Dale Earnhardt Jr. (center) speaks at his father’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction in 2010. Earnhardt Jr. told The Observer Thursday he is siding with his half-brother Kerry Earnhardt (right) over his stepmother Teresa Earnhardt (left) in a legal dispute concerning whether Kerry Earnhardt can use his last name on a line of houses he and his wife have designed. Teresa Earnhardt is trying to stop him from doing so in court. ROBERT LAHSER ROBERT LAHSER - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (center) speaks at his father’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction in 2010. Earnhardt Jr. told The Observer Thursday he is siding with his half-brother Kerry Earnhardt (right) over his stepmother Teresa Earnhardt (left) in a legal dispute concerning whether Kerry Earnhardt can use his last name on a line of houses he and his wife have designed. Teresa Earnhardt is trying to stop him from doing so in court. ROBERT LAHSER ROBERT LAHSER - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

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Scott Says

Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes a side in family feud about usage of Earnhardt name

By Scott Fowler

sfowler@charlotteobserver.com

May 27, 2016 09:34 AM

UPDATED May 27, 2016 11:22 PM

Dale Earnhardt is not happy with his stepmother – again.

Earnhardt told me as part of an exclusive Observer interview Thursday that he was siding with his half-brother over his stepmother in a legal dispute. The issue: Whether Kerry Earnhardt can use his last name to market homes that he and his wife Rene helped design as part of a series of houses to be built by Schumacher homes.

“Obviously, I’m in support of my brother,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.

Kerry Earnhardt plans to call the homes “The Earnhardt Collection.” Teresa Earnhardt – Kerry and Dale’s stepmother and the widow of Dale Earnhardt Sr. – doesn’t want that name used because she believes it could be confused as an endorsement or sponsorship by the estate of her late husband.

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A legal fight has dragged on for several years about this. Teresa Earnhardt’s lawyers recently filed an appeal in federal court after a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling denied Teresa Earnhardt’s challenge to the “Earnhardt Collection” trademark applied for by Kerry Earnhardt.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that Kerry deserves to be able to use his own last name on the line of homes.

“This is a business venture that he’s put a lot of effort and heart and soul in that I think he deserves,” Dale Jr. said of Kerry. “So in this particular case, I side with my brother and his belief to be able to use the name as is – without any alterations or changes.”

This is a business venture that he's put a lot of effort and heart and soul in that I think he deserves. So in this particular case, I side with my brother and his belief to be able to use the name as is -- without any alterations or changes.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the legal fight between his half-brother Kerry Earnhardt and his stepmother Teresa Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt Sr. was married three times before his death in 2001 in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500. Kerry Earnhardt was the only child from his first marriage. Dale Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller were Dale Sr.’s two children by his second marriage. Teresa was Dale Sr.’s third wife, bore him his fourth child, a daughter named Taylor.

While Dale Earnhardt Jr. had not publicly weighed in on the dispute until our interview, his sister Kelley had already tweeted her support for Kerry. She wrote on Twitter on May 6: “Hate that my brother & family have to deal w/ this nonsense for over 4 yrs. It’s our name too! We were born w/ it!”

Hate that my brother & family have to deal w/ this nonsense for over 4 yrs. It's our name too! We were born w/ it! https://t.co/QtRQ7dZKfw

— Kelley Earnhardt (@EarnhardtKelley) May 6, 2016

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had an occasionally frosty relationship with his stepmother for many years. He told me in 2006 – when Teresa Earnhardt still owned the car he drove – that sometimes he wished he didn’t share his father’s name because of all the drama involved in trying to gain the rights to it.

“If I didn’t have the same name – and I kind of wish I didn’t sometimes – I wouldn’t have to be worrying about it,” he said then.

In 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr. decided to leave the race team that Teresa Earnhardt ran and that his late father had started before his death – Dale Earnhardt Inc., or DEI.

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Earnhardt Jr. has driven since 2008 for Hendrick Motorsports and is widely recognized as the most popular driver in the sport. DEI no longer exists in terms of fielding race tems.

More from my interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be posted in The Charlotte Observer Sunday and also online, including his thoughts about Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (a race he has never won) and his impending marriage.