Another Earnhardt will take a shot at NASCAR glory
When your last name is Earnhardt, it’s not too hard to predict what your career path will be. From Ralph to Dale Sr., to Dale Jr. and Kerry, racing is in the family’s genes. Even Jr.’s sister Kelley is involved in the sport behind the scenes.
Now, another Earnhardt is set to take the NASCAR stage … Kerry’s son Jeffrey.
Watching him being interviewed is almost eerie. Just like his father Kerry, Jeffrey looks like a carbon copy of The Intimidator when he was young.
Jeffrey, who is only 19, will run 7 races in the Nationwide series this season, then compete full-time on the circuit in 2010, driving for Rick Ware Racing. Kerry will also run some races for the team, and will be there to coach his son through what is going to be a highly scrutinized entry into the big leagues. Jeffrey will debut at Dover in May.
Having the last name Earnhardt will have both a positive and negative impact on Jeffrey. On one hand, he’s more likely to get sponsorships because of his name, and will have an instant fan base. But the name also comes with expectations … just ask Dale Jr., who has endured endless criticism this week after yet another mediocre run. If your name is Earnhardt, fans expect you run up front … period. No excuses or explanations will make them happy.
So what will become of Jeffrey Earnhardt? Will he grow into a stud racer like his grandpa, will he achieve the moderate successes of his uncle, or will he fail to break through like his father?
Only time will tell, and I won’t make any predictions until I see him on the track on the big stage for a while.
I just hope people aren’t expecting him to immediately break out as a top runner. First of all, he’s not running with a top team. The 7 races this year and his rookie season in 2010 will probably be filled with lots of DNFS and struggles, as is the case with most young drivers entering the Nationwide Series. He will be developing his racing skills in the next few years, and with that comes some tough days regardless of the equipment you are driving.
This experience may also be a good thing for Kerry Earnhardt, who never achieved the success his father, grandfather and brother have achieved in NASCAR. Perhaps these next couple years will show Kerry is a better coach than he is a racer, and his son can have the success he never saw. All fathers want to see their kids succeed in life, and I bet Kerry would gain more happiness from watching his son succeed than he would from having successes of his own.
One interesting thing is that another driver that is planning a full-time Nationwide run in 2010 is Austin Dillon, the grandson of Dale Sr’s longtime team owner Richard Childress. The fact that both Dale Sr. and Childress’ grandsons are going to compete against each other for Rookie of the Year is a pretty cool coincidence, considering the long and storied history between their families.
I wish Jeffrey luck, as there will be lots of pressure on him to live up to his last name.