Jared Irvan looking for the right break to follow in famous dad’s footsteps

Jared Irvan

Ernie Irvan scored a total of 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins over the course of a thirteen year career. Among those victories was his first career triumph at the Bristol Motor Speedway in 1990 and the 1991 Daytona 500. Now, the former star’s son is hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps up the racing ladder. However, there have been challenges along the way for the young racer.

Jared Irvan began racing Quarter-Midgets at the tender age of six and has steadily progressed to his current station. This past Saturday the now 21-year-old from Midland, NC competed in the CARS Super Late Model Tour’s Throwback 276 at the famed Hickory Motor Speedway. And he did so in a car made to look like his father’s Daytona 500 winning ride.

“It’s really cool,” the second generation racer told InsideCircleTrack.com in reference to his No. 4 car’s look. “This is actually the second time that I’ve done this throwback scheme with the No. 4 Kodak car but this is the first time that it’s actually had Kodak on it. This is about as close as you’re going to get to the real thing. It looks really good going around the race track.”

Irvan’s path toward racing was an obvious one even from his early childhood. As a matter of fact, he began turning a steering wheel when he was so small that special modifications had to be made even to the smallest of machines.

“My dad got me started when I was five,” Irvan recalled. “It’s been in my blood and I’ve been doing it a long time. We built a go-kart track at my house and I was out there before I could even reach the pedals in the smallest kid-kart they sold. We had to use little building blocks on the pedals so I could drive it. Ever since then it’s kind of been what I do.”

However, the son has virtually no memory of watching his father compete on the track. Ernie Irvan drove in NASCAR for the last time in 1999.

“I don’t really have any memory of me actually being there when he raced,” Irvan said. “I’ve seen videos and pictures and all that but I was only two-years-old by the time he retired.”

Although racing might have been obvious career choice for Irvan, it has not been an easy one. As is the case with any racer, funding in this very expensive sport is an issue that he and his family have had to grapple with on a regular basis, even to the point that he has begun to think of other pursuits. But that doesn’t mean the competitive fire has lessened.

“Here lately it’s become a little bit of a consideration,” he replied when asked if he had ever thought of doing something else. “It’s just costing so much money and we’re kind of topped out on what we can fund- I mean I race four or five times a year while some of these guys are out here racing every weekend. It’s hard to compete with that, but we still do it and we have fun. But we’re out here to win, though, that’s for sure.”

To move further up the ladder would require more than talent for this driver who has scored wins on the PASS Super Late Model Series.

“For sure, NASCAR would be a goal and we’re still actively looking for funding and any kind of sponsorship,” Irvan explained. “This is what we’ve got right now and this is what we’re going to continue to do until we find a deal to go further.”

Jared Irvan in an Ernie Irvan tribute car

Click here to check out all of the cool schemes from the Throwback 276. 

Having a famous racing father can be a bit of a double-edged sword. While doors may be opened because of a name, observers may not see the complete picture of reality when it comes to the difficulties involved in racing.

“I’m not sure about raising expectations as far as the driving,” Irvan pointed out. “I mean you could have a kid that can’t drive a lick and that’s just sometimes how it works out. I think there is a double-edged sword because people assume that since your dad was famous and he raced himself that you have enough money to go out there and pay for your ride but a lot of times you don’t.”

And while his name might open some of those doors, Irvan realizes it is ultimately up to him to prove his worth.

“There’s a lot of people out there with dads who used to race that can’t fund their own stuff and that’s just how it is. It’s good to have the name behind you and it brings a little bit of credibility before people even see me drive. It’s my job, and anyone else who has a racing father, to back up the fact that that’s who your dad is.”

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

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