There will be an Earnhardt in the Daytona 500 for the 40th-straight year.
Jeffrey Earnhardt will drive in the Feb. 18 race for StarCom Racing. The team has a charter leased from Richard Childress Racing and is guaranteed one of the 40 starting positions in the 500.
Earnhardt, the grandson of Dale Earnhardt and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., drove the Circle Sport/TMG No. 33 car in 2017. But Circle Sport and TMG parted ways at the end of the season, leaving Earnhardt without a ride for 2018.
With Junior’s retirement and a lack of a ride for Jeffrey, it looked for a while the upcoming Daytona 500 would be the first since 1978 without an Earnhardt participating.
Enter StarCom, which attempted the first three races of its existence in 2017 with Derrike Cope behind the wheel. The team was a non-factor in each of those three races, so expecting Earnhardt to run up front during the 500 is quite a stretch.
But hey, it had enough money to lease a charter that RCR wasn’t going to use. With the departure of Paul Menard to the Wood Brothers No. 21 car in 2018, RCR has downsized to two cars in 2018 and had no use for the charter, which is essentially an ownership certificate.
The charter system was designed to give mainstay teams something of value for their NASCAR efforts and there are 36 chartered teams for 40 starting spots in every Cup Series race. But with teams like RCR, Roush and Richard Petty Motorsports downsizing in recent years and a lack of new teams entering the Cup Series, charters aren’t insanely scarce, allowing teams brave enough to enter a sport with a low profit ceiling to secure one.
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