ThatsRacin

Will an Earnhardt race in the Cup Series in 2018? Hope remains after a setback.

Jeffrey Earnhardt, left, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s nephew, needs a NASCAR Cup Series ride for the 2018 season after the partners who owned his racing team split.
Jeffrey Earnhardt, left, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s nephew, needs a NASCAR Cup Series ride for the 2018 season after the partners who owned his racing team split. AP

Jeffrey Earnhardt, 28, has a racing heritage that perhaps no other NASCAR Cup Series driver can match. He’s got a sponsor that could use the exposure that a driver named Earnhardt can bring. He’s logged 58 starts in NASCAR’s highest circuit.

Although he hasn’t had much success at the Cup level, Kerry Earnhardt’s son made it this far by working his way up from dirt tracks through the ranks – “Earning Earnhardt” as he puts it – determined not to be a prima donna that rides the coattails of his beyond ordinarily famous last name and family ties.

But what this Earnhardt lacks now is a ride. And if he doesn’t find a team soon, the Cup Series will open its season at Daytona without an Earnhardt driving for the first time since 1978.

Earnhardt found out last week that the partners who owned his racing team had decided to split, leaving him out of the No. 33 Chevrolet he piloted last season in the Cup Series.

So now Earnhardt, grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt, seven-time Cup champ, and nephew to just retired Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver for the past 15 years, must find a new team. And he needs to do that before the 2018 season begins with Daytona 500 qualifying in February.

JeffEarnhardtCrewTalladegaFile
Jeffrey Earnhardt ran 58 Cup races, including 34 starts last season with Circle Sport/TMG. His career-best finish was 26th. Above, Jeffrey Earnhardt's car is checked after a wreck at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 15, 2017. Albert Cesare AP

“I was shocked to say the least” Jeffrey Earnhardt said in an article posted on his website. After a call and a press release that changed his life, he intends “... to pivot into a new plan.”

But in that same article, Earnhardt seems optimistic that he wasn’t done yet. That’s not all.

“I’m speaking with one team in particular that would be a major upgrade from anything I’ve done in the past and if all goes well it would probably bring a smile to all the Earnhardt race fans out there.”

A tweet in which Earnhardt let his fans know his predicament echoed that positive sentiment, writing “... one door closes for another to open so let’s see what’s behind this door #NeverGiveUp ...”

He’ll have the full support of his popular uncle, naturally.

However, the team Dale Earnhardt Jr. mentions in his tweet as a possible landing site for his nephew, Front Row Motorsports, appears set for 2018.

A day after the tweet, FRM announced its two-driver lineup for the upcoming season. It’s adding Michael McDowell to replace Landon Cassill in the No. 34 Ford, and keeping David Ragan in the No. 38 Ford.

Jeffrey Earnhardt has run 58 Cup races, including 34 starts last season with Circle Sport/TMG. He started 22 races in 2016 for Go Fas Racing.

His career-best finish was 26th, which he accomplished in four races, including the 2017 Daytona 500 and the 2016 Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Follow Mike Reader on Twitter.

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