Dropping the Hammer with Jeffrey Earnhardt

By and large, Jeffrey Earnhardt remains focused at the task at hand with the No. 33 Chevy team. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

By and large, Jeffrey Earnhardt remains focused at the task at hand with the No. 33 Chevy team. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

Despite being from one of NASCAR’s famed families, it’s safe to say that 28 year-old Jeffrey Earnhardt has the Frank Sinatra mentality.

In other words, Earnhardt strives to do things his way.  As a matter of fact, the Mooresville, NC native looks towards a long, thriving career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Arguably, the journey for Earnhardt has not been easy.  However, he is currently in his first season with the Circle Sport – The Motorsport Group unit.

At any rate, Earnhardt and the No. 33 Hulu Chevy team strive towards long term success.  Realistic yet optimistic, the amiable driver remains committed towards building his own legacy and his team’s brand.

Of course, anyone in Earnhardt’s situation would be frustrated and express dejection at the struggles.  Even so, there is no quit with this young racer, with a resolute mindset and focus with becoming a contender in the Cup ranks.

Similarly, like his famous grandfather and uncle, Earnhardt appreciates the race fans.  Certainly, he is active on social media and makes time with NASCAR supporters each weekend.  In addition, he shares his journey with fans on a Hulu exclusive series called “The Driver.”

In the meantime, I caught up with Earnhardt during the ISM Connect 300 race weekend at New Hampshire.  Candid, congenial, and witty, it’s safe to say that this young man represents his family’s legacy brightly through his efforts.

Without further ado, let’s start “Dropping the Hammer with Jeffrey Earnhardt!”

Rob Tiongson :  It’s your first season with the 33 team and it seems like you’re both making strides as the year has progressed. How encouraged are you with scoring some strong finishes in these final races?

Presently, Earnhardt and his 33 team strive towards long term success. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

Presently, Earnhardt and his 33 team strive towards long term success. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

Jeffrey Earnhardt :  The start of the season started off pretty discouraging.  We had a lot of issues and a lot of DNFs that really make it tough to get your feet under you and make improvements on your cars when you’re not able to finish races.

Like you said, we’ve made a lot of good improvements and changes on the team and equipment.  Joe Falk and Curtis Key continue to invest in this deal and we’ve brought in great partners like Hulu.  All that stuff makes a big difference and gives you the tools that you need to make the program better.

We had a good run at Chicago and it sucks. Normally, you have some cars fall out and it makes your run look more impressive.  When you look at the guys we raced around and outperformed, we did a pretty good job.  It’s just getting the momentum and encouragement to continue to build on this program each week.

We struggled a bit here at Loudon.  We couldn’t get it going at the beginning of Friday and didn’t get it better by qualifying.  However, we made a lot of changes here on Saturday and we’ve got it running a lot better but we still need to be a bit faster than where we’re at. It’s encouraging us to see us make improvements.

RT :  You and the No. 33 team star in Hulu’s series called “The Driver.” What’s it been like to share your story to a new audience group while having the partnership you’ve got with Hulu?

All things considered, Earnhardt remains optimistic through trying times. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

All things considered, Earnhardt remains optimistic through trying times. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

JE :  It’s awesome.  To give people a whole new perspective of me and what I’ve been through and what I do and let people know my story, a lot of people don’t know my story and think I’ve been given the best equipment and suck as a driver and that’s not the case.

It’s been a lot of hard work and I haven’t been given a lot of handouts.  I’ve been busting my ass throughout this whole deal to get where I am today.  I’m going to continue to do that no matter what.  I’m not going to stop fighting to improve my situation and make the program better and better myself as a driver to hopefully, one day, win races and fight for championships.

RT :  That’s one of the things that I respect about your efforts.  You’re from a famous racing family but you seem dedicated and focused to do this on your own merit.  Is that what you’re trying to tell the race fans through the series and your efforts on the track, that you’re not “Dale Jr’s nephew” and “the grandson of Dale Sr?”

