Drivers in the NASCAR series usually work their way up the ranks slowly as they become polished and ready for the bright lights of the top circuits. Without looking very far, however, JR Motorsports may have found its next young diamond in the rough.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Nationwide team decided to keep it in the family. Friday night, in the Nationwide series ToyotaCare 250, Jeffrey Earnhardtwill get behind the wheel of the No. 5 Keen Parts JRM Chevy Camaro.
"The opportunity is awesome," said 23 year-old Jeffrey Earnhardt. "Being able to drive for Junior and be a top team -- a dominant team in the Nationwide Series in a car that's well-prepared is pretty awesome. The fact that it's for my uncle is even cooler."
Earnhardt is the nephew of Earnhardt Jr. and grandson of seven-time Sprint Cup champion, Dale Earnhardt. The son of Kerry Earnhardt is just NASCAR's second fourth-generation driver in history, joining Adam Petty in that esteemed company.
His start this weekend at Richmond International Raceway will mark his 16th career start dating back to 2009 inthe Nationwide series .Earnhardt is under contract full-time with Go Green Racing's No. 79 Uponor Ford Mustang. This week is an exception.
"I want to be in a ride that every week when you go to the track, you're capable of winning," Earnhardt said."Not to say the deal I have now with Go Green Racing is bad, but it's a smaller team. They don't have all of the resources that a race team like JR Motorsports has. I definitely hope to go and run successful and make it lead into more races."
This weekend will be the fourth-generation driver's first start at the 3/4 mile short-track.
"I went up there with Regan Smith and the JR Motorsports Late Models," Jeffrey Earnhardt said. "I ran a handful of laps to see the track, and to know what to expect before I get there. It'll be interesting going there for the first time, but I definitely feel like going up there already helped me a ton."
For now, JRM is a one-race deal for Earnhardt. His uncle Junior and aunt, Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, had to fill the void since neither Kasey Kahne nor Brad Sweet were scheduled to drive the No. 5 car this weekend. Dale Jr. was the one to make the decision to bring his nephew on board.
"I feel like I've matured a lot," Jeffrey Earnhardt said."That's been a big part of getting this opportunity to drive for Junior. He's seen a lot of improvement out of me over the years. He finally decided to give me an opportunity to see what I can do in real good equipment."
Jeffrey Earnhardt set a career-best in the series with a 19th place finish in the summer of 2011 at Daytona.If there is a track besides Daytona or Talladega for Earnhardt to get into an Earnhardt car, it's Richmond. The Earnhardt family has 12 wins at the track.
"It's short track racing," he said. "It's where I came from and where we all came from. There's a little bit of pressure. Now I'm in a competitive car and every one out there knows that. I don't think anyone's expectations is for me to go out here and try to set the world on fire by any means."
If Jeffrey Earnhardt were to "set the world on fire" and win the race, it will be historic. A fourth-generation driver has never gone to victory lane in any of NASCAR's top-three series.
"The drivers know where I stand and how much I've got to learn before I'm able to run in the Cup series," Jeffrey Earnhardt said. "Given the right circumstances, we could very well end up in victory lane. Obviously, my goal is to go out and perform and do what I can. To prove I am capable of being a successful driver. Given the right equipment, I can show that."
Today is Friday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2014. There are 103 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Charles M. Osborn of this city, a lawyer of prominence, who voted for Lincoln in 1860 is now out strong for McClellan and will take the stump for him. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The George Fleming company had begun its dried fruit packing in a branch plant on 16th Street, Rock Island, employing nearly a hundred workers. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The cornerstone of the new Eagles home was laid. Building committee members were John Kobeman, Fred Ehmke and Frank Wich. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Former Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile, is sad as the Nazis march with communists. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Ninety-two members of the acappella choir at Davenport's West High School today accepted an invitation to perform at the New York World's Fair on June 13, 1965. 1989 -- 25 years ago: A Rock Island woman is one of 50 winners of $10,000 in cash in the Illinois State Lottery's "Celebration "89" instant ticket game. Dawn Loeffler was the third winner to be chosen through daily drawings that began Aug. 28 and will run 50 consecutive days.