Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Powerful Image Of Jeffrey Earnhardt On TV


The spectacle of NASCAR racing is a mix of images and sound. Some of the images are majestic and some are powerful because of their simplicity. Tuesday, the folks at NASCAR Now delivered an image that jumped off the TV screen.

Kerry Earnhardt drove in several NASCAR series with mixed success. Ultimately a journeyman driver, Kerry was sometimes called the forgotten Earnhardt with the success of his half-brother Dale Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series.

Now 39 years old, Kerry is the oldest child of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and his first wife. The couple divorced when Kerry was only one. Kerry had very little contact with Dale Sr. until he was in his mid-teens. Now semi-retired, Kerry was on NASCAR Now speaking with host Mike Massaro about a new project he has been working on for a while now.

The project that Kerry was discussing was standing just to his right. The first images of Kerry's son Jeffrey were startling.

Not yet 20, this young man is about to embark on a limited Nationwide Series schedule this season after working up from the sportsman ranks and through the Camping World East Series. To say he is the spitting image of a young Dale Earnhardt Sr. is perhaps an understatement.

"It's a little bit eerie to see him and listen to him talk," said ESPN.com's Terry Blount. He pointed out that Jeffrey is fortunate to have his father Kerry to guide his career. Kerry has seen both the good and bad sides of racing and can provide the kind of firm foundation that neither Dale Sr. or Junior were able to experience.

"We raced together in that Camping World deal," said Jeffrey about Austin Dillon. "We never had any problems and he is a pretty good kid." Dillon is the grandson of Richard Childress and will be going head-to-head with Jeffrey for the Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year title in 2010. Dillon will be driving the black #3 car for Childress. The irony was not lost on Earnhardt.

With a dry smile on his face, Jeffrey added "I hopefully look forward to beating him." It was a smile that brought back memories.

The tone of voice, the mannerisms and the facial features made this interview perhaps a preview of the new face of NASCAR. At a time when the sport needs some additional momentum, especially to help with the crowds at the tracks, having another Earnhardt will only be a plus.

"Is it in the genes?" asked Blount. "We will find out." Jeffrey will debut in Dover at the Monster Mile and run a total of seven Nationwide races in 2009. This will keep his rookie status intact and allow him to run the full 2010 schedule for the rookie title.

Every once and a while something happens on TV that perhaps should be remembered as a reference for months or maybe even years down the road. It would be in the best interest of NASCAR Now to hold onto that interview for some time to come. It might be in the best interest of NASCAR fans just to remember the name Jeffrey Earnhardt.

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34 comments:

Karen said...

No kidding that he looks like a young Dale Sr. Sorry I missed the show.

midasmicah said...

The amazing is that Kerry Earnhardt looked like his dad. Due to marrying young and taking his family seriously, he got a late start in his racing career. Jeffrey Earnhard is the spitting image of Dale SR. Lets hope he has success because nas$car needs a new face for the future.

midasmicah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

at the end of the day, it comes down to equipment,equipement and equipment

majorshouse said...

I hate that I missed it and agree that we need a fresh face in NASCAR and this could be what gets Dale, Jr. off of his butt too.

Anonymous said...

Were there any references about why Jeffrey lost his ride with DEI's East Series team with 2 races to go last year?

stick969 said...

I just hope that Jeffery doesn,t become a victim of the same fate that has befallen Dale Jr.The one where a whole nation demands let alone expects him to be as good as Dale Sr.As for new faces in Nascar am I the only one seeing some outstanding talent in the new faces that nascar has now?

Anonymous said...

I agree about the look of young Jeffrey. But the rest, I don't. I thought Jeffrey had a "deer in the headlights" look. He had no personality. I know that he has been exposed to the media, but he was very blah.

I remember a young Jeff Gordon (about 13-14) being intervied by ESPN and other outlets and being full of energy. We have all seen the same thing with Joey Logano for the last 2-3 years. He is very exciting.

I don't know about Jeffrey. He is just a bit older than Joey, but has been left in the dust by Joey. They competed against each other in 2007, Joey became the champion. Joey was the Rookie of the year. What did Jeffrey get? He was chosen the most popular dirver. Nothing new.

I just feel sorry for the children and grand children of famous drivers. They carry such a burden. I hope Kerry is not trying to live vicariously through his son. Quit pushing him. So far he has not competed well against Joey and was released in favor of Aric Almirola.

I wish him well, but so far in his life, it looks like the hype outdoes the talent.

The Track Girl said...

Other than being perhaps uncomfortable in front of a camera (and what 19 year old kid isn't[ok, not counting Kyle]?) I thought he did pretty good for his debut interview. And the most striking part of the piece for me, was when he wasn't speaking. When Jeffrey was watching the other cars go around the track, you could see the Earnhardt in him.
He'll have to prove himself of course, but I for one can't wait to see how he runs.
It also reminds me of the generation skip between Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr, and Hank III. Hank III is the spitting image of his grandfather- just an interesting side note.
And wow. What fun 2010 is gonna be!

Anonymous said...

