MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Jeffrey Earnhardt is in Daytona Beach, Fla. for Sunday’s Daytona 500, but he won’t be behind the wheel.
Earnhardt – the 26-year-old grandson of seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. and the nephew of two-time 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. – hopes Daytona will be the only race he’ll watch from outside the car. The Mooresville, N.C. native has 20 races lined up for a Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year run for Go FAS Racing.
Bobby Labonte will drive Earnhardt’s No. 32 Can-Am Ford Fusion at Daytona. Earnhardt said during Monday’s Daytona Media Day that he hopes to be in the car next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and for every race after Atlanta.
“(Daytona) might be the only one I miss,” he added. “It is kind of up in the air. It could be everyone from Atlanta on out. It is 20 for sure, but it could be more. It could be every one of them from Atlanta on.
“Hopefully that is what it ends up being. That is all about sponsor dollars and being able to put the whole program together. They have a few races sold already, so we have to figure out what we would do there. Hopefully it works out to where I will be at every one of them from Atlanta on.”
One thing Earnhardt doesn’t have to worry about is qualifying for races. His only challenge is having a car to drive. Go FAS is locked into each race by virtue of having one of NASCAR’s 36 charters, so the stress involved with qualifying on speed is no longer an issue. Having a sponsor helps matters, too.
“Can-Am coming on board has been a huge help and 90 percent of the reason I am even here,” Earnhardt said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have this opportunity and I am very thankful of that. To be able to guarantee them being locked in every weekend and the investment they made being the Can-Am Duels coming up on Thursday and everything they have invested in the sport and team and myself is huge to be able to know we will be there every weekend and not that we might not make it in.
“That is always tough to tell a sponsor to give you sponsor dollars but you might not make the race. The fact we are locked in is a big help.”
Being guaranteed a spot in the field is a huge advantage for a driver who has spent years hoping to carve up enough sponsorship money to merely get a chance to qualify.
“That is tough when you know you aren’t locked in on race weekends,” said Earnhardt, who made two Cup starts last year. “Going into this season knowing that is not a factor anymore is a huge stress reliever and makes it a little more easy to where you can focus more on making sure the car is handling right and making sure your guys are understanding what you are saying the car is doing and making sure that you are going to be set for the races.
“It is definitely going to be a huge help for us at Go FAS.”