JE :  Definitely.  People think that I’ve been a silver spoon child and I’m not.  My parents from the very start made me work hard to get what I got.  Ever since I’ve been racing, it’s been a constant battle.  It’s not been easy.

I’ve been through ups and downs and I’ve fought my ass off to get opportunities.  They don’t come easy.  When you get them, even if it’s not the best opportunity, you’ve got to be appreciative of it.

That’s stuff I’ve learned over the years.  Just because it’s not the best situation to be in doesn’t mean you’ve got to sit there and get down and bad mouth it because I feel like I’ve got the hardest working guys in this garage.

We’re a smaller team and we try to work harder to run where we want and try to make it better.  The biggest thing is making people realize it’s not like everyone’s running the same equipment.  We’re a much smaller team with a lot less resources so it’s not easy.

RT :  Fan interaction is something you take a lot of pride with on a daily basis. How important is it for you to resonate with fans that are new and the longtime ones?

JE :  It’s huge.  Some of the things I’ve been focusing on is looking at what my grandpa did and how he was with fans and how much appreciation fans had for him.  That comes with showing them respect.  If you show them respect, they’ll respect you back.

Hell, let’s face it – without the fans, we can’t do what we do today.  That’s the backbone behind this entire sport is to support the fans.  Hell, if the hardest part is stopping and signing autographs, I have it damn easy!

RT :  If you could assemble your own NASCAR dream team of past or present, which one would you select because you liked them, would recruit when you’re near the end of your career, and still want onboard even if they’ve annoyed you?

JE :  (chuckles)  I don’t know.  Probably Kevin Harvick.  He’s obviously been successful in this sport and I like his attitude.  He’s a tough dude and he’s never been one to take shit from anyone.  Also, he’s not afraid to voice his opinion and he’s a hell of a driver.

He’s proven that time and time again on the track.  I would say Harvick.  He’s just a cool dude.

RT :  As far as someone who annoys you, who would it be?

JE :  (mulls it over)  I don’t know. (laughs)  I don’t really have any.  I don’t feel I’ve had anyone annoy me too bad on the track.

RT :  This question comes from Cassandra Ann Myers, who wanted to ask, “Looking forward to 2018 knowing you will be the only Earnhardt in the cup series gaining your uncle’s fan base after his retirement do you feel any more pressure and are you ready for what to come your way?”

Regardless of his family name, Earnhardt looks to establish his own legacy. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

Regardless of his family name, Earnhardt looks to establish his own legacy. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones)

JE :  There’s probably pressure there but hell, I’ve dealt with it my whole life having the last name.  I’m sure Earnhardt fans are going to want someone that runs up front but all I can do is what I’m capable of and I’ll continue to do that the rest of this year and after he’s gone.

Still, I’m not going to change the fact that I’m busting my ass to make my situation better or better myself as a driver.  I’m just going to continue to focus on my career and if the fans jump on the “Jeffrey Train,” I’ll be more than happy to have them.  Obviously, the more support, the better response for the fans and for the sponsors.  It’s a win-win.

It’s like I keep telling everyone, my biggest concern is whether fans will continue to follow the sport even after he’s gone.  Like I’ve said, they’re the backbone behind this whole program and if we don’t have our support from the fans, we don’t have our sport.

If they’re pulling for me, great.  If not, hell, just pull for someone and continue to be a NASCAR fan because we need them.

RT :  Tell me two truths and a lie about yourself for fans to take a guess at.

JE :  (laughs)  I’m an avid outdoors man.  I’m scared of spiders.  And I’m a great dancer.

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to Jeffrey Earnhardt for this wonderful opportunity at New Hampshire! In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Jeffrey and his No. 33 team, “Follow” them on Twitter, “Like” their Facebook page, and “Visit” their official website!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it’s about anything with an engine and four wheels, you’ll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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