Jeffrey Earnhardt is living the dream

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 16: Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #18 iK9 Toyota, talks with Joe Gibbs piror to the NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Jeffrey Earnhardt has been all smiles and positive vibes this Xfinity Series season and Friday afternoon he remained optimistic and grateful for more opportunity awaiting him.

The 30-year-old grandson of the late seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt has scored major career milestones even in a part-time season. He earned his first Xfinity Series top 10 with a sixth-place showing at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March and his first top five, a third-place finish at Charlotte in May. He has three top 10s in six starts this season and earned the outside pole position at the season-opening Daytona race. He has started top 10 in five of the six races he’s competed in.

Five of Earnhardt’s previous starts have come in Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. This week he’ll drive the No. 81 XCI Racing Toyota for the second time this season – and is splitting starts between the two teams.

“It’s been huge,’’ Earnhardt said of the results this year. “In my opinion it’s every driver’s dream to be able to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing and also with Xtreme Concepts Racing and them having the support from Joe Gibbs. It’s incredible.

“You go out every weekend knowing you’re racing for a win when before, a good day was racing for 25th you know, and you’re trying to take care of the car. Now, if you don’t leave it all out on the track they get mad at you.

“It’s been a change, but it’s been a good change. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to showcase my talents because people start to doubt you and wonder if you can drive or not when you’re in bad equipment. There’s tons of drivers out there well-talented who may never get the opportunity to compete in good equipment just because of circumstances. So I’m very fortunate and thankful for the opportunity I’ve got. I just really want to capitalize on it and get that win this year. I know we’ve been close and had some good runs but I really want to put it all together and put the car in victory lane.”

Greg Engle