The Earnhardt family matriarch Martha died on December 25, 2021 in Kannapolis, North Carolina at the age of 91.
The grandmother of NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr, Martha was married to Ralph. The couple had five children. She was known as Mamaw to her grandchildren.
Ralph started the Earnhardt racing empire with son Dale following in his father’s footsteps. Dale would go on to be one of just three drivers to earn seven NASCAR Cup Series championships. Dale was killed in a last lap crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001; hitting the wall while trying to protect drivers Michael Waltrip and son Dale Jr.
In an official statement, NASCAR’s Jim France and Lesa France Kennedy said, “on behalf of the France Family and all of NASCAR, we extend our condolences to the family and friends of Martha Earnhardt. Martha was not only the matriarch of a legendary NASCAR family, but a beloved and respected figure within our industry and throughout the fanbase. We will dearly miss her grace, compassion and welcoming demeanor. To her grandchildren, she was ‘Mamaw.’ To millions of NASCAR fans, she was a treasure.”
While the matriarch of the racing legacy, Martha tried racing only once – in a “powder puff derby” – where she crashed. She noted that she just wasn’t meant to be a race car driver. She was a server and worked as a clerk in a children’s store.
On February 15, 1998, Dale Sr finally won the Daytona 500 after 20 tries and when Dale finally made it to victory lane…he called his mother to tell her he had finally won. She had been nervously watching the race.
Originally Mamaw wasn’t sure Dale Jr was ready for the jump to the Xfinity Series, but later admitted that he proved her wrong and she became one of his biggest advocates.
Martha was known for inviting Dale Sr fans into her modest home where she would tell them stories for as long as they would listen. She refused to move to a larger home despite the urging of son Dale on numerous occasions.
Predeceased by her husband Ralph; and sons Dale, Randy, and Danny; Martha is survived by children Kaye and Cathy and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
feature photo credit: Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Facebook page