Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the NASCAR team owner, not the driver – offered a glimpse Saturday into how difficult it is to field a race team these days.
Earnhardt had just watched two of his JR Motorsports drivers successfully compete in the Virginia529 College Savings 250 Xfinity Series race at Richmond International Raceway. Chase Elliott won and moved into second place in the Xfinity standings. Josh Berry finished seventh in what will be his only race on the circuit this season.
Elliott’s team is fully sponsored. But it’s another story for Berry, 24, a promising driver from Hendersonville, Tenn., who races a Late Model car for JR Motorsports and is a regular at Hickory Motor Speedway.
Until a sponsor steps forward, Berry will remain in racing’s minor leagues.
“We’d love to get him more opportunities to race, but if just really comes down to finding a partner who wants to handle the expense to take the car to the track every weekend,” said Earnhardt. “I’m ready to race Josh every week, we just have to find a partner that’s excited to be on board with Josh.”
By “partner,” Earnhardt means “sponsor,” of course. Funding an Xfinity team isn’t cheap, reportedly in the neighborhood of $10 million per year (which is about half of what it costs to field a Sprint Cup team).
“He’s like a lot of these guys – just one sponsorship away from being able to make a living as a race car driver,” said Earnhardt. “He’s got the talent and the ability and – I’m telling you – he’s just one domino away. If that domino falls, I think it’s something that will work and he’ll make it work. I know he can do it.
“You never know who might have been watching the race. You never know who might want to be involved in a company like JR Motorsports or even not knowing there’s an opportunity. There’s a lot of people out there that may assume we’re full and we’ve got all the sponsors and partners we need. Someone might see that there’s an opportunity and call us up and show some interest in Josh and further his career.”