Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Jeffrey Earnhardt Prepared for ‘Dega Double

By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent

The first time that Jeffrey Earnhardt will face double-duty in his career comes at the track synonymous with the family name, Talladega Superspeedway.

Earnhardt will pilot the No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Money Lion 300 for Joe Gibbs Racing. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500, he will drive the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts Toyota Camry for XCI Racing, which is making their premier series debut.

Despite 154 combined starts across all of NASCAR’s National Series, Earnhardt has never competed in two series on the same weekend. The 29-year-old faces a challenge that his JGR teammates, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, and Denny Hamlin have faced multiple times throughout their career.

“Double duty will definitely be a new experience for me, but it’s something we’ve been preparing for,” Earnhardt explained. “The JGR cars have been fast every race. We’ve seen Kyle (Busch) go out and absolutely dominate in the No. 18, and we’ve been able to pull out some really great runs. So, I’m excited to have another shot at it, especially after doing so well at Daytona.”

While Earnhardt is competing on a part-time basis this season, he has had a career year in 2019. The Mooresville, N.C. native lead 29 laps at Daytona, quadrupling his career laps lead total in the Xfinity Series. He also earned his first two top-10 finishes in Xfinity competition this season.

Across the three National Series, Earnhardt has 23 starts at the two Superspeedways, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega. His only top-10, a seventh-place finish, on the former restrictor-plate tracks came in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Daytona. In the Cup Series, his best finish is 11th in 2018.

“The Cup race will be a bit different,” Earnhardt said. “The Xtreme Concepts team is still new and it’s only our first Cup start this year, but we’ve had a lot of help from Joe Gibbs Racing to prepare.”

XCI Racing made their NASCAR debut earlier this season in the Xfinity Series. Although the team had an inauspicious start, Earnhardt drove the No. 81 Toyota Supra to an eighth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

“If you look back at Texas, that was the first Xfinity race for Xtreme Concepts,” Earnhardt continued. “We fought for position all day and ended up in the top-10 before it was all over. I think you can look at that and see we aren’t just here to finish. We’re here to finish up front and fight for every spot. It will be the same on Sunday.”

With the opportunity for double-duty at Talladega Superspeedway, Jeffrey Earnhardt will have added attention and pressure from the fan base. His grandfather, Dale Earnhardt won 10 Cup races at the 2.66-mile track, including his final Cup Series victory. Jeffrey’s uncle, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., won six Cup races at Talladega, including four in a row.

Despite his family’s history at the Alabama track, Earnhardt is focused on the big picture.

“This weekend is about putting on a great show and coming out of Talladega with two good finishes between Joe Gibbs Racing and Xtreme Concepts Racing. The support from these two groups has been amazing, and the best way for me to show that is to go out, take care of the equipment and be there at the end with a chance to win. We don’t know what to expect at Talladega.”

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Seth Eggert has followed NASCAR his entire life. Seth is currently pursuing a writing career and is majoring in Communications and Journalism. He is an avid iRacer and video gamer. Seth also tutors students at Mitchell Community College in multiple subjects. He has an Associate's Degree in History.