Veteran driver Jeffrey Earnhardt continues to add starts to his 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule. He will now join Sam Hunt Racing for an additional event, the July 9 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (5 p.m. ET, USA).
Sam Hunt Racing dropped in that piece of news in a pre-race advance. The team confirmed that Earnhardt had added Atlanta to his existing schedule, which also includes the June 25 race at Nashville Superspeedway. Earnhardt’s final scheduled start for SHR is the September 16 trip to Bristol Motor Speedway.
Earnhardt’s part-time schedule in 2022 has already featured five starts with SHR. He joined the team at Daytona International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Interestingly enough, his best finish was a 13th-place run during the first trip to Atlanta.
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Earnhardt Will First Make His Series Debut at Another Track
Prior to joining SHR for the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Earnhardt will make his series debut at another track. He will take over the No. 26 Toyota Supra at Nashville Superspeedway after failing to qualify for the Xfinity Series race in 2021.
With Earnhardt running full-time for JD Motorsports with Gary Keller in 2021, SHR relied on a different driver. Will Rodgers drove the No. 26 Toyota, and he qualified 14th overall at the 1.33-mile concrete track. The Hawaii native avoided incidents and finished 14th with Good RX as his primary partner.
“I’m really excited to be headed to Nashville,” Earnhardt said in the press release. “I have always loved racing on concrete tracks and excited to go there with the Sam Hunt Racing team. We have had speed everywhere we went this season, we just have to put one together and keep that ForeverLawn GR Supra up front all day long. We’ll carry that momentum into Atlanta which the great people at Foreverlawn just added to the schedule with SHR. I’m excited to head back to capitalize on our 13th-place finish there earlier this year.“
Earnhardt’s Return to Atlanta Will Feature Very Different Conditions
The first race at Atlanta Motor Speedway resulted in a strong finish for SHR, especially considering that Earnhardt avoided seven incidents that brought out the caution flag. He gained crucial experience at the reconfigured track, but there is no guarantee that it will directly translate to the July race.
“When I talk to the drivers and crew chiefs, they feel like Atlanta is going to look the same as it looked in the spring. I question that,” NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton told media members during a conference call on June 21.
“It’s going to be really hot, and I know that it’s new asphalt and I know that it’s all those things, but I still question with that extreme heat we will probably see if we don’t end up with some handling issues ultimately at the end of the day.”
Burton was primarily speaking about the Next Gen cars, but his point also applies to the Xfinity Series. The drivers will still have to contend with heat, a slick track, and other conditions that could lead to even more incidents. It will be up to the drivers and teams to adapt to the changing track surface during both practice and the early stages of the Xfinity Series races.