One of the biggest contributors to a championship-winning NASCAR organization has passed away at the age of 66. Danny Earnhardt, the younger brother of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and a longtime employee of JR Motorsports, died on Friday, December 10, at his home in North Carolina.
Earnhardt was the youngest of five children born to Ralph and Martha Earnhardt. He grew up in Kannapolis, N.C., with older sisters Kaye and Cathy and older brothers Dale Sr. and Randy.
According to the JRM press release, Earnhardt is survived by Sherry, his wife of 47 years, son Danny Earnhardt Jr., his wife and two grandchildren, and mother Martha Earnhardt. The team will announce funeral arrangements at a later time.
While he spent years working as a pipe insulator in the Cannon Mills, Earnhardt eventually transitioned to a full-time career in motorsports. He worked on his father’s race cars at one point and then later spent his weekends as a tire carrier.
Earnhardt Played a Major Role in Championship Teams
When his father Ralph passed away in 1973 after suffering a heart attack, Earnhardt joined Dale Sr.’s racing operations and began working as both a mechanic and a tire carrier. He also served as a tire carrier for Dale Earnhardt Jr. once the future Hall of Famer’s career began.
Earnhardt joined JR Motorsports in 2007 shortly after the organization began competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He worked at Dale Earnhardt Inc. but ultimately made the move to JRM. Earnhardt worked in the suspension room and built the cars that won 58 total races and three championships. Earnhardt’s son, Danny Jr., currently works as a car chief for JRM.
“The Earnhardt family holds a special place in NASCAR history and Danny Earnhardt was an important part of their success,” NASCAR said in a statement. “Danny worked hard behind the scenes, helping three generations of Earnhardts succeed. On behalf of the entire NASCAR industry, our thoughts are with the Earnhardt family during this difficult time.”
Earnhardt Played a Big Role in Dale Jr.’s Career
On September 21, 2021, Dirty Mo Media released an episode of “The Dale Jr. Download” that featured Earnhardt. He sat down with Dale Jr. and co-host Mike Davis to discuss a wide variety of topics, including his transition to full-time work in NASCAR.
It was during this episode that Earnhardt revealed that he had played a role in Dale Jr.’s NASCAR career. He explained that he had seen the future 15-time Most Popular Driver race an Xfinity Series — the Busch Series at the time — at Myrtle Beach and that he had called Dale Sr. to advocate for Dale Jr. getting an opportunity.
“I called Dale the next morning. I said, ‘that boy can drive a race car,'” Earnhardt explained on “The Dale Jr. Download” episode. “He said, ‘ah, you can’t go by one race. What are you talking about?’ I kept telling him. But I guess the rest is history.”
Earnhardt did not confirm which race at Myrtle Beach prompted his phone call to Dale Sr., but Dale Jr. only took on the track three times in the Busch Series. He finished 14th in 1996, fifth in 1998, and 25th in 1999. Dale Jr. made his Cup Series debut in 1999 with a five-race schedule for DEI. He went full-time in 2000 and didn’t look back.