Dale Earnhardt Jr Admits to Mistake as He Looks to Endorse Jeff Gordon’s Plans for NASCAR

Published 10/26/2023, 12:41 AM EDT

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The ripples of the recently held Racers Forum are visible. Since former NASCAR Cup Series champions Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon graced the event and let out their thoughts on optimizing the future of the sport, the implications of their words have echoed in the community. While NASCAR has adapted to the presence of superstars in the sport, this has also pushed the fans’ affiliation with racing teams to an all-time low. Having transitioned into the role of a team owner and one of the most loved stars of the sport, Dale Earnhardt Jr. initially refuted Gordon’s thoughts.

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The 49-year-old has always been a vocal member of the racing community, and when it comes to discussing the future of the sport, he never backs out. Many drivers have also spoken out about how the sport is currently more driver-oriented and is only a continuation of what the previous generation of NASCAR stars left behind. However, as time passed, Junior realized the true intentions behind Jeff Gordon‘s plans to make teams more marketable.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. commends Trackhouse Racing’s ideation

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At the forum, 4-time champion Gordon claimed that, as a sport, NASCAR needs to incentivize the fanbase to create more extensive support for teams. Even historically strong teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing find fans rooting more for their star drivers than the team as a whole. Compared to the most popular motorsport, Formula 1, NASCAR teams have yet to amass a following comparable to the numbers Formula 1 teams produce.

A giant of the motorsport world like Ferrari has a loyal fanbase rooting for it, a dedicated brand that is answerable for its performance and decentralized glamour from the drivers, giving more attention to all aspects of the team. Maybe Gordon’s idea is to create something along those lines, and it could also be very beneficial for teams. But the challenge lies in the difficulty of doing so, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. expressed.

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“It is going to be more difficult for the teams to create brands that separate themselves from each other enough to where you’re going to have fans that can get diehard behind the team,” stated Junior.

“How does a team that’s been branded forever like RCR, how does it create real substance and equity behind that? Whereas Trackhouse is sort of doing that. Pitbull named his album Trackhouse. Trackhouse has got logos in other forms of sport. Their brand is on other athletes in different sports. They are sort of trying to create an identity that’s unique to what we know as a race team. Maybe, in turn, creating a fanbase that loves all things Trackhouse, right? Much like someone may love Chevrolet, Ferrari.”

Trackhouse, as an organization, tries to form an amalgam of music, culture, and racing, which has appealed to the fans. In NASCAR, they have even handed out debuts to 3-time Supercar champion Shane van Gisbergen, which creates a buzz about the team amongst the masses.

Jeff Gordon makes a big post-retirement revelation

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The previous generation of NASCAR stars had an enigma and an aura about them. In the current generation of drivers, Chase Elliott probably comes closest to that status, having been voted NASCAR’s most popular driver for five years. However, Elliott’s impact has been different from that of Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, or Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Being the chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon has gotten into the situation a bit deeper. He is now responsible for the operation of the teams of champions like Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, as well as upcoming stars like his successor, William Byron.

The new dimension to his thought process was reflected at the Racers Forum when he said, “I think we have a role as race teams to build our brand up, maybe not as much as the star power of the driver, but in a way where drivers — and we’ve seen this recently with Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jr., and myself, several big drivers that have huge fan followings stepped away from the sport, and I think it had a big impact on the sport.”

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On being asked the reason for it, he had a straightforward answer. “Because the fans seem to not have a connection to the team as strongly as they did to the driver.” On the other hand, Brad Keselowski emphasized how star power affected teams. He believes the ever-decreasing involvement of sponsors and partners will keep up if drivers remain the focal point. Well, implementing this model will certainly take some time. NASCAR could explore its options with time, but having a whole fanbase move on from an age-old system will take a lot of work.

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Written by:

Ansuman Abhisek

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Ansuman Abhisek is a NASCAR Author at EssentiallySports. With a strong affinity for automobile design, it didn't take long for him to translate that into his love for the sport. He is a big admirer of Kyle Busch and believes that the Richard Childress Driver still has his best years ahead of him along with his ability to walk the talk.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta

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