Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he can get onboard with the new changes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks about the new NASCAR race format Monday in Charlotte (Greg Engle)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks about the new NASCAR race format Monday in Charlotte (Greg Engle)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks about the new NASCAR race format Monday in Charlotte (Greg Engle)

CHARLOTTE NC- NASCAR’s most popular driver likes the new changes announced by NASCAR Monday in Charlotte. And his time out of a racecar may have changed his perspective.

Starting this season, all three of NASCAR’s top three touring series will have “stages”. Three total with points awarded for the top ten in the first two of three segments. While nota huge change, it is something a bit radical.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one of the drivers who were part of a group that helped delveop the new system. He spent much of the second half of the 2016 season out of a racecar as he recovered from concussion like symptoms.  His time out of a racecar gave him a chance to see racing from a fans view.

“It really changed my perspective in what’s good for the sport and what the fans want.,” Earnhardt said after the press conference. “And what’s good racing and what’s exciting. “

“As a driver for the longest time I didn’t like anything to be different, I didn’t want anything new,” he said. “I was a traditionalist that wanted everything from the past. You know one of those guys who thought that 10 years ago was the better time.”

“When I had a chance to be out of the car watch the races, and I went up in the booth and worked with Jeff (Gordon) and had a lot of conversations with those guys,” he added. “I noticed a change in Jeff in his transition from out of the car into the booth and how his perception changed on what he wanted to see on Sunday, what was exciting to him.

“As a driver it was one thing, as a broadcaster it was something completely the opposite and I felt the same way when I wasn’t in the car.  As a racecar driver I’m out there running hard, 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 to derail or manipulate the finish or that aren’t organic, I hated that.  But when I had a chance to be outside the car and watch the races I saw where there was a big void here and a big void there and where we needed to create some opportunities for moments. And the networks are starting to be more vocal about what the fans are saying about the action and when they are seeing the action, and they step away and miss something.”

“This is a great, small step, but a step in the right direction to present our product in a little bit cleaner form.  But, I used to not want any changes and now as I got a chance to see it from a different perspective last year, I know why the fans want action, restarts…it’s exciting when it happens, I get it.  So as a driver if you tell me when it’s happening, I’m good with it.  And these stages, I can know going into the event, this is what I’ve signed up to do; I signed up for this and I’m okay 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 your throughout the race. We’re going to have cautions anyway, so these extra cautions they’re going to put into the event don’t really make me change the way I feel about the race.”

“I like it. I can get onboard with this, because I know what’s going to happen going into the event and there’s not any surprises.”

Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski were the other two active drivers who joined Earnhardt in the group made up of NASCAR executives, track owners and team official.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.