NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES NEWS & NOTES * Jeffrey Earnhardt Enjoys His NASCAR Busch East Series Learning Experience * Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Andy Santerre Motorsports Create Ideal Situation for Rookie ...
NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES NEWS & NOTES
* Jeffrey Earnhardt Enjoys His NASCAR Busch East Series Learning Experience
* Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Andy Santerre Motorsports Create Ideal Situation for Rookie Driver
* Joey Logano Set to Return to Thompson; "Little T" Helped Launch His Career
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 4, 2007) -- With his 18th birthday in his rear-view mirror and his first six NASCAR Grand National Division under his belt, Jeffrey Earnhardt is easing into what he hopes will be a lifetime career. He races with poise, even under duress, and appears and sounds like a quietly confident young man when he speaks. If his Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet needs the attention of the crew, Earnhardt is right there with them. When there is a lull on a race day's schedule, he's paling around with fellow drivers simply enjoying himself.
Earnhardt represents the fourth generation of his family to participate in NASCAR racing, and early this year he signed a contract with DEI. Jeffrey's father, Kerry, has a broad base of NASCAR racing experience from weekly racing at the old Asheville (N.C.) Motor Speedway through NASCAR's Grand National Division to the three national series.
Kerry keeps a low but profile in the series' pit areas, and he is clearly focused on the operations part of the race team. He checks everything from race-day schedules to tire air pressures, talks with officials, and isn't afraid to get dirty toiling beneath his son's race car. Kerry ran most of the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series schedule in 2004. He posted two top-fives and five top-10s in eight starts.
"We have a great relationship," Jeffrey says of his father. "He watches over me, and he works hard to make our team better. He works hard trying to get me to be the best I can be. He's a great guy. There's nothing but good news about him. I can't say enough about how much he's helped me this year."
If young Earnhardt feels pressure to succeed or pressure just from his last name, he doesn't reveal it. He's working to learn the cars, tracks and fellow drivers of the NASCAR Busch East Series, and doing a good job if it.
He quietly had a very good day in the New England 125 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H., June 29. After having a good practice session on Thursday, engine problems forced a change. The team missed qualifying all together, but knew they could start the race with a provisional position. Earnhardt started 42nd and finished on the lead lap in 15th, an improvement of 27 positions, for which he won the event's POWERade Power Move of the Race Award. He's finished on the lead lap in all but one of the first six races of 2007, and posted a best finish of sixth and best qualifying position of eighth, both in his first NASCAR Grand National Division race in the season-opening 150-lap event in Greenville, S.C. He is 11th in series points.
"So far it's been great," Earnhardt said of his rookie experience in the NASCAR Busch East Series. "It's a great series and it has a bunch of great guys out there racing, and they race you clean. It's been pretty good so far."
To give Jeffrey the best opportunity success, DEI struck a deal to partner with Andy Santerre Motorsports for the 2007 NASCAR Busch East Series season. Team owner Andy Santerre won four consecutive NASCAR Busch East Series championships before leaving the driver's seat at the end of 2005 to focus on car ownership. The results came quickly in 2006. In his first race as team owner for driver Sean Caisse, the Busch East 2005 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, won his first career NASCAR Busch East Series event at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, and won again in the second race at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. He added a third win and finished second in the championship points race.
Santerre's knowledge, experience and demeanor make him a perfect mentor, even for a raw rookie like Earnhardt.
"The best advice I've gotten from Andy is to be patient and take it one step at a time. Don't rush anything," Earnhardt said. "He was patient as a driver, and you can see how well he did."
Earnhardt also had an instant teammate in Caisse.
"Actually Sean's helped me a lot just getting used to these cars," Earnhardt said. "He showed me there are little things a driver can do in the middle of a race when the car's handling changes. He's helped me better myself as a driver, too.
"I think everybody's goal for me this year is to get all the seat time I can. (Greenville-Pickens) was a big boost to my confidence. I didn't expect to go out there and do that well. I thought it would take a few races (to be that competitive). It helped a ton. That's part of racing, and we just keep on digging.
There are plenty of things to be learned even on tough race nights, Earnhardt said.
"South Boston was probably one of the toughest races we've had this season," Earnhardt said of the .400-mile South Boston (Va.) Speedway and its 150-lap event on June 2. "It was probably the one we learned the most from, too. I think I was in three different incidents. But it helped me learn a little bit more about what we can do in those types of situations, and how to stay out of those situations."
Despite the difficulties, Earnhardt still finished the event on the lead lap in 20th place.
During his press conference in the infield media center at New Hampshire International Speedway, Earnhardt seemed relaxed and confident. He was asked since he turned 18 on June 22 and therefore met the minimum age requirement for NASCAR three national series, if he might have plans for a try-out.
"We don't have anything scheduled," he said. "We'll wait and see how this season goes. Hopefully next year we might be able to try to run a few of those races.
"Right now, we want to see how the rest of this season goes."
NEWS & NOTES
* Up Next: Logano Returns to His Thompson Roots ... The NASCAR Busch East Series' next event is the Pepsi Racing 100 on "Freedom Team Salute Day" at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway, a .625-mile high-banked oval on July 14. The event will be a homecoming of sorts for series point leader Joey Logano, (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Driven Chevrolet), 17-years-old of Middletown, Conn. Before age 10, Logano was racing and winning in Quarter-Midgets at the "Little T," a small paved oval on the Thompson International Speedway property.
* Thompson is third traditional track ... Northeastern-based NASCAR Busch East Series teams and drivers are looking forward to racing at one the series' traditional tracks for the third consecutive event when they return to Thompson on July 14. The event comes on the heels of traditional events at Stafford Springs, Conn., and Loudon, N.H. Thompson has been hosting the series since 1988. Martin Truex, Jr. holds the series' Busch Pole Award qualifying record of 20.200 seconds/111.386 mph, set on July 13, 2002.
* New England 125 Penalties ... NASCAR has issued penalties and fines to three NASCAR Busch East Series teams as a result of infractions that occurred June 29 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Barney McRae, crew member for the No. 5 team of Jonathan Smith, was fined $250 and suspended from the next NASCAR Busch East Series event, suspended from NASCAR until July 18, 2007, and placed on NASCAR probation until December 31, 2007 for violation of Section 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing. Involved in an altercation in another competitor's pit area). Lance McGrew, crew chief for the No. 42 team of Landon Cassill, was fined $250, and placed on NASCAR probation until August 22, 2007 for violation of Section 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); Section 12-4-Q (any determination by NASCAR Officials that the car, car parts, components, and/or equipment used in the Event do not conform to NASCAR rules); Section 20C-14-1C (Master cylinders must be the push piston type). Tony Mitchell, crew chief for the No. 43 team of Tim Schendel, was fined $300, and placed on probation until August 22, 2007 for violation of Section 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing); Section 12-4-Q (Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the car, car parts, components and/or equipment used in the Event do not conform to NASCAR rules; Section 20C-12.1A(1) & (3) (front springs did not meet the specifications).