Jeffrey Earnhardt and Stanton Barrett will be behind Monster Energy Cup Series cars for the first time in 2019 on Sunday. The two will respectively drive the #81 Toyota Camry and #52 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for XCI Racing and Rick Ware Racing in the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Earnhardt’s entry with XCI Racing will mark the latter’s first foray into Cup Series racing. The team was formed in February as an ally of Joe Gibbs Racing, who is fielding the #18 part-time for Earnhardt in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, with plans to run the two Talladega Cup races. In late March, the team made its first national series start in the Xfinity Series’ My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway, where Earnhardt finished eighth. In three 2019 Xfinity starts so far, Earnhardt has two top tens.
In 2018, Earnhardt ran seventeen Cup races with StarCom Racing, Premium Motorsports, and Gaunt Brothers Racing with a best finish of eleventh at Daytona International Speedway in the summer.
A stuntman and film director, Barrett has twenty-three Cup starts to his name since 1999. After last attempting Cup races in 2008 (with his latest start being in 2006), he did not return to the series until 2018 when he joined Ware for the Bank of America Roval 400, where he finished fortieth after a crash.
On 16 April, Barrett teased his Cup return on Twitter:
“I’m glad to be back at the race track this weekend,” Barrett stated in a team release. “I’ve been super busy with my companies, but it’s exciting to come back to NASCAR and not only bring a new sponsor (Huski Chocolate) to the sport – but one that is sure to resonate with NASCAR fans.”
Earnhardt has four career Cup starts at Talladega with a best run of twenty-eighth in the spring event in 2017. Barrett has never raced at a superspeedway in his Cup career, but has a fifteenth-place run in the 1999 Xfinity race at Talladega.