Jeffrey Earnhardt: Driver, No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra
NASCAR Xfinity Series Overview
Event: NASCAR Racing Experience 300 (Round 1 of 33)
Date: Feb. 16, 2019
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway
Layout: 2.5-mile oval
Jeffrey Earnhardt Notes of Interest
- The NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway is the first of the 33-race NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule and the first of three restrictor-plate races in 2019.
- The 2019 season-opener at Daytona is the first of nine Xfinity Series races scheduled for Jeffrey Earnhardt in the No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
- Earnhardt has seven Xfinity Series starts at Daytona with a best finish of 16thin the 2015 season opener. He also has six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Daytona with a best finish of 11thin last year’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.
- Additionally, Earnhardt has one top-10 result at Daytona – the 2011 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener.
- Daytona marks the first race for Ben Beshore in the role of crew chief. Beshore previously served as an engineer for JGR’s NASCAR Cup Series program.
Jeffrey Earnhardt, Driver Q&A
What made you decide to take on a limited schedule with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series after several seasons of full-time racing in the NASCAR Cup Series?
“The opportunities were there to go run a full season somewhere else, but I wanted to stay with Toyota because they gave me so much support over just the few races I ran with them in 2018. It means a lot when someone welcomes you and makes you feel like family, like what I have with iK9 and Xtreme Concepts. It’s a good thing. But then when you look at the Xfinity program at Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s definitely an opportunity to go out there and run fewer races, but it’s also a better chance to run up front, finish well and work toward winning. So not only am I in a better position to have a good day at the track, I’m getting a lot of help from those guys to make me a better racer.”
Joe Gibbs Racing has proven to be one of the top organizations in the Xfinity Series. What is your mindset entering the first race of the year?
“It used to be a 25th-place finish was good for me last year. That’s unacceptable now. I’m being given equipment that is capable of winning races, but there’s a learning curve that comes with every new opportunity. I have a team that is there to support me, a sponsor that believes in my capabilities, and I’ve also got some really talented teammates that I can lean on and learn from. If we go out and keep our nose clean and knock off a few top-10 finishes, I don’t see why we couldn’t end the season with a win or two. I’ve gone from the struggle of trying to keep the car under me for a whole race and not wreck it, to now the struggle is going to be late-race restarts and keeping my iK9 Toyota Supra out front. It’s a new challenge – a good challenge, but a new challenge. There are going to be differences, but the more willing you are to work hard for something and put it all on the line, the more likely you are to succeed.”
Daytona is a special place for the sport, but also for you and your family. What is it like to start this new chapter of your career at a venue with such importance and history?
“There are a lot of memories associated with Daytona. You can look back and see how dominant my grandfather and Dale Jr., were there and, of course, that’s just more pressure because they were so great. It’s about learning how to channel all of that pressure, and I feel like I have a good grip on that. But I just love plate racing and I’ve had some of my best runs at Daytona. It seems like I’ve been put in situations running up front and running in back so, really, with plate racing it’s a matter of getting lucky and being good. I don’t really know where the safe place is at these tracks, but if we could put a bubble around our iK9 Toyota Supra for the first two-thirds of it, I’d be pretty happy.
Ben Beshore, Crew Chief Q&A
You’re transitioning into a new role this season as a crew chief and your first race is with a driver you have never worked with. Does that complicate things or is it business as usual?
“Jeffrey has been here a few times in the shop. We’ve talked about what he wants in a speedway car and what he needs from the spotter. We also did some simulator testing in the offseason to work on communication and accelerate that relationship before we get to the track, so we’re pretty much up to speed on all of that. It’ll just be a matter of going down there and executing as well as we can with our iK9 Toyota Supra. Daytona being the first race is sort of a nice transition because it’s not quite as handling sensitive.”
What are your goals for this team for Daytona and for the season overall?
“For Daytona specifically, we need to avoid the carnage and try to be there at the end. Just be there with 10 to go and not be on casters on the back of a tow truck. For the season, we’re going to try to get top-fives every week. Being in a Joe Gibbs Racing car in an Xfinity race you have a shot to win every race. We just have to take it week by week and see what happens. We’re not holding anything back. We’re going for wins every week.”