KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Brenda Jackson, mother of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a longtime employee at JR Motorsports alongside her daughter Kelley Earnhardt Miller, has died following a battle with cancer. She was 65.
The team announced her death Monday.
Jackson was the daughter of NASCAR fabricator Robert Gee, who built cars for various racers including the late Dale Earnhardt. She married Earnhardt in 1972, had two children, and Dale Jr. and Kelley remained with their mother when the couple separated and Earnhardt chased a career in NASCAR.
"I'm glad her suffering has ended and she can be at peace," Earnhardt Jr. said in a tweet Monday. "She would be in tears of happiness over the words of support and remembrance she's been shown today. Our family appreciates it as well. She will live in our hearts forever."
After a fire left the trio homeless, Jackson moved to Virginia and Dale Jr. and Kelley relocated to live with their father. She married Norfolk firefighter Willie Jackson in 1985 and returned to North Carolina to work with Kelley and Dale Jr. Jackson joined the race team owned by her two children as an accounting specialist in 2004.
Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Jackson was a staunch supporter of her son's decision to retire from full-time racing because of concussions, and she was a tireless supporter of The Dale Jr. Foundation and other charitable efforts.
“My mom, my biggest advocate and my friend...at peace that she’s at peace,” Kelley Earnhardt said in a tweet. “No more suffering & no more pain...made new in the arms of Jesus, reunited w/ones she loves & as a believer I’ll be reunited w/ her one day. Thank you to all that are offering your prayers, hugs & support.”
"Known for her wit, charisma and unparalleled ability to cut to the heart of any matter, Jackson became an instant favorite to her friends and colleagues at JR Motorsports when she joined the company as an accounting specialist in 2004," JR Motorsports said in a news release. "Her sarcastic musings and straightforward approach injected a brand of humor at JR Motorsports that became part of its fabric as it grew into a full-time NASCAR racing operation in 2006 and a championship-winning organization in 2014."
She is survived by her husband, two children, a stepdaughter, six grandchildren and two brothers.