When you're talking NASCAR, there's no figure more iconic -- or more frustrating -- in the sport today than Dale Earnhardt Jr. Son of one of the most famous drivers in history, Earnhardt's struggles over the years to match The Intimidator's legacy are well-documented, as is the absolute, near-religious devotion of his fans.
Recently, we got the chance to speak to Earnhardt in connection with a Diet Mountain Dew promotion, and his legacy and his role in NASCAR were key topics. Earlier this season, Brian France compared Earnhardt to the Lakers and Yankees, indicating that when those teams did well, their respective sports flourished. The implication, of course, was that NASCAR is struggling at least in part because its marquee attraction hasn't found victory lane in more than two years. Here was Earnhardt's response:
"I don't think it's realistic, I don't think that's how it is. I think it's awesome [to be the face of NASCAR]; any driver in the sport would want that position, but I don't think [Earnhardt's failure has led to NASCAR's downturn is] exactly what's happened. If I were to run better and have more success, it would make a whole lot of people happy. That's what our intentions are going forward. I don't think it's unfair he says that, [but] I don't think my success would have quite the impact he envisioned ... [Being famous] might not be on top of the priority list, but it's in the top 10 for every driver, to become the face of the sport and the thing that everything in the sport hinges on. It's a good place to be in, so I don't feel like it's unfortunate to be recognized that way while we're struggling. But I don't see that if I had success, it would have the impact he's envisioning."
We talked about other topics, including fantasy football, how to convert a Kyle Busch fan to a Junior one, and how to wreck somebody in a go-kart. It's good stuff, and the only problem is that this is episode 43. Should've booked Richard Petty for this spot. (Also, we've cross-posted this in our Why Is This News podcast section; go there to subscribe to the all-sports podcast.)
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