After just five races together, Jeffrey Earnhardt has parted ways with StarCom Racing. The news was announced by Earnhardt’s public relations team Jeffrey Earnhardt Inc. on Facebook in the hours following Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
“Wanted to let everyone know that tonight was Jeffrey’s last race with the 00 team,” the Facebook post said.
“They are wonderful people and we’re very appreciative to have had the opportunity to work with them and begin the 2018 season. Jeffrey & JEI will be exploring other options and working on some new sponsorship programs. There’s some very exciting news on the horizon and we’re confident you’ll be pleased with the outcome. Strategic pause time.”
Earnhardt, a 28-year-old fourth generation NASCAR driver, joined StarCom’s #00 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the full 2018 season. In five races together, Earnhardt finished twenty-first (Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway), thirty-fourth (Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway), thirty-first (Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), thirty-fifth (TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway), and thirty-sixth (Fontana). At the time, Earnhardt was thirty-third in points, the lowest position among drivers who had contested all five races so far in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
In a Twitter conversation, Jeffrey Earnhardt Inc. Vice President Nikko Lavey clarified Earnhardt had not been released by StarCom, but was simply scheduled to run just the first five races. “We had program for first 5 races and now will explore all options moving forward. They’re super people and friendships are strong. Mutual pause.”
In 2015, Earnhardt made his Cup Series debut for Go Fas Racing on a two-race schedule. He increased his slate for 2016 to twenty-two races for GFR and BK Racing, recording a best finish of twenty-sixth at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the fall. For the 2017 season, he signed with Circle Sport/The Motorsports Group to drive the #33 car in every race minus the road courses, where Boris Said piloted the car. He finished thirty-sixth in the standings that year, the worst of drivers who ran at least half the schedule.
Prior to racing in NASCAR’s top level, he had run the full 2014 Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) schedule for JD Motorsports after making sporadic starts in the series. He had six top-twenty finishes, including a best run of twelfth at Bristol Motor Speedway, as he concluded the year with an eighteenth-place points finish. The nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and grandson of Dale Earnhardt began his NASCAR career in the Busch East Series (now K&N Pro Series East) in 2007, where he finished fifth in points.
A replacement in the #00 for the upcoming STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway and beyond has not been announced. As the #00 has a charter, it is guaranteed a spot in all thirty-six Cup races for 2018. StarCom also operates the part-time #99 car for team manager Derrike Cope, though it has yet to make its debut in 2018.