Earnhardt suits up for Uncle Junior

Jeffrey Earnhardt will start for JR Motorsports Friday at Richmond. (Getty Images)
Jeffrey Earnhardt will start for JR Motorsports Friday at Richmond. (Getty Images)
Jeffrey Earnhardt will start for JR Motorsports Friday at Richmond. (Getty Images)

Jeffrey Earnhardt never expected it; he also never asked for it.

But when his uncle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., called to offer him a seat in his No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet for Friday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN News), he was more than appreciative – he was surprised.

“I can’t thank Kelley and Dale Jr. enough for this chance,” said Earnhardt. “Hopefully I can go and represent them well and give the fans a good show.”

In 15 NASCAR Nationwide starts, his best finish was a 19th-place finish in the July Daytona race in 2011 when he drove two races for Rick Ware Racing. In his only other start that season, he finished 35th at Charlotte.

His first series campaign came two seasons prior when he drove the No. 40 Chevrolet in two races for Key Motorsports, Inc.

In 2012, he split six races between Rick Ware Racing, Go Green Racing and Randy Hill Racing. His best finish that season (21st) came in the inaugural series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race at Indy was also the only race in which he finished on the lead lap.

Earnhardt has started five races so far in 2013 for Go Green Racing. However, Friday’s race should be different.

The race, Earnhardt’s first at the Virginia track, could be one of his last opportunities to showcase his ability and hopefully parlay that into a more fulltime deal, either with JR Motorsports or another team that notices his talent and/or potential. JR Motorsports receives engines and support from Hendrick Motorsports, so he’ll be in top-notch equipment.

According to Jeffrey, the opportunity to race for his uncle is a culmination of all the hard work and patience he’s put it in to his career. It’s also more rewarding knowing that he earned this chance and that it wasn’t given to him because of obvious familial ties.

“I want to make sure I earn what I get. Doing it the hard way makes me appreciate the opportunity more,” said Earnhardt, who is NASCAR’s second fourth-generation driver (the other was the late Adam Petty). “The past couple years have been tough. All the hard work and the struggles have helped me mature as a driver and a person.”

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.