FORT WORTH, Tex. — For Dale Earnhardt Jr. the driver, the number one item on his bucket list is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
For Dale Earnhardt Jr. the car owner, a NASCAR Nationwide Series title would be a perfect cap to the 2014 season — and Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports is making a concerted run at that goal.
With talented drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith in the fold, with the experience of Smith losing a large points lead in a midsummer swoon last year, and with strong support from Sprint Cup juggernaut Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt thinks JRM may have achieved the critical mass necessary to win a championship.
“We want to win a championship so bad this year,” Earnhardt said Friday night, after Elliott picked up his inaugural NNS win in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. “We feel like we learned a lot last year going through that process with Regan, and now we have two teams that are really capable of getting the job done.
“If everybody keeps their head on straight, let’s everybody else ?? all the (other) drivers in the series — make all their mistakes, we should be in a good situation when we get to Homestead.”
Earnhardt has a history of offering quality opportunities to as-yet-undiscovered drivers such as 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski. Now JR Motorsports is on the verge of realizing the dream Earnhardt envisioned when he, sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller and co-owner Rick Hendrick founded the company.
“I couldn’t be prouder, really, of how we’ve come along in the last two or three years, the people that we have been able to acquire to help and improve our company, the bridge that we built with HMS to flow information on the engineering side, motors, and how they’ve improved,” Earnhardt said.
“Everything is clicking along right now so we got a great opportunity this year to seize the moment.”