CONCORD, N.C. – Jeffrey Earnhardt had a very stubborn Saturday.
His stubbornness led to a third-place finish in the Xfinity Series’ Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his first national NASCAR series top-five finish in 157 tries.
It came after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver bounced back from a spin on Lap 142 when he made contact with the wall.
“Luckily those guys busted their butts, got it back bent out, raced hard and got back on the lead lap and gave it all we had there at the end,” Earnhardt said. “I literally drove my guts out there at the end, that’s all I had left in the tank.”
But Earnhardt’s stubborn driving wasn’t just for himself or his team. His extra effort came as a tribute to the man whose image graced his No. 18 Toyota: Mooresville police K9 Officer Jordan Sheldon.
Sheldon was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop on May 4. Earnhardt, a native of Mooresville, North Carolina, is sponsored by iK9, a company that provides K9 units to law enforcement agencies.
“Having officer Sheldon on the car meant a lot to me,” Earnhardt said. “I wanted to make him proud. I wasn’t about to lay down on the job. Hopefully, he’s up there smiling down on us about our run. I know we didn’t win it but came home third and I wouldn’t have thought we had third-place car at the of practice on Thursday.”
The grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, Jeffrey’s career accomplishment came in his 71st Xfinity start. Saturday’s race was his fifth this season for JGR.
“My goal is to come out here and win races,” Earnhardt said. “It’s a dream come true. I’m having the time of my life this year. Luckily I get to stay in the car for two weeks in a row, that makes a big difference. It sucks shaking the cobwebs off. … I think we might be able to put an even better run together once we get (to Pocono).”
Any celebration by the driver and his team after the race was delayed when Earnhardt was taken to the infield care center after he experienced dizziness upon exiting his car.
“I’m stubborn, so I didn’t want to come in here,” Earnhardt said after leaving the care center. “But I figured it’s best to come in here and let them look at me, make sure I get cooled off and everything’s good. It was hot. It was a rough one out there.”
How did the 29-year-old plan to celebrate his stubbornness on the track paying off?
“I ordered some crawfish,” Earnhardt said. “So I’m going to go home and have a big ‘ole crawfish broil.”