NASCAR Analyst: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is Banner Of Our Sport

Kyle Busch won the Daytona 500 on Sunday, as NASCAR’S marquee event was sold out for the second straight year. It also enjoyed a ratings boost of seven percent.

Still, NASCAR is fighting to both keep its fans and attract younger viewers.

“Well, I think that’s why the changes have been made and the enhancements have come about,” NASCAR on FOX’s Larry McReynolds said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “We live in a world today where, to get someone to sit down and sit still and watch the broadcast of a NASCAR race that may last three, three-and-a-half, pushing towards four hours – that’s a tall order. That’s a tough order for any sport or, quite honestly, anything at all. And the fact that there’s so many different options (to watch) a sporting event – 20, 25 years ago, you had three options. You could go to it, you could watch it on TV or you could listen to it on the radio. And now when you look at all the devices and the smart phones and just the technology, there are numerous ways for a fan to keep up with not just a race, but any sporting event. So I think that’s the two challenges that we live with. That’s why NASCAR, along with FOX, collectively work together to try to create more energy in the beginning, the middle and now obviously the end of the race, which, it’s still a race. There’s still a winner, he’s still going to go to victory lane, and he’s still going to celebrate and hoist the trophy.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., meanwhile, returned to the track after missing the second half of last season with a concussion. He exited Daytona after a mid-race crash.

McReynolds, though, believes there are brighter days ahead for Earnhardt.

“There’s no question that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the banner of our sport,” he said. “We have to face the fact: His dad was the face of our sport for years, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has just picked up the baton and run with it. But I’m happy for him – because as he said during media week here in Charlotte a few weeks ago, he’s glad the decision came down to one he had to make. He worked our booth with us Saturday and I talked to him for a while, and I’m just seeing a different Dale Earnhardt. He’s pumped up, he’s excited, he’s energetic, he’s very confident, and it’s probably from a plethora of things. He just got married on New Year’s Eve to Amy. He’s excited to be back with his race team and in that race car. He said you don’t know what you’re missing until you have to miss it. He’s just got it all clicking right now. I have to believe . . . we’re going to be talking about a very competitive Dale Earnhardt Jr. here in 2017.”

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