One of the drivers set to take on Pocono, and it’s expansive three turn design, is Bobby Dale Earnhardt who was cleared for racing on Superspeedways by ARCA officials after testing on Wednesday. After cutting his teeth in an ARCA car on several short tracks for Hixson Motorsports the driver is looking forward to racing at Pocono – although in a different ride.
For the Pocano race on Friday Earnhardt, grandson of Dale Earnhardt Sr and son of Kerry Earnhardt, will be behind the wheel of the No. 96 Veedverks / Superior Walls by Advance Concrete out of the Brian Kaltreider Racing garage.
“I tested at Pocono and have been cleared to race,” Earnhardt said during our interview. “And I have to thank everyone that’s helped me get to this point. This ride came together fast with Brian Kaltreider - and with the sign off by ARCA I’m hoping to continue my ARCA Series starts on more tracks.”
Earnhardt raced two short tracks under the Hixson Motorsports in their No. 3 Chevy but with Brian Kaltreider Racing he’ll roll off the grid behind the wheel of a Ford powered by a Roush-Yate powerplant! Wait... did you feel that? Fans of the Earnhardt family may have just felt a rumble roll across the racing world as “Chevy” has long been the favored manufacture of Earnhardt rides. It’s a point not lost on Earnhardt.
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll get some ribbing from my family – probably from my fans as well – you can count on it! But it will be in fun.” Earnhardt said. “But, I’m so grateful for Brian (BKR) for the Pocono opportunity - and the crew at Hixson Motorsports – and the fans that have gotten behind me... I think at this point driving a Ford after two races in a Chevy will be fine - as I continue to learn and make my way up the racing ladder. I think that... if any car manufacture... is involved in stock car racing... providing jobs, supporting our sport, then they are certainly good by me.”
Working Towards Pocono
Earnhardt raced in the smaller ARCA Truck series several years back where he competed for Rookie of the Year honors. With the move to the faster, and larger, ARCA Series cars he’s quickly become a fan favorite garnishing long lines during driver autograph sessions. He noted his fans while addressing the difference between a short track and racing at Pocono.
“Pocono is a whole different animal – for one thing I’m going about 70 – 80 miles an hour faster than any short track. The three-turn design, corners, long straight-a-ways – make it so different,” Earnhardt said. “And I’ve been learning as I go. That’s what’s been great about all the fans that I’ve met. Everyone has been so supportive – wishing me luck and watching me grow. Some bring up my grandfather, dad, uncle Dale, and my brother Jeffrey... but after we talk they seem to realize I’m not trying to fill anyone’s shoes but my own. I’m doing this all one step at a time. I think my fans appreciate that.”
That one step at a time attitude is one thing that Earnhardt is trying to get the word out about. Many may think that with a name like Earnhardt that somebody would instantly write a check or roll out the cash. Earnhardt points out the fact that when it comes to racing - Earnhardt’s have always had to prove their worth behind the wheel.
“It’s well known that my great grandfather made my grandpa earn his salt on the track,” Earnhardt said. “Then that’s the way grandpa introduced my dad (Kerry) and uncle Dale into the sport. The same is true for Jeffrey and myself. If we want to do this – the we have to go out and do this -work for it. I really think it’s a great lesson.”
Earnhardt was quick to point out that his racing family has been incredibly supportive. And, when Bobby has been working as a crew member for NASCAR Xfinity teams such such as MBM Racing he’s right there with family. Even if it’s as simple as hitching a ride back from a race on his uncle’s plane.
Part of the lesson about making your own path, and working hard in racing, includes the fact that Bobby Dale Earnhardt says it makes you appreciate every penny in a race team budget. This is something learned when he’s been out fundraising and building relationships.
“Every person that has opened their wallet to help me deserves a big THANK-YOU! Every dollar counts,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been blessed with a few sponsors helping out in a big way – and I hope to grow that. But, people tell me all of the time – I wish I could do something – or do more. They can, anything from a couple of bucks, a couple of hundred bucks, a thousand, and more... every sponsorship no matter how small helps – a twenty-dollar bill buys some lunch for crew at the track – many of which are volunteering their time. Everything helps.”
With his start at Pocono, Earnhardt makes his opportunity to continue in ARCA even more possible as well as the next goal of starting in a NASCAR Xfinity car. It’s something that may happen in 2017 according to the driver. His growing skills as a personal marketer for his efforts kicked in.
About the Author: Kent Whitaker, also known as “The Deck Chef,” is a culinary writer and cookbook author. He’s also penned Young Reader and History titles. The former winner of the Emeril Live Food Network Barbecue Contest also covers football, motor-sports, and bass fishing. Kent currently lives in East Tennessee with his wife, son, and a couple of dogs that love when he fires up the smoker or grill.