On Saturday, July 7th, Nine Line sponsored the #7 car driven by Dale Earnhardt's grandson, Jeffrey. At just 29 years old, this man represents all that is great in our country. Despite coming from a legendary family and racing in Nascar’s Cup series, Jeffrey humbly stopped to meet every fan as we made our way to the track on race day. When he was asked by reporters to comment about his grandfather, Jeffrey politely responded, “Today is not about my grandfather. It's about Nine Line Foundation and what they represent.” He understood that the purpose of the sponsorship was to raise money and awareness for veteran initiatives, something about which he genuinely cares.
As he shimmied into the Nine Line car, we all understood that the possibility of him finishing 1st was nearly impossible. Top tier teams have $40 million annual budgets on average, and our team simply did not have a comparable car. The engine was used and had significantly less horsepower, but Jeffrey had a plan. His pit crew explained the strategy, and it took me back to the days of planning contingency operations in the military. Jeffrey knew he would have to navigate through wreckage while pushing the absolute limits of the vehicle.
Within the first hour of start time, there were a half dozen vehicles taken out in a multi-car pileup. We cringed as we watched Jeffrey zig and zag through the carnage of twisted metal with incredible finnes. As a pilot, I fully appreciate the need to balance risk and grit in order to earn a victory. Overseas, we flew low and fast to avoid small arms fire, but flying too fast or too low could have devastating consequences, equal to that of taking a round through the windshield. Much like flying choppers, NASCAR drivers must play a balancing act of pushing the envelope while maintaining control. During the entirety of the race, I watched Jeff repeatedly push himself and his car to the edge, in order to pull off what I can only describe as Daytona’s unsung victory.
Despite driving a car that averaged 10-20 MPH slower than the pack leaders, Jeffrey still managed to cross the finish line milliseconds away from a top ten position. This was a career best for Jeffrey, proving he has the skills and metaphoric “cojones” to compete with the top drivers.
I am very new to the sport and likely should not comment on his potential, but I can attest that Jeffrey possesses the grit and determination similar to that of the Special Operations community in which I once served. While the creed from my unit is representative of military service, I feel it represents Jeffrey very well in that he “serves with the memory and pride of those who came before him, for they loved to fight, fought to win, and would rather die than quit.”
We at Nine Line are extremely proud to partner with Jeffrey, and I’m confident that his grandfather is smiling down knowing the Earnhardt legacy will continue on for a third generation.