver because of being a record-tying seven-time champion. He said he didn’t understand why Earnhardt, not Johnson, is the sport’s most popular driver, since Johnson is more successful, and according to him, popularity should be based on success.

I get where Harvick is coming from, but I think his theory of Earnhardt “stunting the growth of NASCAR” because of popularity without rousing success has some holes in it.

Here are a few of them:

Harvick used Dale Earnhardt Sr. as an example of popularity with success. If we’re putting weight on the official Most Popular Driver award, Earnhardt Sr. only won that award once, and that was in 2001 after his death. Basically, it was a sympathy vote by fans in a year he only ran one race. When Earnhardt Sr. was winning at least most of his record-tying seven Cup championships, Bill Elliott was winning the Most Popular Driver award, year in and year out. Sure, unlike Earnhardt Jr., Elliott has a championship, but he was, by no means, the most successful driver during his reign of Most Popular Driver.

Of course, if we look at driver popularity based on mainstream recognition, Elliott wouldn’t have been most popular. Then, the argument could be made for Earnhardt Sr. being most popular, then. But if we go with mainstream popularity, here, Harvick’s stance could be directed just as much at one of his teammates — Danica Patrick.

If we keep going with this Harvick stance, connecting stunting growth with popularity without success, it could be said that Patrick’s lack of on-track success could’ve stunted growth. Here’s an example:

What would get more attention from the big-time, national, mainstream media — Earnhardt Jr. winning another Daytona 500 or Patrick winning any race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule? If we’re being honest, here, we have to say Patrick winning any Cup Series race. Remember the hoopla when she won a pole at Daytona a few years back? Imagine if she won a race. Is Earnhardt winning any race a big deal to anyone outside NASCAR Nation? Nah, not really.

Considering a Patrick win would be the only win that would get attention in the mainstream media, outside those that report regularly on NASCAR, would those who aren’t already NASCAR fans even notice who won such-and-such race on a given Sunday, even if that driver is Earnhardt Jr.? No. The fans who do care are already fans, so getting their attention isn’t considered growing the sport.

Sure, Earnhardt Jr. may have even more fans, if that’s possible, if he won more races and a championship here and there, but those fans would likely come from other drivers’ fanbases, not those who don’t follow the sport. That’s not growth of the sport, overall; that’s moving fans from one fanbase to another within the sport. Considering Earnhardt Jr. wins don’t get anymore mainstream attention than wins by other drivers, I’m guessing folks not already following the sport don’t even know how successful or unsuccessful Earnhardt is.

Besides, who’s to say Earnhardt would have more fans with more wins? That formula hasn’t worked for Johnson, has it? If fans are irked by drivers winning so much, why assume Earnhardt would be immune to it if he had seven championships and was in the top-five on the all-time wins list?

And that brings me back to the Most Popular Driver award, since Harvick put so much weight on it Tuesday night on his show. Earnhardt Sr. put up stats similar to Johnson’s, and he wasn’t the Most Popular Driver back then, either.

Harvick tried backing up his theory with comparisons to stick-and-ball sports. The Dallas Cowboys are so popular that they’re dubbed “America’s Team,” but they’re not even close to being the most successful team in the NFL. Sports across the board are in a decline. Are the Cowboys to blame for an NFL decline? Nope.

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Posted by on August 10, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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