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Dale Earnhardt Jr. uses podcast for a message of hard truth but inspiring hope to fans

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice - Go Bowling 400

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 06: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 6, 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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CONCORD, N.C. – There was a method to the message from Dale Earnhardt Jr., who bluntly assessed his team’s struggles this season on his weekly podcast, The Dale Jr. Download.

“The fans were appreciative of the honesty,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports in a Friday interview. “The message there really was to understand that we see we need to improve basically to the fans. That, hey, look, we’re not going to pass this off as just another rough weekend.

“We understand that we know we need to improve, and we’re going to work hard, and we’re going to do it. And I believe in the people (on the team) because when things don’t go good, the fans are calling for names and wanting heads to roll and they want results. They want you to fix it. They’re tired of what’s happening.”

Earnhardt said he hadn’t spoken about the podcast to team members aside from crew chief Greg Ives.

“He felt like I was only saying what he was thinking,” Earnhardt said of Ives. “I think it was a clear message. The podcast certainly gives you an opportunity to be honest, and that’s quite rare today.”

The 13-time most popular driver has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup for five consecutive seasons with Hendrick Motorsports and has won seven races over the past two years. He is winless in 2016, though, and while he isn’t necessarily in danger of missing the playoffs, he has fallen from sixth to 11th in points with four straight finishes outside the top 10.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get (fans) the message that you realize that, and you’re going to fix it, and you believe in the process and all that stuff,” he said. “So I think the fans reacted well to that. What I got from them was that made them feel better. That made them believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and fired them up a bit.”

That partially is the objective of his podcast, which is the cornerstone of the Dirty Mo Radio programming that was spearheaded by JR Motorsports brand director of communications Mike Davis.

“The podcast is a great opportunity for me to talk on my terms and for the fans to hear straight from my mouth what I’m thinking,” he said. “And a lot of times it’s a little raw and unpolished, but it’s so far been received pretty well by the fans. And the podcast business for us at Dirty Mo Radio is continuing to grow. Mike Davis has a great vision for that.”