CONCORD, N.C. — Jared Irvan can’t remember the last time his father strapped into a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car, but he still wants to follow in his footsteps.
At 15 years old, Irvan will contest the entire Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South super late model schedule in 2014 with sponsorship from Auramist, a company that sells cooling products powered by misting technology. He also plans to compete in next year’s Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, racing in the Legends Pro division.
His father, of course, is Ernie Irvan, the 1991 Daytona 500 champion and winner of 15 Sprint Cup races. The elder Irvan retired from racing in 1999 after being injured in a crash at Michigan Int’l Speedway — five years (1994) to the day after a previous crash at the two-mile superspeedway nearly killed him.
With that taken into account, it could be considered surprising the elder Irvan is allowing his son to race, not to mention helping him.
Instead, Ernie Irvan is thrilled to be returning to the track to help his son chase his own dream.
“I’m thrilled to be able to be back at the track and supporting my son Jared,” said Ernie Irvan, who came to North Carolina from his native California chasing his own racing dreams during the 1980s. “We are thankful that Auramist is coming on board as the sponsor. We all know that competing in racing is not easy, not matter who you are, and we look forward to representing their brand on and off the track.”
Ernie said the goal for next year is to help Jared gain experience in larger stock cars. So far Jared has made only 10 super late model starts.
“He is 15 and I didn’t really think he was ready to go right to (NASCAR’s) K&N,” Ernie Irvan said. “I thought he needed more experience because he has only run a super late model for a year, but it has only been about 10 races.
“I just felt like the most I can do is get him more laps. Whatever racing it is. A super late model has got 600 horsepower and you’ve got to run the whole race on the same set of tires. So it is tire management, no pit stops. We wanted to make sure we could do it with two or three guys and go out there and be competitive.”
The car Jared Irvan will drive will be fielded by his father and feature the familiar No. 28 Ernie used while driving for Robert Yates Racing from 1993 through 1997.
The younger Irvan has been racing since he was four years old. He started in quarter midgets before advancing to Ford Focus Midgets when he was 12. In 2011 and 2012, he captured the USAC Eastern Ignite Midget championship before turning his focus to late model racing.
“It just keeps getting better and better the more experience I get,” Jared said about his learning curve in a late model. “One of the last races I did at South Boston I finished second, but I led up until eight laps to go and Ross Kenseth ended up getting by me.
“I guess it is pretty good if you can hold off Ross Kenseth for a while because that is Matt Kenseth’s son,” Jared joked.
Ernie Irvan was honest when asked what his expectations were for his son next season, saying a few victories and contending for the series championship would be a good place to start.
“My expectations are we are going to go win every race and win the championship. My realistic expectation is, you know, if we can win one or two races and go there and finish every lap and be able to go out there and be competitive, and then hopefully we’ll win the championship,” Ernie said.
Despite having never seen his father race, the opportunity to follow in his footsteps was too good for the teenager to pass up.
“It is an honor to be able to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Jared said. “He’s not only my dad, but also my coach, and he brings so much knowledge from his years racing against the best in the sport. He’s the role model when it comes to perseverance and I want to be able to make him proud.”