Earnhardt calls Harvick's comments 'hurtful'
DETROIT — Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday he's proud of his accomplishments after Kevin Harvick suggested NASCAR's growth has been hindered because Earnhardt hasn't won enough.
"I put a lot into this sport, and I know that I might not have met everyone's expectations, but I certainly exceeded my own," Earnhardt said while appearing at Chevrolet's event introducing the Camaro ZL1, a new race car for next year's NASCAR Cup Series.
"I'm super proud of what I've been able to accomplish, and I hope that I brought something to the table and left a good impact," Earnhardt added.
Harvick said on SiriusXM this week that he felt the sport's growth "has not reached the levels that it should have because our most popular driver hasn't been our most successful driver."
"Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the most popular driver for however many years in a row, and he has been our sport's most popular driver, but he hasn't been anywhere close to being our most successful driver," Harvick said.
Harvick mentioned football and basketball as examples of sports in which the most popular athletes are also among the most successful.
"I believe that Dale Jr. has had a big part in kind of stunting the growth of NASCAR because he's got these legions of fans, and this huge outreach of being able to reach different places that none of us have the possibility to reach, but he's won nine races in ten years at Hendrick Motorsports."
Earnhardt said he respects Harvick, who has driven for his JR Motorsports team.
"We still have success today because of that impact that he made at JR Motorsports, so I have an incredible amount of respect for him," said Earnhardt, who is set to retire after this season. "About his comments, some of those comments were hurtful. But I still respect him as a champion and an ambassador for the sport, and that's just the way it is, I guess. I hate that that's how he feels."