After retiring from a lifetime in the Corporate world,I've always been impressed with how well spoken and polished the Cup drivers have been in front of the cameras. Frankly,Kerry and his son son hardly lived up to that image last night. Sure the kid was uncomfortable,but I really felt for him as he struggled through the interview. Sorry,but I call 'em as I see 'em.

Anonymous said...

You only have one chance to make a first impression, to draw attention to one's self. Poor Jeffrey, he did not do well. In this climate of little sponsor money, he missed a great opportunity.

Just look at Joey Logano. Lowe's just loves him. He does not have trouble speaking in front of a camera. This day in age, you have to have it all--talent and the "it" factor.

I wish Jeffrey well, but looks like he has a long way to go to match even Dale Jr.

Dot said...

I'll probably get shot for writing this comment but, here goes. I think Jeffrey is going to struggle because his last name is Earnhardt. He has alot to live up to. Ask JR. I'm sure Kerry realizes this too.

If I were Jeffrey, I would use a different last name. Correct me if I'm wrong but, wasn't Kerry adopted by the man who married his mom?

@ Anon 9:21, was it Jeffrey? I read recently that one of the "kids" wasn't living up to expectations, and not just on the racetrack either. Anybody know who I'm talking about? I can't remember the name. I don't think it was Jeffrey.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I think some of you are way off-base. In this era of spit-and-polish corporate spokesman who also drive race cars, this kid had the rough nature and the devilish grin that attracted fans to his father from the start.

Earnhardt Sr. was beyond rough in his first moments with the media, especially TV. That was a big part of his draw.

As some folks said, it should be interesting to see how all this shakes-out on the track.

JD

The Track Girl said...

Anon. I definitely know what you are talking about as far as NASCAR's groomed youngsters and well heeled drivers.
On the other hand, isn't that one of the things that we've been looking for? A return to some "real" people? Logano sure knows how to do a commercial, but he hasn't figured out how to race with the big boys yet. (I don't believe that's entirely his fault..but that's another subject.)
If, as fans, we are looking for the pieces of our sport that connect us back to the racing- and not the marketing angle, maybe these awkward youngsters are the first steps. Note that he didn't hide behind sunglasses either...
Of course, I don't know how good of driver he is. We'll have to wait and see.
I'm not arguing against your point, I agree that presentation is a big part of the sport. Just saying that maybe a few more down to earth drivers is what we need.
And @Dot- I agree. Dragging the Earnhardt name around is a heavy load. And just wait until Austin Dillon shows up in the 3. That'll be interesting.

Kevin in SoCal said...

Does Jeffrey have his cousin lined up to be crew chief, yet?

Lesley said...

I remember after John lennon died,We all needed Julien lennon to fill his spot for a while..Well he did, but after time we were ok again, and so went Julien...I hope the same analogy doesnt happen with Dale Jr!!

Dot said...

@ Lesley,
Great point.

@ Kevin in SoCal,
You're killing me.

@ JD,
How do you think SR would come across now if he was just starting out? It IS spit and polish these days vs the good ol' boy days. For better or worse. I think Jeff Gordon gets the credit for that.

Anonymous said...

When Dale Sr started, there was practically no tv. This is a brand new environment. Most drivers depend on sponsors for their chance to race. For all the bad press Jeff Gordon gets, up until this year, Jeff had been the highest paid driver for a long time. Even when he competed against Dale Sr, he made more.

Jeff is the first driver to have earned over $100 million dollars in race winnings and he makes even more on special services contracts.

I kinda feel sorry for Jeffrey. I don't know what he was doing as a little kid, but he was not winning races. On the other hand Joey Logano, has been a champion since he was 6 years old. Then last year he won a Nationwide race on his 3rd race! Joey was not due to start Cup this year, but when Tony quit, Gibbs had no choice.

In the end I hope Jeffrey is judged by his wins and not by his famous name.

Anonymous said...

to Dot,

You are right. Kerry was adopted by Jack Key and did not see Dale Sr much til he was about 16. I kinda feel sorry for Kerry, knowing his dad gave up parental rights to another man.

Vicky D said...

Finally go to see the recorded show. I don't see the resemblance to Sr. in either of them. Jeffrey looks more like a guy I work with than any of the Earnhardts and this guy at my office is strangely named Jeff Gordon. True! I thought they went on and on and on about it.

Newracefan said...

I've heard many say Jeffrey looks like SR I'm sure someone will soon be putting equal age pictures side by side and we will truly be able to tell. To be honest I think Joey was given better stuff to drive then Jeffrey but to be honest I'd rather see him peak later than at 19. I also think he will attract more of SR's or old school fans in general if he doesn't become polished. I am OK with polished I'm a HMS/48 fan but I have friends that like the old school approach. Perhaps just a little training but not too much.

Dot said...

To Anon 6:25,

Thank you. If I were Jack Key, I would be hurt that Kerry and family are not using my last name.

I agree with you about Kerry feeling abandoned. But what a lucky kid to find a dad to take up the slack. I'm glad that he and SR met up before he died.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, "beyond rough" = outstanding, 4 stars.
He had so much success on track that I don't think the Big E gets enough credit for what he accomplished off track. I did not get a chance to watch the show, but the picture above sure does resemble the early Ironhead.

