TALLADEGA, Ala. — This may sound familiar: An Earnhardt-powered black No. 3 captured the pole at Talladega Superspeedway.
Driving the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Jeffrey Earnhardt topped the qualifying leaderboard Friday. Jeffrey is the grandson of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt, who made the No. 3 iconic.
“I‘m taking the moment in, man,” Jeffrey said. “I‘d be lying if I said there was no pressure, honestly. What the black No. 3 means to me is, you know, the champion, the man himself, my grandpa. He was my superhero.
“So, there‘s definitely pressure. But I‘m just honored to even have this opportunity to be out here in this car.”
The P1 starting position for Saturday‘s Ag-Pro 300 (4 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM) marks Jeffrey‘s first pole in 135 career starts. Jeffrey has competed in four races so far in 2022, posting a best finish of 13th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which used the same rules configuration that will be in place for Talladega.
Of his 22 career poles in the NASCAR Cup Series, Dale put his No. 3 out front 17 times total from 1985-96, three of which came at Talladega. Sixty-seven of his 76 wins came in the No. 3, including nine of his 10 total at Talladega.
“It‘s been pretty amazing,” team owner Richard Childress said. “Just to see the black 3 car back on the track with an Earnhardt in it, it‘s just kind of touching to me anyway because I was always a big Earnhardt fan. And this is Earnhardt country.”
Dale‘s crew chief is back, too. Larry McReynolds, now a FOX Sports broadcaster, will be atop the pit box this weekend for Jeffrey, making his return after nearly 22 years away. McReynolds has 23 NASCAR Cup Series wins to his name, including a Daytona 500 victory with Dale in 1998.
“It‘s cool to be back down here,” McReynolds said, “trust me.”
Jeffrey‘s best-career result in the NASCAR Xfinity Series dates back to 2019 — third at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Mooresville, North Carolina, native has made nine starts at Talladega, with a 12th-place high in 2015. He averages a 21.3 finish around the 2.66-mile Alabama track.
This is his first-ever run with Richard Childress Racing.
“It‘s incredible,” Jeffrey said. “It just really has me speechless. I didn‘t… This is what we hoped to happen, but I didn‘t know for sure that I would be capable of it. Obviously Richard brings fast cars and I feel like I‘m a good driver, but you never know until you‘re given the opportunity. I think we were able to put it all together today and hopefully we can do the same tomorrow.”