DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --- Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't like being told he didn't do his part to help sell tickets, and he challenged promoters to find a fresh approach to fill seats.
The sport's most-popular driver took exception to remarks by track owner Bruton Smith that drivers should do more to put fans in the grandstands, saying if they're not selling out, they need to "take a little responsibility for themselves."
In January Smith said drivers don't seem as eager to sign autographs and they aren't nearly as eager to help with promotional events. He also said drivers need to show a lot more personality, even suggesting the sport would be better off if three-time champ NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson would "slap" someone after a race.
Earnhardt wasn't afraid to fight back with the man who owns seven of the sport's tracks on the Sprint Cup Series.
"Drivers do pitch in," he said. "The drivers do go that extra mile and we are willing to do more."
"People aren't coming to the race track because the drivers don't care; people aren't coming to the race track because it's expensive to do it."
SUPPORTING ROLE: Two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart will have legendary driver A.J. Foyt 's number and his support in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Stewart will drive the No. 14 car made famous by Foyt, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and the 1972 Daytona 500 champion. Foyt will watch the race from Stewart's pit.
ARCA POLE: Justin Lofton will start on the pole for today's Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 in the ARCA Re/Max Series.
Alli Owens was second in another Toyota, the highest starting spot for a woman in an ARCA race since 1988.