The relationship between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his sister Kelley is well-documented. The NASCAR Hall of Famer developed a strong bond early in life after a devastating house fire. He credited her with keeping him straight and being the mentor he needed. While Junior and Kelley are the only children of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Brenda Lorraine Jackson, Dale Jr. wasn’t the only sibling Kelley looked after.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his sister Kelley have always been close
Kelley Earnhardt had to grow up fast. In fact, both Kelley and Dale Jr. had to put on their adult pants at an early age. When Junior was 6, he woke up to his house on fire. That became a significant turning point in his life.
Junior and Kelley moved in with their father. Their mother returned to Virginia to be closer to family and couldn’t support her children financially. Earnhardt Sr. was consumed with his racing career and didn’t spend a lot of time at home with his kids.
In an interview with Kyle Petty posted on Motorsports on NBC in 2019, Kelley described her father’s absence. “The absence of Dad, not just going to the races, but being a part of the things you were doing – proms, graduation, soccer games, softball games,” she said.
“It’s absence. On top of that, it’s one thing to be gone and not attend those things or whatever, but then in the home, too. You’re not tucking them in the bed. You’re not home at bedtime. He kinda left that to (his wife) Teresa. That was when Dale and I really forged our bond.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. learned he had a half-brother at a young age
Kerry Earnhardt is the eldest son of Dale Earnhardt. He was born to Dale and Latane Brown, who married when Dale was 17 years old. Dale and Latane split up when Kerry was a year old, and Latane remarried Jack Key. Key adopted Kerry, who assumed Key’s last name for years.
Curiosity got to Kerry as he got older. He wanted to know more about his biological father. When he was about 13, a phone call was set up where Kerry talked to his biological dad. It wasn’t until three years after that phone call that father and son met face to face. It was Kerry who took initiative in generating that meeting.
He waited until he got his license and told his mother he was going for a ride. He drove to his father’s house. “When I walked in, it got quiet,” he said recently on the Dale Jr. Download podcast. The two went for a drive and did some catching up.
Kelley and Kerry bonded at a family reunion
During a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download podcast, Earnhardt Jr. spoke about how Kelley took over when she finally met Kerry at a family reunion. Kelley had always been the one to take charge, and she did so again when meeting her half-brother. “I remember at the family reunion, you came there, and I was excited about it, but Kelley hogged Kerry,” Junior said in front of Kerry and Mike Davis, the podcast co-host.
Kelly, again, acted like the adult and made her half-brother feel right at home, just as she did when bringing up her younger brother.
“We bonded,” Kerry recalled. “She was a little older and closer to my age.”
“She knew exactly what this meant – Kerry coming into our lives,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Kelley knew exactly what that meant and entailed, and she just latched on to him. There’s 30 people at this family reunion and them two just sitting there the whole time figuring it out.”
“I wish I had that conversation on camera, video, or audio just to go back and listen to it,” Kerry said. “I remember talking about what I did growing up and kind of filling each other in on what our likes were and our hobbies.”