NASCAR driver Jeffrey Earnhardt signs autographs during a meet-and-greet session at Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel Wednesday.

NASCAR driver Jeffrey Earnhardt signs autographs during a meet-and-greet session at Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel Wednesday.

ARUNDEL — His grandfather is a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. His uncle has won NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver Award 12 years in a row. But Jeffrey Earnhardt is just looking to make the race, and if he does that, finish inside the top 40.

The latest Earnhardt to break onto stock car racing’s biggest stage will be doing it on a much smaller stage than his grandfather (the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.) and his uncle (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), but his second Sprint Cup Series start will come at one of the biggest races of the season for his car owner, Old Orchard Beach native Archie St. Hilaire.

Go Green Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire stands next to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car he owns during a meetand greet session at Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel Wednesday.

Go Green Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire stands next to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car he owns during a meetand greet session at Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel Wednesday.

Jeffrey Earnhardt will pilot St. Hilaire’s No. 32 Ford Fusion, which his Go Green racing team coowns as part of GoFAS Racing, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire on Sunday.

“Having an Earnhardt is great. It’s a lot of pressure on the kid because that name is tough to live up to, especially when you’re not putting him in a Joe Gibbs car,” said St. Hilaire. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to work our way up and do everything we can to get him a good ride.”

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car co-owned by Old Orchard Beach native Archie St. Hilaire and driven by Jeffrey Earnhardt is displayed outside Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel during a meet-and-greet session Wednesday.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car co-owned by Old Orchard Beach native Archie St. Hilaire and driven by Jeffrey Earnhardt is displayed outside Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel during a meet-and-greet session Wednesday.

The single-car GoFAS Racing team has been around for two years, and has seen a plethora of drivers man the wheel, many of whom aren’t recognizable to casual fans. It’s a little different when an Earnhardt hops into the car.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Earnhardt. “When you think about the fact that it’s been 10 years or something like that since two Earnhardts have been on the same track together in the Cup series. To finally be at that level that my whole family’s been at is pretty neat, and to be able to say you’re kind of carrying on that legacy, that’s huge.”

The last time two Earnhardts raced in a Sprint Cup race was in 2005, when Dale Jr. and Jeffrey’s father, Kerry – Dale Jr.’s half-brother – both competed at Talladega in Alabama. That 10-year absence of a second Earnhardt driver will likely end Sunday.

On Wednesday, however, Earnhardt and St. Hilaire were both at Bentley’s Saloon in Arundel to meet and greet local fans and sponsors. Arundel Ford – next door to Bentley’s – will be the primary sponsor and appear on the hood. Weirs GMC – next to Arundel Ford on Route 1 – will be on one side of the car, and Bangor Truck Equipment will be on other. Bentley’s will be on the rear quarter panels of the car.

“It’s kind of an all-Maine car this week,” said St. Hilaire.

The sponsorships are a one-race only venture, something St. Hilaire and Earnhardt won’t have to worry about much next year, after it was announced last week that GoFAS Racing signed a multi-race deal with ATV manufacturer Can-Am. It was also announced that Earnhardt had signed a multi-year deal with GoFAS Racing.

“The partnership with Can-Am is going to be a great deal. It’s a really cool company. To have almost a fullseason deal in the Sprint Cup Series is a huge step for me in getting to that next level,” said Earnhardt. “A lot of stuff to look forward to for next year. It’s just a big step and it’s where I’ve been working so hard to be at, and now to actually be here is a dream come true, really.”

Sunday’s race at New Hampshire, if he is able to qualify for the race on Friday, will be just the second in the Sprint Cup Series for the 26-year- old Earnhardt, who finished 40th in his series debut two weeks ago at Richmond, Virginia.

“I ran here quite a few times in the past with the – it was Camping World East Series when I ran it. So I’ve ran here and had some pretty decent runs,” Earnhardt said of New Hampshire. “It’s a fun track, short track racing, and hopefully we can do better than we did at Richmond, because I wasn’t too pleased with how I performed at Richmond. I think we’ll be a lot better coming here to Loudon.”

St. Hilaire has hooked up Earnhardt with Cup series veteran Joe Nemechek as a driver coach for this weekend, and after bringing on an engineer to the team, said the car is coming off one of its best runs ever, with Josh Wise at Chicagoland.

“Short track, anything can happen. It could be a lot of attrition, we could finish in the high 20s. It could be no attrition, we’ll finish in the high 30s,” St. Hilaire said of a projection for Sunday’s race. “Sunday I’d love to finish top 30. Realistically 30 to 35th is where we should finish. I’d love to have a little bit of attrition.”

Earnhardt said he hasn’t been able to talk with his uncle Dale lately, as the former has been “on the road so much” lately, but is looking forward to not only talking with him this weekend, but racing against him. Not that Earnhardt expects to be up at the front competing with his famous uncle just yet.

“Having the Earnhardt name, everyone makes assumptions and say ‘oh, he’s going to win because he’s a Earnhardt,’ this and that. But I’m out here developing myself just like anyone else. I’m no different than any other driver out there,” said Earnhardt. “Seat time is what makes you better.”

Sunday could be Earnhardt’s last race of the year, as St. Hilaire already has prior commitments to other drivers and sponsors for many of the remaining eight races after New Hampshire. He hopes to get Earnhardt in the car at Atlanta. Then it’s on to 2016 and a run at the Rookie of the Year Award, which would add to the family’s rather large trophy case.

“We’re trying to get Jeffrey some laps at this point. That’s what he needs in these cars,” said St. Hilaire. “That’s what our chore for the rest of this year is, just get him as many laps as we can in a Cup car.”

Laps are what Earnhardt hopes to complete many of Sunday.

“The main goal is to be there at the end of the race and not wreck the car, and learn as much as we can. But we also want to be competitive and get a good finish out of the deal as well,” said Earnhardt.

Sports Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected]


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