Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR, and it goes without saying that his opinion carries a lot of weight with fans.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has become a very vocal advocate for NASCAR since retiring from the sport in 2017, and he isn't afraid to say it when he thinks the sport messed up. Unfortunately for officials, NASCAR's favorite son seems to be frustrated with the fact that the sport hasn't made good use of rain tires.
Of course, rain tires have been used at road course races like Sonoma, the Daytona road course, and Watkins Glen, but NASCAR has yet to approve their usage at short tracks or flat tracks. All that could end up changing, however, after Dale Earnhardt Jr. voiced his frustration with the situation during his podcast "The Dale Jr. Download."
“I feel like we should have already incorporated this into the sport; racing in the rain on ovals,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said during the show. “Drivers love high horsepower and low downforce. Well, if you get a wet race track, you basically have too much power and no grip. So that’s what drivers want; a more challenging condition, and a wet or damp track would provide that.”
In all fairness, NASCAR is continuing to make strides when it comes to rain tires, even allowing them to be used at the Daytona road course, but it doesn't seem to be enough for Dale Earnhardt Jr. With that being said, an argument could definitely be made for the sport needing to invest in these tire tests sooner, which would help them get more data on different tracks on the circuit.
It’s my understanding that we have the most elite stock car drivers in the world,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “We have the best strategists, engineers, and crew chiefs in the world. They will figure this out. You give them a good tire and reasonable conditions and they’ll figure it out.”
NASCAR first used rain tires in the Xfinity Series in 2008 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve road course, and it was quite the show. The sport also used rain tires for the 2021 Daytona road course race, which was also a great spectacle to watch unfold. It even changed the dynamic of the race in a way that made it exciting. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. seems to want the sport to do more of that.
It is worth mentioning that NASCAR tapped Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher to do a rain tire test at Martinsville, which the sport hopes will lead to fewer rain delays at short tracks. The only problem though is that officials weren't able to come up with any concrete answers on whether to use it or not. That's probably not going to sit well with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who seems to feel this is a simple fix.
“We’re in evaluation right now,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation John Probst said Thursday afternoon. “I would say that we could have come in here today and had a complete disaster and walked away from it saying, ‘No, this can’t be done.’ I think what we learned today was positive for sure. I think that we just need a little bit of time to go through all the data to figure out what are the next best steps. I would say that we continue the journey, and it looks positive for now. Today could have ended it, but it certainly didn’t do that. I feel like everyone involved felt like it was a very positive test, but it’s still fresh and certainly a very, very good first step.”
Races have been postponed due to rain quite often in the last couple of years, and the sport is taking steps in the right direction to try and prevent those situations as much as possible, while being spurred on by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
While no firm conclusions were drawn from the Martinsville tire test, it could lead to more wet tire tests at other tracks, such as Richmond, New Hampshire and Phoenix, to name a few.
Although Dale Earnhardt Jr. might be unhappy that the sport is only just considering these changes, the progress so far has been promising. Furthermore, NASCAR taking their time to test something usually means that there's a good chance of it getting implemented down the line.
And the more Dale Earnhardt Jr. calls for such changes to be made, the more pressure will be placed on the sport to make it happen. That's the kind of power NASCAR's former most popular driver wields.