JR Motorsports: The Story of the Earnhardt's Success Unfolds

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IApril 12, 2010

MOORESVILLE, NC - MAY 10:  Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his manager, sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge hold a news conference at JR Motorsports May 10, 2007 in Mooresville, North Carolina. Earnhardt announced today that he would quit at the end of 2007 the race team started by his father, the late, racing great Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In 1998, the small structure on the property of Dale Earnhardt Inc. was designated as the office to handle marketing and sponsorship for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

From this tiny building with one employee the seeds were planted to grow to now what has become JR Motorsports.

Kelley Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the children from the second marriage of the legendary Intimidator and Brenda Gee, grew up in the shadow of their famous father.

Kelley was a tomboy who wanted to hang out with her dad even if it was to go hunting.  Dale Jr. would watch his father work on race cars.

Their father was gone most of the time as he built his racing career. The marriage between Dale and Brenda ended in divorce.

Dale Jr. was sent to Oak Ridge Military School in North Carolina. The 15-year old young man completed his stint at the school and returned home wanting to race cars.

Kelley did race cars with her brothers Dale and Kerry while attending college. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 1995 with a degree in business.

Though she loved to race with the boys, her sponsorship ran out in 1996. Her dad thought it best for her to give up racing and pursue a career in business.

Kelley worked in marketing, but remained in the sport she loved, which was racing rather than venture into the corporate world. She joined her brother at JR Motorsports in 2001.

In 2002, Dale Jr. began running a street stock piloted by TJ Majors at Concord Motorsports Park in Concord, N.C. He progressed to racing late models under the JRM banner until he finally launched a NASCAR Nationwide program.

In 2001, Kelley and a few employees ran JR Motorsports, a small operation with big plans. Nine years later it is housed in a glistening new 66,000 sq. ft. building with approximately 150 employees. 

Rick Hendrick merged resources with Earnhardt Jr.'s operation in 2007. Engines, chassis and engineering support was to be supplied by HMS.

Dale Jr. the introvert and Kelley, his extroverted sister balance one another. She took on many of her father's traits while Dale Jr. tended to be more like his mother personality-wise.

Kelley defends her younger brother. In an interview with USA Today she stated, "he can't get a break because he's not like his daddy." She bristles because of the intense scrutiny he gets.

Jr. is happy hanging out with friends, racing online, working with computers and of course driving a race car. Out of necessity, he has become a consummate business man and generous philanthropist.

Several other enterprises have become successful for Dale Jr. including real estate, television production and his Whisky River bar and restaurant.

Family has always been important to Earnhardt Jr.  He keeps them close at JR Motorsports. His uncle Tony Eury Sr. and cousin Tony Eury Jr. handle the NASCAR Nationwide crew chief duties.  Both have served as crew chief for Dale Jr. in a NASCAR Sprint Cup car.

Kelley brokered the deal with GoDaddy.com to bring Danica Patrick into JRM this year.  In the recesses of her mind she has wondered if she had continued to race could she have ever been afforded the opportunities Danica has.

The onus is on Danica as she attempts to prove herself as a NASCAR Nationwide driver.  Regardless of her success, JR Motorsports will benefit from her presence.

Kelley and Dale Jr. recognize the ability of Eury Sr. and Eury Jr. They know their capabilities as crew chiefs on the Sprint Cup level.

The pieces are beginning to fall in place with additional sponsorship from GoDaddy.com for the No. 7 NASCAR Nationwide Chevy.

Landon Cassill will drive four races leading up to Danica's return when she takes control of the GoDaddy.com car in late June.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not performed consistently with wins and top finishes since his crew chief was Tony Eury Sr.

Could it be Jr. will become a NASCAR Sprint Cup owner/driver at JR Motorsports and return Eury Sr. to the position that worked so well at DEI?

Will Danica move to the Sprint Cup series under the ownership of JR Motorsports?

Certainly there would be adequate funding to buyout her IndyCar contract with the resources of GoDaddy, Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick.

Kelley and Dale Jr. have come a long way as they say. She is a savvy business woman and loving mother to two little girls.  Jr. has built the facility of his dreams with JR Motorsports.

A stroll through the sparkling complex will tell you it could be much more than a shop housing his Nationwide cars and late models.

The story will unfold before our eyes. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt can say with pride, "look at us now."