Jeffrey Earnhardt announced the signing of needed sponsorship support from Hulu on Friday prior to racing activities at Dover International Speedway. The sponsorship for the Circle Sport/TMG Chevy No. 33 driven by Jeffrey is the first for Hulu, which recently launched a new, live premium streaming TV service for its subscribers.
“All sponsorships are big for a team like ours,” said Jeffrey on Friday afternoon, in a special one-on-one AARN interview prior to qualifying for Sunday’s 400-mile race.
“It’s a huge commitment and I can’t thank them enough for giving the opportunity and the chance to be a part of such a great company,” he reflected. “Hopefully we can grow this into an even bigger partnership in the years to come.”
Hulu picked up 19 remaining events on the NASCAR Monster Cup schedule that the team had not sold title sponsorship for. Last weekend at Dover, Jeffrey made his debut in the Hulu green colors; and the company logo was afixed on not only the race car and the driver and team uniforms, but pit boxes and the hauler as well. At the other remaining five events sold to clothing manufacturer Starter, Hulu will act as an associate sponsor on the car.
“It’s pretty incredible for a team like us,” said Earnhardt.
“To have a company behind us of their stature and the amount of people that they can reach is huge for us… not to speak about the funding they will provide for a small team like us.”
While no numbers were released, the funding will go a long way in helping the Curtis Key and Joe Falk team become more competitive. Exposure through their promotions will also aid the team in acquiring further corporate sponsorship.
“There are a lot of plusses that are going to come out of this partnership,” said Earnhardt.
“I think it will continue to grow our program tremendously from this point on. They have some really good things in the works. It will help build my brand and hopefully turn some of their demographics into NASCAR and our fans into Hulu, the new generation of TV.”
Jeffrey, 27, is a fourth generation member of his family to race following great-grandfather Ralph, grandfather Dale Sr. and father Kerry. His older brother, Bobby Dale Earnhardt, made his debut on the ARCA Stock Car Series driving a No. 3 just two weeks ago.
Jeffrey is the nephew of Dale Jr. who announced he’ll retire after the current season is completed. This will leave Jeffrey as the only member of the famous family currently competing in NASCAR’s elite division.
“It’s a double-edged sword trying to continue the Earnhardt legacy,” said Jeffrey. “Junior has done a great job at it and hopefully I can continue to grow and progress and be able to do the same.”
Dale Jr.’s departure could open the door for Jeffrey for future sponsorship, growth of his fan base and the possibility of landing a ride in one of NASCAR’s super teams.
“Whether people want to realize it or not,” said Jeffrey, “I am an Earnhardt and when Junior retires I’ll be the last one racing in NASCAR. If people don’t want to pull for me now I’m going to keep busting my butt until I give them no choice but to cheer for me.”
While Dale Jr. was able to drive only the best equipment in his career, Jeffrey has had to work hard to make it in the sport. He started at the lowest levels of short-track racing and crawled his way up the ladder. He made his Cup debut last year, but lost his ride at the end of the season. This year he was picked up full-time as the driver of the No. 33, but the under-funded team has raced outside of the spotlight. His best finish is a 26th at Daytona, a race that ended early in a multi-car crash.
“It’s a stepping stone,” said Jeffrey of his current ride. “If you’re not with a Hendrick, Gibbs or Penske it’s tough. Furniture Row is doing a great job but they are so much a Gibbs-based team it’s almost like they are one of them. Until you’re at that level, being a satellite team is a really tough deal, but this is a step in the right direction for us and we’ll continue to work hard and grow as a team.”
What does Jeffrey need to move from mid to back of the pack towards the front?
“This sport is money-driven,” he said. “You get better equipment and you perform better and you get better finishes. Engineering support from a big team and manufacturer help from Chevrolet would be big for us. You can get all the motor in the world but if the car doesn’t handle you can’t use it. The motor does help out at a lot of the places we go to but the engineering and technology support would be bigger for us right now.”
The Circle Sport No. 33 team brings roughly six crew members to the track each week. A few stay back in the team shop in Statesville, N.C., to prepare cars for future events. That’s compared to over 500 working for a team such as Hendrick Motorsports.
“As a driver you want to go fast right away,” said Jeffrey.
“But we all know that’s not the reality. We have to take baby steps. You have to remember the situation you’re in and where you’re at.”
Hulu has now stepped up to the plate for the team. It’s now their job to reward them with television exposure only offered to the front running teams.
“We have to do our part,” said Jeffrey. “We have to prevent the amount of DNFs we have had this year and do all we can to give them the best performance every weekend.”