Martha Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s Mother, Dies at 91

by Leanne Stahulak

Just weeks after her last surviving son passed, NASCAR matriarch Martha Earnhardt, mother of Dale Earnhardt Sr., passed away on Christmas.

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Martha’s granddaughter, released the news on Twitter earlier today. She and her brother, NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., wrote a joint statement. They did not say how 91-year-old Martha died.

“It is with great sadness that we share the news that Martha Earnhardt passed away Christmas evening,” Kelley and Dale begin in their statement. “As we grieve her loss and begin to imagine life without our beloved ‘Mamaw,’ we find solace in knowing she is at peace in eternal glory and in joyous reunion with her husband Ralph and sons Dale, Randy, and Danny.”

The siblings continue, “Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers, and thank you so much for loving our Mamaw if she were your own. She was not just the matriarch to our family, but she was the matriarch to multiple generations of race fans.”

Martha was married to her husband Ralph Earnhardt until his death from a heart attack in 1973. She then lost her son Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001 after he was killed in the Daytona 500. Martha’s son Randy died of cancer in 2013. And just a few weeks ago, on Dec. 10, Martha’s youngest son Danny passed away.

Martha Earnhardt’s Legacy Won’t Soon Be Forgotten

Martha became a prominent NASCAR figure when her husband, Ralph, transitioned from a dirt-track racer to a NASCAR driver. He even became the 1956 NASCAR Sportsman Champion, shortly after the racing series began. Eventually, that would become the Xfinity Series. After his death, Ralph was posthumously inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 1989.

Ralph would pass on his racing legacy to his son, Dale Earnhardt Sr., who went on to win seven NASCAR champions in his lifetime. Dale Sr. won 76 races in his lifetime, including the Daytona 500 in 1998. He would die in a crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001, per The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Finally, Martha Earnhardt’s grandson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., also went on to become a NASCAR racing legend. Dale Jr., now retired, went on to win 26 races, including the 2004 and 2014 Daytona races. But he never won the NASCAR championship. Instead, Dale Jr. retired in 2017 and became a sports analyst for NBC.

Martha participated in and encourgaed three generations of NASCAR racers. She’s one of the only women to do so, and the impact she and her family had on the racing industry won’t soon be forgotten. We remember her fondly and know her legacy will continue through her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.