Jeffrey Earnhardt: Back to Fighting Form by Indianapolis

Jeffrey Earnhardt: Back to Fighting Form by Indianapolis

by July 18, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Kyle Pokrefky

JOLIET, Ill. — Great news for Jeffrey Earnhardt (JD Motorsports) fans, the fourth-generation driver is healing quicker than expected from his shoulder injury and should be back to running full races by next week in Indianapolis.

Earnhardt broke his collarbone after a motorcycle accident leading up to the Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona just a little over two weeks ago but refused to fully sit-out races. Earnhardt started at both Daytona and Loudon last week but pitted underneath the first caution in both races to let Matt Dibendetto race his No. 4 Chevrolet. With Earnhardt starting both races, he still earned points towards the drivers’ championship – Earnhardt is currently 17th in the drivers’ standings, 298 points out of the lead.

Earnhardt was able to provide an insight into his recovery at Chicagoland prior to strapping into his No. 4 machine for first practice for the

“It’s healing up, it’s a little sore,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been trying to take it as easy as possible to make it heal faster and to keep from aggravating it by running the whole race. It’s kind of just a team decision to sit it out and make sure I’m not going to hurt it any more than it already is. That way I can get back to 100-percent and back into the car for a full race.

“I would say it’s probably … they said four-to-six weeks healing time and I’d say it’s significantly better than it was say at Daytona when I had first done it, but I’d say it’s 75-percent better than it was before. It gets better every week, I’m getting more range and motion out of it. Less soreness, less swelling, it just keeps getting better. We’re looking to hopefully be back to 100-percent by Indianapolis.”

Despite his quicker-than-anticipated recovery, Earnhardt is still planning on sticking to the same strategy that his No. 4 team have used the last two weeks and swap out for another driver during their first pit stop – a pit stop preferably under yellow-flag conditions. Dibenedetto will be unavailable to sub in for Earnhardt this week as he will be running the No. 40 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet in place of Josh Wise. Harrison Rhodes will instead be used as Earnhardt’s substitute for the 300. Rhodes has four starts in the Nationwide Series this year and has retired in each of those races with mechanical issues.

“We’ve been trying to go to the first caution so that way we can do a driver change and not lose laps,” Earnhardt stated. “We actually performed a pretty good driver change at Loudon – somehow we did a driver change and didn’t go a lap down. I didn’t think it was possible but somehow we did it. We’ll probably go to the first caution and let him get in. Like I said, I don’t want to risk making it worse and have to sit out more than what I already am.”

As for the Nationwide Series’ duel practices at Chicagoland today, Earnhardt will still have Rhodes on standby in case he begins to feel some discomfort during his practice runs. However, Earnhardt may be able to practice the car all night due to Chicagoland being an easier track to drive than Loudon.

“This track will be a little bit easier than Loudon,” Earnhardt continued. “Loudon was a little rough because you do a lot more steering there. It shouldn’t be too bad here. We’re just going to see how everything feels throughout the day. If I feel like it’s hurting, we’ll have Harrison get in the car and run it. We’re planning to run the whole practice.”

Earnhardt did just that in Saturday’s opening 50-minute practice session. Earnhardt piloted the No. 4 car for seven laps and posted his best time with a lap of 32.529 seconds – fast enough for 26th out of 33 drivers to take a lap. Reportedly, the No. 4 machine had some power steering issues during the 50-minute session.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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