Dale Earnhardt Jr: NASCAR needs to race for the sport’s survival
NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. says today’s Real Heroes 400 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway will be a journey into the unknown but a huge step towards “getting our sport moving again”.
Earnhardt, the semi-retired driver, NBC TV analyst and Xfinity Series team owner, recognizes the fact that NASCAR is missing one of its key elements in Darlington today – the race fans. But from a business perspective, he says it’s vital to get back to competition to ensure NASCAR’s teams can function and prosper.
“Under the circumstances, we need to get back to the racetrack,” he said on NBCSN’s Lunch Talk Live. “We need to get our sport moving again.
“We need to get money moving again in our sport to help these teams survive, to help the sport survive. So, it's critical that we do this [even] without fans.”
Earnhardt added that the anticipation levels of NASCAR’s Cup Series returning to the track is off the scale, which will likely create issues in today’s 400-mile race. There will be no practice or qualifying, and the first time the cars are on track will be for the green flag at the start of the race.
“There's a lot of apprehension because of the way that we're going to do this... Literally the first laps that these guys have ran in months will be under competition once the green flag drops,” he said. “There's just so much that can go wrong.
“Without practice, without qualifying, the teams are going to have to guess on the setup. This track is very abrasive, very rough, and it's going to destroy the first couple [of] sets of tires... That, to me, is the most compelling part.”
Two-time Daytona 500 winner Earnhardt, who won 26 races from over 600 starts in NASCAR’s premier series, had one piece of advice for drivers ahead of today’s event: “If you have to give up a few spots in those first 10 laps, just to understand what your car can and can’t do, it might be the wisest decision you make all day.”
All eyes on Darlington as NASCAR's return looms
Where the Cup Series left off before the COVID-19 pandemic