RICHMOND, Va. – He carries the name of NASCAR royalty but his path to this moment has not come easy.
After part-time rides, a spell competing in mixed martial arts and a return to racing, Jeffrey Earnhardt – grandson of Dale Earnhardt, and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr. – makes his Sprint Cup debut tonight at Richmond International Raceway.
Jeffrey Earnhardt will start 42nd.
“I’m just thankful to have this opportunity,’’ he told NBC Sports. “I’ve got a long, long way to go to learn these cars.’’
He makes his debut in an event where the final five spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be set. Earnhardt wants to avoid impacting that race.
“These guys have got a lot on the line,’’ said Earnhardt, who has made six Xfinity starts this season with a best finish of 12th at Talladega Superspeedway. “We’re racing to improve our team so one day we can be there. Just don’t want to upset anyone in debut.’’
Earnhardt’s goal is simple. He wants to run all the laps and finish in the top 30.
If not, he’ll have another chance to reach those goals. He’s scheduled to drive the car again in two weeks at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Connor Mosack, 23, and Joe Graf Jr., 24, each will drive select races in the No. 19 Xfinity Series car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.
Mosack, who has a 20-race Xfinity schedule with Sam Hunt Racing this year, will run three races for JGR: Chicago street course (July 1), Pocono (July 22) and Road America (July 29) while also competing in six ARCA Menards Series races for JGR, including Feb. 18 at Daytona.
Graf, who has a 28-race Xfinity schedule with RSS Racing this year, will run five races in the No. 19 Xfinity car for JGR: Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 25), Las Vegas (March 4), Richmond (April 1), New Hampshire (July 15) and Kansas (Sept. 9).
“I made my Xfinity Series debut with JGR last June at Portland and from the moment I made my first lap in their racecar, I realized why they’ve been so successful,” Mosack said in a statement. “Their equipment was second to none and the resources they had in terms of people and their knowledge was incredible.
“Jason Ratcliff was my crew chief at Portland and he’s got a ton of experience. I was able to learn from him before we even went to the track. Just in our time in the simulator, we made some great changes. So, to be back with him for three Xfinity races is going to be really valuable.
“And when it comes to JGR’s ARCA program, it’s the class of the field. After having to race against JGR cars, I’m really looking forward to racing with a JGR car. No matter what track they were on, they were always up front competing for wins. To have that chance in 2023 is pretty special, and I aim to make the most of it.”
Said Graf in a statement about his opportunity with JGR: “Running five races with JGR is a fantastic opportunity for myself and for my marketing partners. I think I can learn a lot from JGR and showcase my skills I’ve been growing in the series in the past three years. 2023 is shaping up to be a great year and I’m pumped to get started with the No. 19 group.”
Ryan Truex has previously been announced as the driver of the No. 19 Xfinity Series car in six races this season for JGR. The remaining drivers for the car will be announced at a later date.
Mosack didn’t start racing until he was 18 years old. He went on to win five Legends car championships before moving to Late Model stock cars in 2019. He graduated from High Point University in 2021 with a degree in business entrepreneurship. Mosack’s first Xfinity Series race with Sam Hunt Racing this season will be March 11 at Phoenix Raceway.
NASCAR’s winter break ends this weekend as Cup Series drivers return to the track for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.
The second Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum has been expanded to 27 (from 23) drivers for the 150-lap main event. Qualifying, heat races and two “last chance” races will set the field.
Joey Logano won last year’s Clash, the perfect start to a season that ended with him holding the Cup championship trophy.
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Cup)
Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 71.
Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 66.
Saturday, Feb. 4
(All times Eastern)
- 2 – 11:30 p.m. — Cup Series
- 6 – 8 p.m. — Cup Series practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 8:35 – 9:30 p.m. — Cup Series qualifying (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Feb. 5
- 11 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. Monday — Cup Series
- 5 – 5:45 p.m. — Four Heat races (25 laps; Fox, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 6:10 – 6:35 p.m. — Two Last chance qualifying races (50 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 8 p.m. — Feature race (150 laps; Fox, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.
Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.
Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:
- Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
- Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
- Past at Clash: Won in 2022
Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.
- Points position: 2nd in 2022
- Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
- Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year
Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.
- Points position: 15th in 2022
- Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
- Past at Clash: 10th in 2022
Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
- Points position: 13th in 2022
- Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
- Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022
Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.
- Points position: 14th in 2022
- Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
- Past at Clash: 21st in 2022
Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.
- Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
- Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
- Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022
After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?
Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.
Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.
Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.
“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”
Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.
Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.
Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.
Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.