Middle E Joins List Of Earnhardt Winners

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Kerry Earnhardt is no longer just Dale's son and Dale Jr.'s half brother.

At last, he has an identity. He's a winner.

But even if he builds on that with another victory in his next start, the eldest son of a seven-time NASCAR champion will remain a blue-collar driver in a blueblood racing family.

His father is Big E, The Intimidator, the most famous and wealthiest American racer of his time. His brother, Little E, is the heir apparent, backed by a $50 million sponsorship package -- staggering for a Winston Cup rookie.

So, when Middle E, at 30, five years older than Dale Jr., won an ARCA race two weekends ago at Pocono Raceway, there was wasn't much time for celebration.

"It's a great honor, but I'm ready to go back to work," Kerry said after breaking through in his 100th start.

But going to work doesn't mean a slew of personal appearances or a massive amount of testing before the return to competition July 22 in the next Pocono race. Much of his work is being done with a wrench.

Kerry and crew chief Tim Weiss are two-thirds of the team, and the car is being pitted on race day by the Dale Earnhardt Inc. Winston Cup crew of driver Steve Park.

Back at the shop in Mooresville, N.C., Kerry is handed tools and told to use them on his Chevrolet.

What does he do best?

"He drives," the easygoing Weiss said with a laugh.

For that, Earnhardt is grateful. He had not won in seven years of racing. After two abortive attempts in the NASCAR Busch series he looked like a never-was from a family whose championship line began with late sportsman ace Ralph Earnhardt and continued through Dale and Dale Jr.

So Kerry went to his father and Teresa, Dale's third wife, and got the support he needed to take another stab at racing. In a car owned by Teresa, he won in just his fourth ARCA start.

He's still racing in part because of Dale Jr., whom he has known for only about a dozen years because of an acrimonious divorce between their father and Dale Sr.'s first wife.

"If there's ever been anyone stand behind me other than my wife it would be Dale Jr.," Kerry said. "He's always been there."

The message from his younger brother -- a two-time NASCAR Busch series champion now battling Matt Kenseth for Winston Cup rookie honors -- was to keep trying even though it looked like one Earnhardt might not make it in racing.

"He told me to keep doing what I had been," Kerry recalled. "He said, 'Equipment's everything, and you're not in it right now. You're going to get your break one day.'"

He did, in December, when his father told him to show up at the shop, introduced him to Weiss and pointed toward four cars among dozens in the sprawling complex.

"He said those were ours, that that couple of guys would be working on them," Weiss said. "They turned out to be Kerry and me."

They do have additional help, but not much is required because the car is racing only about 10 times this year. Kerry wants to make the most of that, and runs of second and third in two races before the Pocono victory have helped him forget about a season-opening crash in the Daytona 200.

"I have confidence now, and I think if I work hard I'll win some more," he said. "I want to race in Winston Cup someday against my brother and my father. I want to make it before Daddy stops driving. I think it would be nice to have a father race against his two sons."

That thought also excites Dale Jr., especially because Kerry's recent run of success makes that more than wishful thinking.

"I never thought that I'd be able to race my brother in the Winston Cup Series," said Dale Jr. who shared with Kerry as their first car an old stocker resuscitated from a junk yard. "Now, I think that there's a great possibility that's we'll see Kerry in two or three years."

If that happens, their father's wealth and stardom can't be ignored as factors. His brother got there that way, but soon proved he was a spectacular, young racer.

Kerry knows it could work out the same for him, but even his father's help isn't guaranteed. The elder Earnhardt is interested in winning above all.

"I don't know what the future holds for Kerry when it comes to Earnhardt Inc.," he said. "But we'll do what's right for him."

Kerry isn't surprised to hear that.

"Having the Earnhardt name helps," he said. "But you have to be able to prove you can run up front and win."

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