Toyota Racing – Jeffrey Earnhardt
NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS)
Chicagoland Speedway – June 28, 2019
XCI Racing driver Jeffrey Earnhardt was made available to the media in Chicago:
Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 81 Comcast NBC Universal Salute to Service Toyota Supra, XCI Racing
What is your thoughts on Chicagoland?
“It’s a big fast oval. One of the few race tracks that we go to that you can run all over. There is multiple racing grooves, different ways that you can attack the race track. It’s really cool to be able to come to a track like this. It’s cool as a driver when you can move around and try to find more speed in the car.”
How is your team coming around?
“It’s good. Getting to work with the guys on the team is great. We are getting a lot of help from Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota; it is a huge plus. I have spent a lot of time in the simulator. You get off weekends, and it’s easy to get a little rust on you. It’s good to be able to get on the simulator and stay fresh. We got on it earlier this week to help prepare for this weekend. I feel like we made some really good gains on the simulator that hopefully we can translate to the race this weekend.”
How has this season been a lift to your career?
“It has been huge. In my opinion, it’s every driver’s dream to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing. With Xtreme Concepts Racing having Joe Gibbs Racing support is incredible. You go out every weekend knowing you are racing for the win, where previously a good day for me was 25th and I was trying to take care of the car. Now, if I don’t leave it all on the line, they get mad at me. It has been a change, but it has been a good chance. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to drive up there and showcase my talents because people were starting to doubt you and wonder if you can do it. I’m very fortunate and appreciative of the opportunity that I have given. I really want to capitalize on it and get that win this year. We’ve been close and had some good runs, but I want to put it all together and put the car in Victory Lane. That’s what we are working towards, and with the races we have left, I think we will find victory lane in one of them or a few of them.”
Your mile-and-a-half program has been really strong this year. Can you lean on any of those setups here in Chicago?
“I feel like Chicago is different. It’s such a multi-groove racetrack. You can really make speed in different ways here. I would compare this to a Michigan, where you have the seams you have to worry about. You can run right up by the wall and be really, really fast. The past two races Kyle Larson has put it on running the fence, that is a good way to make speed here. There’s not a whole lot of tracks that you can do that. (Justin) Allgaier was fast and he won in 2017 here by running the bottom. There’s multiple different ways that you can attack this weekend to run well. I don’t know if any of the mile-and-a-halves that we have run you can quite use to compare. It’s really good to know that you have run well at these tracks and capitalize on them.”
What is your favorite type of track?
“I like small tracks. I like the concrete tracks, so Dover and Bristol. Luckily, I get to run the fall Bristol race so I’m excited about that. I’ll be in the No. 81 Xtreme Concepts car there, so I’m really looking forward to that race. But the mile-and-a-halves are fun. I used to not be a really big fan of them, but when you are in good equipment, every race becomes fun. It makes a world of a difference to have a good handling car. If you have a bad handling car, it’s going to be a bad day no matter what. Having good equipment, I’m finding myself loving every track. I used to hate Atlanta, but I went this year and I loved it. It makes a big difference when you have a good car.”
You are running the No. 81 at Daytona. How excited are you to run in a good car there?
“I’m looking to go back and finish what we started. We started the race very strong, and unfortunately, did not get the finish that we deserved. We had a really fast car for qualifying; we qualified second. We ran out front the first segment of the race. I think if you look at what we were able to do at Talladega. We didn’t qualify as good, but we had a lot of strengths in other areas. We were able to run up front, fall to the back and race our way back to the front. As a driver, I gained a lot of experience and bettered myself as a plate racer. I feel like that is going to be that much better getting back to Daytona. I am looking forward to going there.”
Can you talk about your sponsor Xtreme Concepts? They are really driving this team.
“Our partnership started a little over a year ago at Charlotte in the Cup race. They came on as an associate sponsor. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time together that weekend, but he took a really big liking to me. The things I have got to do and the things they believe in are similar to me. We started talking and they said they wanted to put me in a car where you can go and win races. We talked about it and obviously, Joe Gibbs is a program that you can win at. We went from running nine races with Gibbs to running nine races with them plus six races with Xtreme Concepts Racing. It all just snowballed to where it became a whole program where they started their own race team and working to be a competitive factor in the sport with their own team. It is really cool how it all came together. It has been an incredible partnership thus far. The believe that Landon Ash, the owner of Xtreme Concepts, has in me has been incredible, and has given me the opportunity to do incredible things with supporting our military and seeing what goes on with the service dog training. It has been really incredible to a part of that.”
What is the next step for the future?
“We want to be full-time in one of the top three series next year, preferably Xfinity or Cup, but we are going to see how the rest of this year goes. I think we are going to be able to achieve it, but it is a process. Especially coming together how quick it did, we are trying to push. We are running before we walk, so it is going to be a process. We are working on getting all that figured out. Knowing what we are capable of for next year, you have goals and then you have to see what is realistic. That is what we are working towards right now.”