Being the son or daughter of a top race driver certainly has its rewards: beautiful homes stocked with toys like fourwheelers, motorcycles and boats. And there’s lots of interesting travel, too.
But there is also a negative side.
First, the driver is away from home an inordinate amount of time for racing, testing, personal appearances, sponsor obligations and other business situations.
Then there’s dealing with celebrity. That can lead to envy, false friendships and other problems.
Kelly Earnhardt, 22-year-old daughter of Dale Earnhardt, has chosen, like her two brothers, to drive stock cars at local tracks with some hope of eventually moving up into big-time racing.
“I’ve run a late model stock car for one year and I ran street stocks before that,” she said. “When I first got into it, people kept running into the back of me for no reason at all. I just figured it was because of who my dad is. But when I didn’t get into all that bumping and banging, most of that stopped happening.
“There’s a lot of things that are said when people find out your last name is Earnhardt. Sometimes, at work, I just say I’m Kelly and don’t mention my last name.”
Kelly, one of four Earnhardt children, will be the first family member to graduate from college when she earns a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in May.
“My dad always encouraged me to stay in school and get that degree,” she said. “In fact, I really didn’t want to go through the graduation because there are a few thousand people going to walk up on stage and I just figured it wasn’t that important. But my dad said, ‘You will be there!’
“There were many things he wasn’t able to be involved in - basketball games and cheerleading and things like that. But he got to my high school graduation and he’ll be at my college graduation. There’s no race that weekend.”
As for friends, she said, “My friends at school supported me for who I am. I hope I picked the right friends for who Kelly is, not who my dad is. And I can tell what a person wants from me by what the reaction is when they find out who my dad is.”
As for her father’s reputation as “One Tough Customer” and “The Intimidator,” Kelly smiles and says, “He’s not like that with people he cares about.
“The other day, I called and I had to stay on (the line) while he finished reading (youngest daughter) Taylor a book. He’s a great dad.”
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