Dale Earnhardt Jr. on NASCAR's format enhancements: 'I can get on board with this'
Are you one of those traditionalists, somebody who hates new things and wishes NASCAR would stay the same forever?
Well, you aren’t alone.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver for 14 consecutive years, said Monday that he didn’t used to like it when new elements were introduced into the sport.
At least not until he spent time in the television booth and at home last year while recovering from a serious concussion. The time out of the car had a profound impact on Earnhardt’s thoughts about the sport and what it needs to deliver for fans.
And that’s why Earnhardt is a big proponent of the new enhancements NASCAR announced Monday night for the 2017 season, which include breaking races into three segments, rewarding the regular-season points leader and tweaking the points structure: 9 things you need to know about NASCAR's race format enhancements.
“It really, really changed my perspective on what’s good for the sport, and what the fans want and what’s good racing and what’s exciting,” said Earnhardt. “As a driver, for the longest time, I didn’t like anything to be different. I didn’t want anything new. I was a traditionalist that wanted everything from the past.”
Earnhardt described himself as “One of those guys who always thought 10 years ago was a better time.”
His concussion changed Earnhardt’s take on the state of the sport.
“As a race-car driver, I’m out there running hard,” said Earnhardt. “I don’t want to see a caution. I want to keep working. When things are going my way, I don’t want a halt in the action. I don’t like a late yellow. I don’t want a debris caution — all those things that sort of derail or manipulate the finish that aren’t organic. I hated that.
“But when I had a chance to be out of the car and watch the races, I saw where there was a big void here and a big void there,” said Earnhardt. “And where we needed to create some opportunities for moments.”
And that made Earnhardt OK with NASCAR’s new direction.
“This is a small step, but a great step in the right direction to sort of be able to present our product in a little bit cleaner form,” said Earnhardt.
“These stages, I know going into an event what I’m signed up to do,” said Earnhardt. “I’ve signed up for this and I’m OK with that. The phantom yellows always kind of bugged me and this is nothing like that. And this isn’t manufactured excitement. This is just going to award you through the middle of the race.
“I like it,” said Earnhardt. “I can get on board with this.”