It has been a career year for Jeffrey Earnhardt in 2019 — despite running a part-time schedule with Joe Gibbs Racing. Saturday in the Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Earnhardt had a career day as he finished third. Earnhardt rebounded from cutting a tire, spinning out and going a lap down earlier in the race.
“Once you’re up there against the fence there’s nowhere to chase it except into the wall,” Earnhardt explained after the race. “Luckily those guys busted their butts got it back bent out. Raced hard got back on the lead lap and just gave it all we had there at the end. I literally drove my guts out right there at the end. That’s all I had left in the tank there. Proud for everyone involved and just very thankful for this opportunity. It’s a dream come true to race in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment.”
On a day where there was chaos around every corner, Earnhardt worked his way back to the lead lap and well into the top-five due to a huge thrash of cars falling out of the race. Following the race Earnhardt was treated and released from the infield care center. When asked how he felt after the race, Earnhardt was just happy to get a good finish on a day where his paint scheme honored fallen Police Officer Jordan Sheldon.
“A lot better now,” Earnhardt said. “It was hot man. Hot grueling race. I didn’t help by knocking the fence down, knocking the crush panels out of it. It doesn’t help much. It meant a lot to me. I wasn’t going to lay down. Having Officer Sheldon on meant a lot to me. I wanted to make him proud. I wasn’t about to lay down on the job. Hopefully he is up there smiling down on us about our run. I know we didn’t win it, but we came home third.”
This marks Earnhardt’s third top-10 effort in five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts this season, and all three have come at 1.5-mile intermediate ovals (Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte). It’s incredible to see how far Earnhardt’s career has come in just 12 months.
A season ago, Earnhardt was struggling to make a name for himself driving for the upstart StarCom Racing team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. After five races, sponsorship dollars dried up and Earnhardt spent the rest of the year bouncing from underfunded team to underfunded team trying to keep his name on the mind of those in the garage area.
Then, Earnhardt made an incredible connection with Xtreme Concepts. That company loved what Earnhardt brought to the table and they offered a deal to get Earnhardt a partial season in one of the top-tier cars in the entire Xfinity Series garage. Earnhardt agreed and the rest is history.
Where does Earnhardt go from here? It seems his future is quite bright as he is aligned with a solid sponsor, who is willing to start their own race team around the young driver. Slowly but surely, Earnhardt is starting to prove his worth behind the wheel of a stock car.