EARNHARDT JR. HONORING DAD'S PROMISE TO PILGRIM Road Racing Veteran to Drive Two Races for JR Motorsports MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- JR Motorsports announced today that road racing veteran Andy Pilgrim will drive the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet Monte...
EARNHARDT JR. HONORING DAD'S PROMISE TO PILGRIM
Road Racing Veteran to Drive Two Races for JR Motorsports
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- JR Motorsports announced today that road racing veteran Andy Pilgrim will drive the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS in the upcoming NASCAR Busch Series races at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Watkins Glen International.
For team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., the opportunity to have Pilgrim in the No. 88 Navy Chevy not only puts a road course ace in his team's car, it also allows him to fulfill a promise his dad, Dale Earnhardt, made to Pilgrim several years ago.
Earnhardt Jr. and his dad teamed up with Kelly Collins and Pilgrim to race a Chevrolet Corvette in the 2001 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Pilgrim tutored both Earnhardts on how to maneuver the lighter car. The team finished fourth overall out of 79 teams, and the elder Earnhardt promised to one day give Pilgrim a chance to drive one of his cars in NASCAR competition.
"My dad told Andy that he'd give him a shot at driving one of his cars after racing in the Corvette at Daytona," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He wasn't able to make good on that promise, so I'm doing it for him. I just want to thank GM Racing and Pratt & Miller for loaning us Andy for these races. I also need to thank the Navy for their support as we continue to make this team better."
When presented with the opportunity to drive a stock car for Earnhardt Jr., Pilgrim didn't hesitate to accept.
"We talked about doing it with Dale years ago," Pilgrim said. "I remember Dale told me he wanted to put me in a car for a road-course race, and he seemed serious, but I'm one of those people who is a bit of a pragmatist. You don't say anything to anyone in case it never happens, but you're thinking, 'Man, that would be so cool.' Unfortunately that chapter closed, and it was like 'That's OK. It was real nice to think about it.'
"Suddenly Junior calls me and asks if I'd like to test the car and possibly race it. What can I say, I'm absolutely thrilled to be part of the deal. Even though this is obviously brand new to me, it feels like old times again. It feels like family."
Pilgrim was approved for NASCAR competition after completing a successful test session with JR Motorsports at Virginia International Raceway on Wednesday.
"I had a great time with those guys and was really happy with the way the test went," Pilgrim said. "It was all brand new to me. In 20 years of professional racing, that was the first time I had ever driven a car like that, and I have to say it was quite impressive.
"I went into it with a lot of respect for the car. I've talked a lot with Boris (Said) and Ron (Fellows), and I've listened to what they've said about the stock cars over the years. I was so impressed with the horsepower, the speed the car carried through the turns, and even the brake package. There is so much downforce on the car. You hear road-course drivers talk about driving stock cars and comparing it to old technology, but I must say it was quite impressive. I was pleasantly surprised with everything. Going down the straightaway I had a big smile on my face."
His two-race deal comes as the team evaluates its options for a full-time driver to complete the remainder of the 2007 season.
"Andy's a great race car driver. His resume speaks for itself," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Putting him in our car for the road courses is a good opportunity for the team and for him. Last year Martin [Truex Jr.] finished sixth in one of our cars at Watkins Glen, so I know we've got the equipment that will allow Andy to contend for the win in Montreal and Watkins Glen."