07 Sep Jeffrey Earnhardt Fueled By Fan Support in Tough Darlington Weekend
Making his third start for Gaunt Brothers Racing at Darlington Raceway, Sunday’s Southern 500 was also the 68th Cup Series start for Jeffrey Earnhardt.
Experience, however, couldn’t keep the fourth-generation racer from a tough weekend.
Following a qualifying accident on Saturday, Joe Gibbs Racing pitched in to assist the small team in repairing the car for raceday. Starting tail-end of the field in 40th for 500 miles, Earnhardt’s night included close moments, two accidents, long green-flag runs and a hard-earned battle to the checkered flag.
“It’s pretty damn hot out. I want a cold beer after this one,” Earnhardt said.
That cold beer may be on the fans after a weekend like that for Earnhardt. Having the famed last name may bring fan support automatically, but the 29-year-old takes action to show the fans his appreciation.
The Throwback Weekend at Darlington gave Earnhardt a special opportunity to blend both his family history and fan appreciation, as he ran a white-and-blue paint scheme raced by his grandfather Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The fan support was better than ever.
“I’ve been very blessed to have a lot of fans my grandfather built in the past,” he said. “That man worked really hard in this sport and built one hell of a fan base. The NASCAR fan base is probably the most loyal one I’ve ever seen in any sport.”
Despite having a tough night in Darlington after spinning solo in Turn 3 before being collected in a crash with Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman soon after, Earnhardt managed to finish the race in the 34th spot. Fortunate for him, however, Earnhardt’s fan support never ends with a tough day at the track.
“To see how much they support me and stick behind me through weekends like this, they don’t give up like the rest of my team,” he said. “Hell, they’re part of the team, too.
“I’ve got a lot of people who are very supportive behind me. My team personally and the teams outside with sponsors. Even a lot of other teams in the garage, they show a lot of support for me, too.”
The driver-fan relationship is real for Earnhardt. Following a Hall of Fame career from his grandfather and accomplishing career of uncle and 16-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeffrey Earnhardt finds importance in connecting positively with his fans.
“You have to have the fan support and it comes by showing them love,” he said. “I hung out with a bunch of fans last night, rode around all day handing out t-shirts. That’s how you build fans. You give them what they deserve. They spend a lot of their hard-earned money to come here and support us. It’s the least we can do.”
Though the Throwback Weekend is done for 2018, a piece of it may make an appearance at Indianapolis next weekend: The mustache.
“I’ve had a lot of people say it looks pretty good,” he said. “I thought about wearing it to Indy and seeing how the people there like it.”