NASCAR fans like Dale Earnhardt Jr. as announcer, split on his catchphrase

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is off to a great start to his NASCAR TV analyst career, according to the fans.

If NASCAR TV announcers had to wear yellow stripes like rookie drivers do on their cars, Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have one. He’s still a rookie at his TV analyst gig, though he’s learning fast in the heart of the push toward the NASCAR Playoffs.

And while he hasn’t been the kind of force that single-handedly reverses the downward trend in NASCAR TV ratings — and it’s not fair to think he would be — his TV work has definitely caught on with the fans who made him the Most Popular Driver in the sport so many times during his racing career. In other words, it’s better for NASCAR to have Junior involved than not.

That’s not exactly a crazy revelation, but it’s also not just a gut feeling since an ESPN poll backs it up. Bob Pockrass and Alisha Miller asked several Earnhardt Jr. questions in a recent poll, and at the time of this article, here are some of the big takeaways:

  • 64 percent of those polled think that Earnhardt is “A future John Madden/Dick Vitale in the making,” with only six percent feeling like he’s “in the way.”
  • As NBC Sports has moved Junior around to various locations during different race broadcasts, 54 percent prefer him in the main booth, with only nine percent feeling he should be in the pit box with Steve Letarte.
  • Fan opinion is definitely split on “Slide job!” Dale Jr.’s de facto catchphrase, born of a true moment of excitement, has only 48 percent of those voting saying they’d love it and buy a t-shirt, 30 percent calling it “meh” and 22 percent saying it was okay.

Perhaps the most telling poll result, though, is one that speaks to what we said at the start: Just 32 percent of fans who voted in the poll say they tune in to races just to hear Earnhardt Jr. call them. With all due respect to everyone else on both Fox and NBC broadcasting NASCAR races, that number would probably be in the single digits for all other announcers combined, so it shows that Junior does have an impact.

At the end of the day, though, people have to like what they are seeing on the track and be invested in the drivers to tune in, and not even the most beloved driver of the 21st century can change that. On the other hand, Junior has said the opinion of the fans means a lot to him, so he should be thrilled to know that they like what he’s doing so far. Also, if he wants to print up some Slide Job t-shirts, we have a feeling more people would buy one than the poll indicates. Call it a hunch.