By BobbyI wrote this to Cathy of Alex recently, and after thinking about it, I have written something that matters about broken families.
In the recent deal by race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr to join Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, one of the more important stories of this issue has not been discussed as it should have been discussed.
Since the free-love society of the 1960's, we have seen an unfortunate scene of broken marriages, and family conflicts caused by such broken marriages. The Earnhardt family has been the scene of broken
marriages, on two different generations of Earnhardts, affecting three different generations of the family. Three of the four Earnhardt children were byproducts of such corruption by Dale Earnhardt, Sr, and one of those has has developed a broken family himself.
Dale Earnhardt's first marriage was to Latane Brown when he was just 17, and it only lasted from 1968 until 1970. This marriage produced Dale's first child at 18, Kerry (born 1969). This marriage ended just one year after Kerry's birth. Brown married another man, who adopted the young Kerry, who rarely saw his biological father until he was 16. Kerry himself married young and with his first wife, had two children, Jeffrey and Bobby. Jeffrey Earnhardt is now racing in the NASCAR Grand National East Series, recently racing in Elko (MN) for the Grand National East-West Shootout, for Andy Santerre. Kerry divorced too early and married another woman, and the blended Earnhardts are Kerry (with Bobby and Jeffrey), wife Rene (who has a daughter, Blade), and also their daugher Kayla.
Dale Earnhardt's second marriage was to Brenda Gee, from 1971 until 1977. This marriage lasted longer, but too ended in divorce, after two children, Kelley (now the Mrs. Jimmy Elledge) in 1972, and the eponymous Dale Jr. in 1974. Gee, the daughter of famed race car constructor Robert Gee, has a sister, Sandra, who married racing mechanic Tony Eury, in another marriage that failed.
In 1983, Charlotte-area automobile dealer Joseph Riddick Hendrick III joined forces with Robert Gee to form All Star Racing to field a Pontiac Ventura for the Mello Yello 300 Late Model Sportsman (now Busch Series) race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Dale Earnhardt drove the car to victory, the first of over 200 wins for what is now Hendrick Motorsports.
By that time, Dale Earnhardt had dated, and found another woman in his life, Teresa Houston, the daughter of local racer Hal Houston (Hal's brother Tommy was another driver -- started the first 360 Busch Series
races in the series, 1982-94). This marriage lasted over 18 years until Dale's death in 2001. They had one daughter, Taylor Nicole.
When considering the troubles of a blended family, and custody issues that permeated the Earnhardt family because of the excessive number of marriages and divorces, and the children from the Earnhardt family coming from different women, it should be known that Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kelley Earnhardt Elledge both have the same mother, the current Brenda Gee Jackson.
Obviously, when Dale Earnhardt Jr was less than three years old when his parents divorced, there will always be the conflict between father and mother. With custody issues always being there, Earnhardt probably shared more time with Gee than Earnhardt in the early days. Gee's father Robert (who died in 1994) was a noted chassis fabricator, and her brothers Robert Jr. and Jimmy (now at JR Motorsports) also were involved as they grew into the Gee chassis shop, where many NASCAR teams in the had their chassis
Children were more likely to side with their mother, especially when their father was absent-minded and because of divorce, was unable to see him often.
When Gee fell ill with terminal cancer, Hendrick didn't forget his first employee, and supported Gee's grandchildren, which include Dale J and Kelley, and even Tony Eury Jr. (mother Sandra is Brenda's sister).
So it seemed Dale Earnhardt Jr and Hendrick Motorsports is not an issue of just one person, but the legacy of how one man helped his grandfather, and a grandson repaying the man who helped his late grandfather. It seemed he had gravitated towards his mother's side of the family – JR Motorsports has the three Gees (Brenda, Jimmy, Robert Jr) working for the team, and Rick Hendrick admitted that in Junior, he saw the same thing as he could see in his uncles, and his late grandfather.
So it seems Dale Earnhardt Jr, after all of these years, has seen how his mother has been a bigger influence than his father. His grandfather's friend gave him a shot to join a team that started with his grandfather and a Charlotte car dealer's dream, and led into six Daytona 500 wins and ten NASCAR championships.