Jeffrey Earnhardt NASCAR: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gives Nephew Shot After Watching MMA Match

By Staff Reporter, Posted: 04/26/13 11:09AM EDT

NASCAR's most popular driver and the son of a legend is giving a family member a shot to get into the family business.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also owns his own racing team, JR Motorsports, is giving his nephew Jeffrey an opportunity to race in a one-race deal for Friday's ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway. Jeffrey admits that the opportunity means a lot considering he was not a driven young earlier in his life.

"I will be the first to admit I didn't appreciate the opportunities I had in the past," says Jeffrey, the son of Dale Jr.'s half-brother Kerry. "I thought the streets were paved with gold and it would all be that easy."

"The past few years I've learned real quick that they're not. I've learned that if you want something, you've got to really work for it."

The reason the opportunity for Jeffrey came about was due to a sport that is unrelated to stock car racing. Dale Jr. went to see his nephew fight in his first mixed martial arts fight in Charlotte, North Carolina last year. Watching Jeffrey fight showed Earnhardt something.

"That was really what got me really interested to know him better," Dale Jr. told USA Today Sports. "You can imagine how dedicated you have to be to the training. So I know inside him he has that discipline. That was the big question mark I had with Jeffrey was whether he had (that) type of motivation, and if he's got into MMA fighting, he certainly has that approach to his racing."

Jeffrey will be driving the No. 5 Chevrolet with sponsoring the car on Friday. In a way, Dale Jr. selecting Jeffrey to race is a way to heal wounds in a family that was splintered after the death of Dale Sr. in 2001. Dale Jr. and his stepmother Teresa Earnhardt had a strained relationship that forced Dale to leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007 and give her full control. The family was split after that decision. (DEI merged with Chip Ganassi racing in 2008.)

The move Dale Jr. made is a major mark in a family that hasn't been the same since 2001. But moves are being made to repair some relationships and it begins on Friday.

"We definitely have gotten a lot closer," Jeffrey said. "It was a lack on both parts to really reach out, but it's cool. I really can't thank him enough for giving me the opportunity. I think the fans are pretty pumped about it."

What about a possible Earnhardt dynasty beginning with Dale Jr. and Jeffrey?

"Well I don't know if we will get that far ahead of ourselves just yet," Dale Jr. said. "I mean, it's good that we get an opportunity to work with Jeffrey."

Here is JR Motorsports' announcement of Jeffrey's race deal:

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