It is official.
The grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and son of Kerry Earnhardt, Jeffrey Earnhardt, will make his Nationwide Series debut this weekend at Watkins Glen.
Earnhardt began the year driving the No. 31 Rick Ware Racing car, co-owned by Stanton Barrett. He attempted to qualify at Dover earlier in the season but wrecked his primary car in practice and was not able to get the backup car into the field on qualifying time.
The Rick Ware Racing team is a new team and was outside of the Top 30 in points, so Earnhardt was not locked into the field before his qualifying lap.
This weekend is different. Earnhardt will be driving the No. 40, Key Motorsports Fabsgrill.com Chevrolet for this weekend, and at least one more race at Montreal later in the season.
Scott Wimmer will be his spotter and trainer for the weekend.
With no pressure to qualify in order to make the race, Earnhardt feels more confident and can focus more on race experience rather than worrying if he will even make the field.
“The fact that I don’t have to qualify into the show because they’re in on points with the [No.] 40, that’s a big relief as a driver,” Earnhardt said.
“It helps out definitely being a rookie coming back into this deal and just not being able to race every weekend."
“It takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders, and helps me worry more about just getting the car right and getting all the marks down, and getting me comfortable getting back in the car.”
Earnhardt wants to run a limited schedule for the rest of the season so he can retain his rookie status for 2010, in hopes of contending for the Rookie Of The Year Award.
Earnhardt has road race experience. He finished second in a NASCAR Camping World East Series race in 2008. Driving Montreal for the No. 40 Key Motorsports team also shows that they have confidence in his road race ability.
I look forward to see how he handles the challenge this weekend.