Thursday, September 21, 2023

Jeffrey Earnhardt on Racing No. 3 at Talladega: This Will Probably be the Highest Moment of My Career

It’s officially Talladega Superspeedway week, and we have one of the most intriguing storylines in recent memory as Jeffrey Earnhardt, the grandson of the legendary Dale Earnhardt, will run the NASCAR Xfinity Series event in the No. 3 car for Richard Childress Racing.

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To take things a step further, Jeffrey Earnhardt will also have Larry McReynolds (Earnhardt Sr.’s crew chief back in the 1997 and 1998 seasons) as his crew chief for the race.

The 32-year old driver sat down with to discuss the biggest deal in his racing career, to date.

Toby Christie: First off, Jeffrey, awesome news that everybody saw the other day and you always honor your grandfather on your helmets. For you what does this mean as you’re an Earnhardt, you’ll be carrying the No. 3 on an RCR car around Talladega?

Jeffrey Earnhardt: It’s really a dream come true. The opportunity to get to drive the 3 for RCR, where my grandpa made the number so famous is something that I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to do. Have worked for many years to try to figure out how to make it happen and what that would look like and finally, here we are with this opportunity. It’s still really surreal. It’s hard to believe. Still waiting for someone to pinch me and wake me up. Just shows the support I’ve got from all the sponsors I have involved with me right now with ForeverLawn, Super-Pufft, Dal Strong, the APA, all of these companies that have made this opportunity possible. It’s incredible that they’ve allowed me to be able to go out and chase my dreams and RCR for allowing me the opportunity to go and compete in one of their cars.

TC: Definitely, and I think for anyone who looks at the last name and thinks this Earnhardt kid, he’s getting this ride because he’s an Earnhardt, you’ve scratched and clawed to get yourself to this position. I think from where you’ve started to where you are now, this is an incredible turnaround. You talked about this taking several years, you’ve been kind of hoping to do this for several years, how long did this actually take to come together and what made it possible this time around for this to be a thing that happened?

JE: Man, I can’t even — I don’t even know when we first originally started talking with Richard Childress or Mike Dillon about maybe doing something. I know it goes back to when they had the truck team and running the No. 3 truck in the Truck Series. It’s been quite a while, but we’ve just been blessed to be surrounded with some really great partners that one thing led to another with Richard and next thing you know, he was like, “Well, you know, we could maybe do Talladega,” it was a very quick scramble to get it to happen because we didn’t find out until about a couple of weeks ago. Very short preparation time, but it’s going to be all worth it once we get down there and get to go race. It’s been quite a journey over these past, well, many years. Obviously, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs in racing and this will probably be the highest moment of my career.

TC: Yeah, and I know you’ve been working on the deal for several years, you just said that, but do you feel like everything you’ve gone through to this point makes you more prepared now than if you had this deal several years ago?

JE: Definitely. All of the years of ups and downs and hard work and dedication and surrounding myself with good people within my team of JEI and sponsors and just amazing people I’ve been able to come in contact with. I think that is going to make this one, that much more special but two, that much more of an enjoyable experience and a lot of fun. It’s definitely — I think all of the ups and downs have definitely prepared me a lot more for this opportunity.

TC: No doubt, no doubt. Of course, at Talladega teamwork is key. Talladega and Daytona, those kinds of tracks, have you had a chance to really kind of talk to your teammates for the race, Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed?

JE: No, I have not. I mean I, obviously, know them and have competed against them in several races. Obviously, they go down there with — Richard Childress goes down there with really fast cars all the time and they have alliances with Kaulig and Big Machine Racing and there’s a lot of other Chevrolets out there as well. Definitely will have plenty of teammates, partners, alliance teams to work with. That’s always a good thing when you go to these plate races. But definitely having guys like Austin Hill, who won Daytona, and Sheldon Creed, who has done great things in the sport already and has a lot of talent, it’s going to be very exciting to have them as partners.

TC: Awesome, awesome. Now, obviously, we have Talladega coming up now, the next question people are going to have now is: Are there potentially more races with Richard Childress Racing for you?

JE: You know, we really haven’t discussed it really. Like I said, this race kinda came together really, really quick. Everyone’s kinda had their nose to the ground really just working hard to get all of the pieces of this puzzle together and making it the best opportunity and experience for myself and the sponsors involved and for everyone at RCR. That’s been our main focus. Obviously, you know I’d love the opportunity to race more. I’m very thankful for the races I’ve had already with Sam Hunt Racing and getting to compete with those guys. They’ve been an incredible team to work with and drive for. I’m open to race as much as I can. They have a lot of their races sold out, so, if it works out for us to be compete more with RCR, then I would greatly appreciate that and would love the opportunity. But our main focus is Talladega right now, and going down there and putting on a show.

TC: Very, very cool. And you mentioned Sam Hunt Racing as well, so you’re still committed to them for some more races this season as well?

JE: Yeah, four more races with Sam. Texas, Charlotte, Nashville and Bristol. Like I said man, it’s been an honor to get work with such a young team that has been very, very competitive week in and week out with great equipment and just good people in the shop. It’s been a lot of fun and Sam is such a great guy and really just gets it, and understands what it takes to go out there and be competitive. Really excited about them races, and like I said, they’ve all been very supportive and just thrilled for the opportunity I’ve got here coming up next weekend to compete with RCR and the No. 3. They’ve all been very pumped for me and excited for me to get this opportunity.

TC: Definitely, definitely. One last question. I know back a couple of years ago, you were with Joe Gibbs Racing. You went to Daytona, you led a lot of laps early, you nearly won a Stage, you had a really good showing there at Daytona. Have you had a chance to maybe think about what you’re going to do if you’re in a position to win this thing next week, in the closing laps?

JE: Man, we all know how the superspeedways are. It’s anyone’s race to win. Luckily, going down there with a RCR car, you know you have big steam, you know you have good teammates, you know you have a great chance to win this race. I’m going to go down there and plan to race as hard as we can and we’re there to win, you know? Not like we’re chasing points or anything like that. We’re going to go down there and try to sit on pole and win this race. Richard has made it clear that’s his main goal to go down there and try to be the best car out there and hopefully park the No. 3 back in victory lane. It would be a dream come true. Either way, we’re going to go down there, have a blast, have a lot of fun and take in the moment. Because like I said, it’s been a dream of mine for many, many years and obviously my grandpa was a hero to me and someone that I still to this day look up to every single day in anything I do in life. We’re going to have fun, enjoy it, give it our best to be there at the end and put it in victory lane.

TC: Jeffrey Earnhardt, Hey, I want to say first off, good luck next week at Talladega and I want to thank you for taking time out for this interview.

JE: Yes sir, I appreciate you having me on. Thank you very much.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is an award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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