In his debut with Joe Gibbs Racing Jeffrey Earnhardt made his presence known leading the first 29 laps in the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 and capturing a top-15 finish.
He qualified second for the Xfinity Series race but inherited the lead when polesitter Tyler Reddick was penalized for changing a tire during qualifying which sent him to the rear of the field for the start of the race.
Earnhardt proved to be a contender throughout the race, finishing fourth in Stage 1 and fifth in Stage 2. During the closing laps, however, he struggled with drafting and with his car’s handling, eventually having to settle for a 15th place finish. It was his fourth series top-15 in 67 starts.
The 29 laps led was a
“We didn’t lead enough,” he said. “We didn’t lead the last one and that’s the most important one.”
“We made adjustments because I felt like I was complaining about it being too free and we ended up getting it too tight there and we just struggled a little bit after that. Man, I was getting my butt kicked on everyone side drafting. Just lack of experience. I’ll get better at it. This was the first time to actually get to race upfront like that. It was a lot of fun. I think all three of us (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) cars showed a lot of strength. They made big improvements in the offseason. I think we’ll be really good for the rest of the superspeedways. Just lacked a little bit on my part today.”
And although he was happy to give his sponsors some television air time while he was leading laps, Earnhardt is determined to continue his progression in the sport.
“It was nice. I’m not going to lie. It’s always good when you can get your sponsor a lot of air time leading the race. It’s never good when you get them air time wrecking. I can’t thank iK9, Xtreme Concepts and all of the guys. All of the guys at Gibbs. They really have welcomed me with open arms. Toyota and all of the support that they’ve given me already.
“Hopefully, we continue to grow this program and grow
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