Is NASCAR Relying Too Much On Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Popularity?

Oct 1, 2016; Dover, DE, USA; Dale Earnhardt Jr during practice for the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2016; Dover, DE, USA; Dale Earnhardt Jr during practice for the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

What do you do when the believed solution is actually the problem? When the man that NASCAR and its partners rely so heavy on is actually hurting the sport more than helping it? What do you do when NASCAR seems to be so blind that they only see one driver in the entire 40 car field and will probably continue to until the very end?

Whether NASCAR wants to believe it or not, that is the problem they are currently facing with 16-time most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and it becomes more and more obvious every single day that passes by. In fact, this problem became especially obvious when Daytona International Speedway began selling their tickets for the Daytona 500 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. plastered all over their site.

Don’t get me wrong, Dale Jr. is definitely a man that will put butts in seats, especially since it will be his first race back since being sidelined with concussion like symptoms, but it’s not like he’s the only one that will be competing at Speedweeks this year.  Unfortunately for NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and several other people in the sport, they fail to understand this concept.

One only has to look at Daytona International Speedway’s latest promotion for this year’s, Great American Race, to see that they are blind to anyone that is not Dale Earnhardt Jr.” It’s official! Two-time DAYTONA 500 champion Dale Jr. makes his return at the 59th DAYTONA 500 on February 26!”, the website states excitedly,” Don’t miss out. Get your tickets now before it’s too late!”

What the post and even the website fails to mention is that there will 39 other cars competing in February’s Great American Race and they all deserve equal mention for their accomplishments at the restrictor-place track and in the sport in general. This doesn’t happen however, as Daytona International Speedway seems to only be focused on the short term right now.

With that being said, all this begs the question of what NASCAR is going to do when Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally turns his last lap in a Cup car? Sure, NASCAR can bring him back in some other capacity like the Fox broadcast booth, a pit reporter or even just a spectator that is occasionally put on camera, but how will they handle their golden boy not being a driver in the field anymore?

The obvious answer would be turn to their younger stars and start building them up to take on the role  as a star in the sport, but NASCAR seems to still be unwilling to do that. Daytona International Speedway’s website is only more proof of this and things like this will probably continue to happen until the sport gets their heads out of their rear and realizes that other stars exist!

Think about it this way. NASCAR faces much the same problem that WWE does right now with their top superstar, John Cena. Like JR, Cena has been WWE’s golden goose for over a decade now and has been relied on by the company quite heavily throughout that time. Unfortunately for fans of the sports entertainment juggernaut that would leave WWE without a future once Cena hangs it up for good.

The same is true for NASCAR and their reliance on Dale Earnhardt Jr. to put butts in seats. While the Dale Jr. frenzy will most likely work in the short run, especially after he returns to competition for the first time in almost a year, it doesn’t mean the novelty of it all won’t wear off eventually and leave the sport right back where they started.

With that being said, promoting the return of Dale Jr. to active competition is fine and it should be embraced full heartedly, but that’s not the only story that there is to be told. Sure, Dale Jr.’s return in February will be a way to attract older fans back into the fold, but what about the younger fans who are dying to see the next big thing burst onto the scene.

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Its almost like NASCAR, its tracks and everyone else involved in the promotion of next season has their blinders on and can’t see the big picture. Unfortunately for all of them and the fans that watch the sport faithfully every week, that is what will most likely plague NASCAR the most this upcoming  season and ultimately result in more fans becoming sick of the sport entirely.