Dale Earnhardt Jr. invests in the short track CARS Tour

JR Motorsports uses cars in short-distance touring series because the team is co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. loves the grassroots feel and believes the talented riders, competing in relative anonymity, deserve more attention.

So it’s no surprise that he’s part of the new ownership group that bought Southeast-based CARS Tour, which features some of the best late-model and late-model stock riders.

He has a few well-known friends who join him in the ownership group: current Cup driver Kevin Harvick, former Cup driver Jeff Burton, and Cup team owner (and former driver) Justin Marks.

What can these four partners do for drivers who have a similar problem Josh Berrywho struggled in similar series for several years before finally breaking through with JRM in the Xfinity series? Can they accelerate their climb up the NASCAR National Series ranks? Or can they make the series one where drivers who are too old to move can at least make a good living at it?

“Both things are needed,” Harvick said. “We all want the show to get the exposure that comes with Josh Berrys being as recognized as it can be in the world. Even though it’s coming from the team owners in the Cup Series, when you’re having the conversations, ‘Hey, have you seen that kid’s race?’ and it’s important to be able to give good feedback on who’s coming through the system.

“You need both sides of the fence to have a healthy line of longtime veterans to teach the young kids how to race.”

Earnhardt said he felt the series was already doing a good job in many areas and didn’t want to upset the momentum or change course. He just wants to help promote and build it. The series started in 2014 and continues to be run daily by Jack McNelly and Keeley Dubensky.

“We obviously want to shine as big as possible,” Earnhardt said. “And I think we can do that in the future. … We hope this series will be viewed as a place where you can receive that recognition to take advantage of those future opportunities.

“It’s already happening. We just want to make the light a little bit brighter.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr at North Wilkesboro Speedway

Dale Earnhardt Jr. explains how he ended up competing in the latest generation stock car as part of the revival of North Wilkesboro Speedway, which hosted a CARS Tour race last year.

Each of the four has ties to grassroots sport. Earnhardt uses cars, as does Harvick, whose Kevin Harvick Inc. brokers sponsorship deals and represents drivers, including some young drivers. Burton serves as Executive Director of a NASCAR Cup Drivers’ Council. Marks is expanding his Trackhouse racing team to include content development and also sponsors young drivers.

“To shed as much light as possible on it and build the fanbase and build the platform that it’s on – that ultimately attracts good economics for the sport and good partners for the sport,” Marks said.

“It gives you the opportunity, whatever your goal, to have an easier way to get there.”

Marks said his commitment isn’t necessarily to start generating content on a Trackhouse platform, but rather to finding ways to get people interested in grassroots sport.

“It’s just about contributing ideas and concepts and thinking creatively about how to build something that’s compelling and interestingly produced racing on whatever platform it’s on,” said Marks.

Earnhardt stated that investing in short track racing will not affect decisions on whether JR Motorsports decides to add Cup Series racing to its stable (JRM currently fields four cars in the Xfinity Series).

“I don’t think it affects other business ventures that I have. … The other things I intend to do with my life should continue successfully,” Earnhardt said. “We like all these opportunities to complement each other.”

And right after saying that, he indicated that he will still drive in the series once or twice a year. Both Earnhardt and Harvick feel they can contribute more by continuing to race.

“The great thing about the four of us is that we can find ways to weave what we’re already doing into the CARS Tour,” said Earnhardt. “It just creates a lot of opportunities to showcase some of our current partners to the brand and the CARS Tour as well as short distance racing and grassroots sport.

“I’ve already had a number of text messages from partners who have expressed interest in getting involved and how they can support me.”

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think out loud

With Kevin Harvick announcing his retirement at the end of the 2023 season, there is talk of which driver Stewart-Haas Racing could sign the leader of the organization, the one who wins the most races and fights for titles.

Maybe the answer to the question about the next SHR star is already on the way for SHR.

sleep no more Hunt Briscoe. He had six top 10 finishes in the last seven races of the season. After two crashes, he averaged an 8.5 in the playoffs – despite all the pressure, being among the last eight riders to qualify for the championship. In the overall standings, he finished ninth overall.

Does Briscoe need to be more consistent? Yes. He only had 10 top 10 finishes (six top 5 finishes) all year. He only led 280 laps. But he’s entering his third full-time Cup season, with riders often finding their groove in the top series.

He raced half a season in Xfinity in 2018 and won a race, then won a race in a full season in 2019. In 2020 he blossomed as he won nine races.

So don’t be surprised if Briscoe wins multiple times and is a factor in deciding the 2023 cup winners.

social spotlight

Statistics of the day

Ryan Blaneywho didn’t win a points race in 2022, led laps in 25 races, the most of any driver on the NASCAR circuit.

You said so

“I’ve dreamed of this since I was a kid – probably before I ever drove Spirit Cars. The Indy 500 was probably always my dad’s special race. I just remember him as a kid always (said), ‘You gotta try to run the Indy 500.'” Kyle Larson about racing at the Indy 500 2024

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsport, including the past 30 Daytona 500, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene Magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpock breedand sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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