The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion and the 15-time Most Popular Driver have cleared up some issues. Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat down together for a deep dive into their history together, ultimately reaching a better place.
This heart-to-heart took place during the season finale of “The Dale Jr. Download.” Harvick and Earnhardt discussed a wide variety of topics, including Harvick’s critical comments from 2017 about his fellow driver. They also discussed how JR Motorsports separated him from his crew chief and team, leading to some bitter feelings.
“So here’s how all that started,” Harvick said during the November 30 episode. “So the way that all that started, it was all over — I was in the middle of a contract negotiation that year, and it all started over the [Earnhardt] comment about driver salaries. And at that particular point, I don’t know that I had actually gotten over all this, to be honest with you.”
The salary comments were from the 2017 season. Earnhardt said that younger drivers signing smaller deals were good for the sport and that this trend would help more money go to the teams and keep the business sustainable.
Harvick continued and added that his comments about Earnhardt partially stemmed from wondering why Jimmie Johnson wasn’t more popular. This was a point that he and Earnhardt agreed on as they both said that the seven-time champion should have been far more popular during his career.
The comments in question took place during the 2017 season as Earnhardt prepared for retirement. Harvick talked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Happy Hours” about the fan attendance during the season and expressed the opinion that it hadn’t really changed despite Earnhardt making his final starts for Hendrick Motorsports. He then expressed the opinion that the “lack of performance” on the track played a role.
“It’s a funny situation when you talk about his last year and what you thought it would be,” Harvick said in 2017, per NBC Sports. “It’s the strangest situation that we have. In my opinion, this is where I think some of the growth in our sport has not reached the levels that it should’ve because our most popular driver hasn’t been our most successful driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the most popular driver (award) for however many years (14) in a row … But he hasn’t been anywhere close to being our most successful driver.”
Harvick also commented during the now-infamous interview that he stock car racing is different than other sports like the NBA and the NFL. He said that the most popular players in those other sports are also the most successful, but he said that NASCAR was different.
Earnhardt Provided His Side of the Story & Discussed His Own Comments
One key point that Harvick made during this sitdown interview is that he took issue with Earnhardt’s comments about driver salaries. The 15-time Most Popular Driver used the podcast to provide his side of the story and explained that he was unaware that Harvick was going through a contract negotiation at the time.
“It was 2017, I was in the middle of my retirement year, so every weekend they would take me to the media center to do whatever they were going to do,” Earnhardt said. “… They were asking me about Matt Kenseth and why he’s getting shuffled out of [Joe Gibbs Racing] and how he’s probably not going to have a ride. Who will hire him?
“I was thinking, ‘well, Matt’s got to bring his asking price down, and you’ve got these other drivers coming in like [William] Byron and these kids that will take nothing to take his job.’ If I’m an owner, I’ll pay Christopher Bell or William Byron half or way less than hiring Matt.”
Earnhardt added that Harvick was not the only driver that voiced their displeasure with him. He said that multiple drivers let him know that they were unhappy with him after he talked about lowering driver salaries and that he probably should have kept his opinions to himself.
The 2 Drivers Focused on Friendship & Burying the Hatchet
Earnhardt has used “The Dale Jr. Download” to clear up issues with multiple drivers after his retirement from full-time driving. He has sat down with Kyle Busch and Jimmy Spencer among others to hash out issues and reach a better place.
This trend continued with the Harvick episode. Both veteran drivers explained that they want to be friends and that they had each made mistakes at certain points in their shared history. For Earnhardt, it was the comments about driver salaries and Harvick’s split with JR Motorsports. For Harvick, it was his comments on the radio show about his fellow driver.
Earnhardt acknowledged these issues while saying that he had hoped for Harvick to join the podcast at some point. His goal was to mend the rift between them and get back to being friends.
“I agree,” Harvick said. “Because that’s the one thing about this sport that most people don’t know, right? You have to be around people. You have people you have a lot in common with. And I think for me, I choose to almost be silent and just go away from things and just not talk about them and just not be around them.
“That’s probably, all the time, not the right way to do it. And I think for me, I say stuff that you look back on and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, why in the world would you say that?’ And I think as you get older, you start to – I’m the same way, it’s good to fix those things. Because for us, obviously, we’ve been around this for a long time, and for me, I feel the same way.”
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