With the driver’s seat for his No. 5 NASCAR Nationwide Series entry vacant at Richmond International Raceway, car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t have to look far to find an available driver. Earnhardt kept it within the family and chose relative Jeffrey Earnhardt to pilot his car at Richmond, with a sponsor to be named later. This marks an incredible opportunity for the 23 year old Earnhardt, who has never found his way into quality equipment until now.
Jeffrey is the son of Dale Jr.’s half-brother Kerry Earnhardt, someone who had muddled through the Nationwide Series ranks himself. But Jeffrey is young, and has plenty of time to work his way up. This is the first opportunity that has been offered to Earnhardt to drive a top-tier ride in the Nationwide Series. For 2013, the young Earnhardt has begun the season driving for Archie St. Hilaire, earning a 20th place finish at Phoenix International Raceway.
Before a 2012 that saw Earnhardt gain six races of experience, Earnhardt had run a limited number of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races, including a 2011 that saw Earnhardt earn a 7th place finish at the seasoning opening race at Daytona International Speedway.
Kasey Kahne and Brad Sweet are the drivers for a majority of the races this season in the No. 5 car, with Regan Smith running the No. 7 car full time. This should provide Earnhardt with a bevy of information and resources as he looks to impress at Richmond. Earnhardt has never run at the .75 mile Virginia track, but with the added pressure of running in top tier equipment, anything below a top-15 finish would be a disappointment for Earnhardt. Hopefully, when the checkered flag drops, hopefully Earnhardt will have proven he can be competitive at the Nationwide Series level.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486