Kerry Dale Earnhardt (born December 8, 1969) is a former NASCAR driver and the elder son of eight-time Winston Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt. He is the half-brother of current Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. He is employed by Dale Earnhardt, Inc. as a consultant, specializing in driver development. His younger son, Jeffrey Earnhardt, began racing for DEI in 2007, and currently competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Kerry is known for his physical similarity to his father.
Kerry's mother, Latane Brown, was Dale Earnhardt's first wife. Dale Earnhardt was 18-years old and a local North Carolina dirt racer at the time of Kerry's birth. The couple divorced when Kerry was only one year of age. Brown eventually married Jack Key, who adopted Kerry; Kerry used his stepfather's last name for much of his life. Until he was 16, Kerry saw little of his biological father.
Prior to his racing career, Earnhardt dropped out of high school and worked several odd jobs to support his family. This included working at a Pizza Hut, and working in the Cannon Mills in Kannapolis, North Carolina, where his father, Dale Sr. temporarily worked, and his grandfather Ralph Earnhardt worked for many years.
Earnhardt had driven race cars in the early 1990s, he entered the racing world as a competitor in 1992 racing street stocks. That same season Earnhardt raced in the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series Earnhardt raced various tracks in 1993 including the East Carolina Motor Speedway near Robersonville, North Carolina and Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia. He scored two top 5s and 8 top 10s in 11 races, and was the 1992 Rookie of the Year.
He won a pole and recorded 8 top 5s and 40 top 10s as well as 1994 Rookie of the Year Honors at his local track, Hickory Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series. Earnhardt's first NASCAR start came in the Busch Series at Myrtle Beach in 1998. After select Busch races in 1998 and 1999. Earnhardt raced in the Automobile Racing Club of America's ARCA Racing Series in 2000 and 2001 for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.(DEI), using DEI Winston Cup Series equipment formerly used by Steve Park. During this stint he won 4 of his 11 starts, with 7 top 5s and 8 top 10s.
In 2000 Earnhardt made his Winston Cup debut at Michigan driving for Marcis Auto Racing, racing against his father Dale Earnhardt, and half-brother Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He wrecked out of the race on lap 5. It was the first of his seven Cup series starts. In 2001, Earnhardt was involved in a massive crash on October 4 in an ARCA race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. At Lap 63 of 67, Earnhardt had to dodge a lapped car by hitting his brakes, which caused Blaise Alexander's No. 75 to catch up to Earnhardt's No. 2. Alexander began to inch into the lead when Earnhardt's car made contact with Alexander's, sending Alexander's car head-on into the wall and back into Earnhardt's car causing Earnhardt to flip over onto his roof and slide into the grass. Earnhardt managed to climb out by himself. However a red flag flew for Alexander and seconds later the race director called it official which gave Earnhardt the victory. Alexander was pronounced dead in the in-field care center at 10:20 p.m.
In late November 2001, it was announced that Earnhardt would run the full 2002 Busch Series for FitzBradshaw Racing, owned by Armando Fitz and Terry Bradshaw. The entry was sponsored by Supercuts and 10-10-220, with a technical alliance with DEI. The car was initially numbered 8 but later numbered 12. Earnhardt finished 22nd in points, scoring three top 5s and six top 10s. This was one of Earnhardt's only three full seasons in any of NASCAR's top three
series (Cup, Busch, and Truck). Earnhardt also ran several Winston Cup races in 2002 and the full season in 2003 in the No. 83 Aaron's, Inc./Hot Tamales Chevrolet for DEI, with three wins.
In 2004 and 2005, he raced in six Nextel Cup races, for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 33 car. All six starts were restrictor plate races (Daytona and Talladega). His highest finish was a 17th-place run at Talladega in the 2005 Aaron's 499. Also in 2004, Earnhardt made eight starts in the K&N Pro Series West for Bill McAnally Racing, scoring two Top-5's, and five Top-10's.
For 2005, Earnhardt joined Billy Ballew Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series, replacing Shane Hmiel. Earnhardt won the pole for the season opening Florida Dodge Dealers 250, but he lost his ride after two races due to lack of sponsorship, with Hmiel returning to the ride. For the 2006 season, Earnhardt signed with ThorSport Racing and drove the No. 13 Chevrolet the full season with occasional sponsorship from the National Pork Board. His best finish of the season was an 11th at Nashville and Las Vegas. At the conclusion of the season, Kerry and ThorSport Racing went their separate ways.
In December 2007, he announced, in a year-end letter to his fans on his website, kerryearnhardtonline.com, that he had retired as a competitive driver. He is still an active test driver for DEI, and occasionally drove in the Nationwide Series (NNS). His last appearance in a national touring series was the NNS' Subway Jalapeño 250 on July 3, 2009 at Daytona International Speedway driving the No. 31 car for Rick Ware Racing. In 2016, Kerry drove one of his father's original race cars, a No. 3 1995 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.