Anonymous said...

So Joey had better equipment than the whole universe of kids racing? I mean he has been a champion of every category of race series he has been in since he was 6 years old!!!

He still holds the record at Atlanta Motor Speedway for 14 consecutive wins in Legend Cars. I mean I think one could say that any driver that wins 14 races IN A ROW possibly has SOME talent!!!

When Jeff Gordon raced head to head with Dale Sr. Jeff beat him. So do people think Jeff had better equipment and that's why he won so much? I think Joey will be another Jeff Gordon.

Anonymous said...

I don't think many people that follow racing would call Kyle Busch or Tony Stewart, "Madison Ave polished". But they sure know how to express themselves before a camera.

Dan said...

Don't forget Dale Sr. wasn't that great when he first started.Joey is showing it takes alot to compete at the top series no matter who you drive for.

Lesley said...

Its to bad for joey that he had to come in to the nascar era with someone like Kyle Bush...Its just not going to happen for Joey..Penskes Justin Alguire will be the next guy...Joey is to young,smiles way to much,and has had It to easy...I wish him and Joe Gibbs the best,but It was a mistake! Thanks in part to Randy Lajoy and his sliced bread comment..Joe Gibbs and home depot will have a lot to talk about in the near future...Sorry! Bad move JGR!!

tiamatsrevenge said...

People should closely watch the special "The Ride of Their Lives" ...

There's a segment where Jeff Gordon is sitting & talking with his stepdad, Mr Bickford ... about "how" he made sure to train Jeff to perform in front of the cameras as well as on the track ... by starting him out with the press at the midget races ... So, when Jeff hit NASCAR, he was very polished and that's what the media chose to play up as one of his differences compared to Dale Sr ...

Tom Logano has tried to do the exact same thing with Joey ... But, Joey's got to learn to stop grinning sooo much as he loses his credibility when people find out the back story to his success ... Joe Gibbs had other choices & did NOT have to put Joey in a full-time Cup ride this season ... Blaming Tony Stewart for leaving is a cop-out ...


Kerry Earnhardt & his wife (Jeffrey's stepmom) tried hard to keep Jeffrey OUT of racing ... They didn't want to see Jeffrey get unfairly compared to his grandfather & try to live up to the family name ... They wanted him to live a life outside of NASCAR ... But, Jeffrey wouldn't have any of that because he IS an Earnhardt & has racing in his blood ...

Jeffrey got pulled from the East Series race at Dover last year because DEI wanted to give Aric Almirola more seat time ... Unfortunately for Jeffrey, Aric went out & won the race ... But, the DEI East equipment was not as good as the JGR equipment that Joey had ... Marc Davis didn't even get the same quality equipment from JGR that Joey had ...


IF I had to do an interview with Terry Blount, I'd probably get the "deer caught in the headlights" look too ... There's just something about Blount that bugs me ...

Anonymous said...

To tiamatsrevenge,

What other choices did Gibbs have when Tony left??? Joey was already under contract. If Gibbs gave the ride to someone else, he would have to have a 4 team. I bet dollars to doughnuts he's glad he only has 3 teams.

Anonymous said...

I would not say that Kerry tried to keep Jeffrey out of racing. After all Kerry enrolled Jeffrey in a development program to identify future racers. I think that's a bit much. Those slots should be for kids who have never had a chance to race, not the grandson of a fute Hall of Fame racer.

But if in fact Kerry would not permit Jeffrey to race and Jeffrey begged, that shows the type of person Kerry is.

Both Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano entered the sport the right way. They won races. They showed their talent out in the track. Both competed with drivers that were older. Neither came from a racing family that "opened" doors for them. They did it the hard way--they earned it.

No one in the racing part of the Earnhardt family is supporting Jeffrey's latest entry into the sport. Neither DEI nor Dale Jr. I think they just don't see the talent there.

What you have to compete with now are drivers who have been racing since they were 5-7 years old. It does not matter what they were racing. You have a hard time, and not much success this time in life, to start racing at 19-20.

Newracefan said...

Dover just sent me an email telling me that Jeffery Earnhardt will make his NW debut in Dover. The marketing machine has already started hopefully he doesn't get crushed by it.

Anonymous said...

I think Kerry looks more like his dad than Jeffrey looks like his grandfather----Kerry is the spitting image.

BTW, anonymous 2:12, Joey Logano isn't sponsored by Lowes, he's in the Home Depot car. Lowes is Jimmie Johnson's sponsor.

Joe Gibbs had other choices other than Logano for one season. There are a lot of unemployed drivers out there, and seeing how poorly Logano has been performing this season, anyone else could have done better.

Anonymous said...

anon@7.27

It's easy to be Monday-morning-quarterback. But you cannot even come up with ONE name of a driver Gibbs could have hired (though you claim there a lot). I sure cannot think of one of the unemployed he should have hired. NOT ONE.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I followed your grandfather and your uncle until he went to the hendrick stable. i look foward to following you.
earnhardt2themax@aol.com