By Doug Turnbull
The road is not always paved in gold for descendants of NASCAR greatness. Many children or grandchildren of NASCAR greats have benefited from the notoriety and opulence of their elder patriarchs, but some have still had to claw and fight for an opportunity to drive in NASCAR’s top three series. Jeffrey Earnhardt fits the latter mold.
The 21-year-old Earnhardt has struggled to keep his footing in NASCAR after two up and down years driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Making his debut in the Nationwide Series in 2009, Earnhardt drove for the underfunded Key Motorsports No. 40 team, finishing outside the top 20 in the road course races Watkins Glen and Montreal. He then moved to the Camping World Truck Series in 2010, piloting two different Rick Ware Racing trucks to mid-pack finishes. Paired with RWR and sponsor Fuel Doctor, Earnhardt was set to run the full season in the No. 1 Chevy Silverado, but Fuel Doctor defected from the team after Martinsville, leaving Earnhardt without a ride. But Earnhardt says his commitment remains to RWR, despite the fact that Bobby Hamilton Jr. now races his unsponsored truck.
“We had a real good thing going there at the beginning of the season,” Earnhardt told News/Talk WSB, referring not only to the team’s full sponsorship with Fuel Doctor, but his 7th place finish at Daytona on the 10th anniversary of his grandfather, Dale’s, death. “But the sponsor went out the window. It’s definitely tough these days with the economy the way it is – everyone’s getting hit. We’re working really hard to find [sponsorship].”
Earnhardt says that, despite rumors that almost supplanted him from the No. 1 truck earlier in the season, he has not been approached by other teams, because he does not have a sponsor that he can bring on board with them. In a time when loyalty in NASCAR is often little more than a platitude, Earnhardt remains committed to going forward with Ware’s team.
“We’ll work through this. Rick’s become a great friend of mine. He’s always helped me out and done a lot for me in my racing career. We’re still working together – that’s who our goal is to drive with, if we find sponsorship.”
But those concerns took a backburner after last week’s rash of tornados that carved through several southern states. The hardest hit was Alabama, which utter devastation in several towns. Talladega Superspeedway has been a beacon to surrounding areas, using its large audience to attract those interesting in helping with the cause. They tabbed Earnhardt, who actually called down to the track to inquire about how he could help storm victims. Earnhardt was glad to help use his name to get some fans to the track to help raise funds.
Fans that come to Talladega Saturday and Sunday can drive their personal vehicles on the race track, for a $50 donation to the Red Cross – and maybe meet an Earnhardt at the same time at a place where that last name could not be bigger. Pace laps take place between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days. Get all of the details on http://www.talladegasuperspeedway.com .