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Dale Earnhardt Jr. started his NASCAR career with his father’s help. In the early days, he competed under the umbrella of the family company, Dale Earnhardt Inc.

However, internal issues involving his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, sent the entire situation sideways.

Dale Earnhardt Inc. history

In 1998, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and his wife, Teresa Earnhardt, decided to start Dale Earnhardt Inc., which operated out of Mooresville, North Carolina.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t the only one who raced for the team; plenty of other notable drivers joined the ranks. The list includes Michael Waltrip, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr., Kerry Earnhardt, Robby Gordon, and Kenny Wallace.

Following Earnhardt Sr.’s death in 2001, the company continued to push forward for several years before it eventually ran into some internal issues.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s stepmother wrecks family business

Following the creation of Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI), Junior joined the company as one of the brand’s faces. It was only a matter of time before he voiced his desire to own a significant part of the company.

However, that came with much friction and internal tension. Earnhardt Jr. was met with pushback from his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt.

Dale Sr. helped launch his son’s career and created DEI so that Dale Jr. and Kerry Earnhardt could have a place to race when he retired. The hope was that his children could utilize the Earnhardt name to find success in the industry.

However, Teresa, the president and CEO, stood pat and prevented her stepson from gaining any ownership. He wanted a controlling interest in the company (at least 51%) to help push it forward and compete for championships. However, Teresa publicly questioned her stepson’s commitment to making that happen.

The tension led to a rift within the company and a massive move by Junior.

Family fallout leads to massive moves

Eventually, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made the career-defining move to leave the company his father created.

Beyond his unfulfilled desire for controlling ownership of the organization, Earnhardt Jr. felt DEI had been declining over the previous few years. He chose to join Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.

According to ESPN, Earnhardt Jr. said he was never close to a new deal with DEI and emphasized that money was never a deciding factor.

“Money’s not really the issue. It’s not the guy who gives me the biggest paycheck,” he said. “There’s some things you can’t get with money: peace of mind and satisfaction.”

Earnhardt Jr. had won 39 races at that point in his career, including 22 Busch Series victories and a Daytona 500 triump after his debut in 1996. However, he struggled from 2004-07 with only two race wins and 18 top-five finishes in 82 events.

With Hendricks Motorsports (HMI), Dale Jr. drove the No. 88 car for the final nine years of his career (2008-17). During that span, he won his second and final Daytona 500 while qualifying for the NASCAR playoffs six times and winning nine total races.

Meanwhile, DEI ended up merging with Chip Ganassi Racing. The organization still participates in partnerships that pay tributes to Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s memory.