Go Green Racing's Jeffrey Earnhardt, 26, will make his Sprint Cup debut at Richmond International Raceway.
A fourth-generation racer will be making his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut at Richmond on Saturday night and his name is Earnhardt - Jeffrey Earnhardt.
It's been a wild ride. Cup debut ... There's all kinds of emotions going on
The 26-year-old had to qualify on time and successfully made the show, driving the No. 32 Go Green Racing Ford Fusion with Clinton Cram as his crew chief. The deal came together through a friendship he formed with team owner Archie St. Hilaire after running races for him in the Xfinity Series and through a relationship he established with CorvetteParts.Net, which sponsored him when he drove for his uncle Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) in a single race back in 2013.
BeerFrost.com is also supporting the young driver this weekend.
"It's exciting, it's what we've been trying to do ever since I started racing - it was to be here and now I am," Earnhardt told Motorsport.com.
Wanting a little more
Despite such an achievement - qualifying for a Cup race in his very first attempt, Jeffrey couldn't help but think about how he could have ran better.
"I thought it would have been a better lap but we'll take it however we have to. I'd much rather make it in on time and not have people say, 'oh it's only because of points.' But I know we'll have a good race car.
"I guess I'm a little hard on myself, always wanting to be better. But deep down, I'm really excited. I'm here and I'm racing."
Prepping for transition into Cup car
The North Carolina native has 66 Xfinity starts since 2009 and relied on his past experience there to get a handle on the Cup car.
"I was thinking back on track notes from the Xfinity races I ran here. When I ran the car for Jr., I got a lot of information from them that I referred back to. I talked with a few guys I'm friends with who recently ran the Xfinity stuff and came here and asked them what they felt the differences were."
When Motorsport.com asked if he asked any veterans for pointers leading up to this race, he admitted "Probably not as much as I should have."
"These cars handle a lot better," he said while comparing them to Xfinity cars. "They don't react to changes as drastically. And just the competition level here is so much tighter. You look over at the Xfinity side and three seconds is between first and last. Here it's 45 cars all bunched together, less than a second. That's crazy when you think about it in comparison.
"This is the big time level and that's what it's all about. It's that close for a reason - they're all professionals.
As for his plans for the remainder of the season, Earnhardt has no other rides lined up (yet) outside of another Cup start at New Hampshire. "I want to get as much seat time as I can in a Cup car this year in case we are able to do more next year."
It's been nearly a full decade since two members of the Earnhardt family competed against each other in a premier series race (October, 2005 at Talladega) and 15 years since we last saw a fourth-generation Cup driver (Adam Petty).
"It's been a wild ride. Cup debut ... There's all kinds of emotions going on. I was a nervous wreck until Clint (Cram) told me I was safe on the radio. We're here and we're racing and that's the most we could ask for."