Ralph Lee Earnhardt
Do you know that Dale is actually his middle name – and that Dale Earnhardt Jr’s first name is actually Ralph?
Ralph Lee Earnhardt was Junior’s grandfather and a true racer in his own right. Ralph Earnhardt began his racing career in 1949 after deciding that a lifetime working in North Carolina cotton mills was not for him.
Born in Kannapolis North Carolina in 1928, that is where he made the family home. Ralph and his wife Martha lived in a modest home at the corner of Coach and Sedan streets with their children Dale, Randy, Danny, Kaye and Cathy. And it was there in a small garage behind the house that he built race cars. Ralph made a living by racing and preparing race cars for other drivers and car owners.
Ralph Earnhardt’s cars were considered bullet-proof and race-ready. When he showed up at the track he was ready to race – while other drivers were fiddling with their engines and tuning their cars.
He won over 350 races in his career and was NASCAR’s Sportsman Division champion – what is now called the Nationwide Series in 1956.
Driving for legends Lee Petty and Cotton Owens, Ralph Earnhardt competed in the NASCAR Grand National series, now known as Sprint Cup from 1956 to 1964. Ned Jarrett described him as “absolutely the toughest race car driver I ever raced against.
Ralph Lee Earnhardt died on September 26, 1973 while preparing his car for the next race.
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