Kelley Earnhardt Miller JR Motorsports TravelingMom goodncrazy carissa rogersIf you come from a family with one of the most famous names in driving—Earnhardt—does it mean your family vacations are always road trips? Not necessarily.

When Your Whole World is about Driving; Do You ‘Roadtrip’ as a Family?

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, daughter of one of NASCAR’s greats—Dale Earnhardt Senior and sister of Dale Earnhardt Junior plus General Manager of the family business, JR Motorsports, isn’t big on driving to her family’s cabin in Pennsylvania. Why? Because it’s a 10 hour drive from her home in North Carolina! And with 3 kids it’s just too far away.

If a 10 hour drive is too far for a family of race car drivers down South I wonder what else I have to learn!

Moving coast to coast from Oregon to North Carolina my family considered driving the whole distance. I was excited to see the heartland of the U.S. but no one in my road trip posse was interested in a week long road trip. But 12 and 15 hour drives when you live in the West are standard road trips to see grandparents or a trip to Disneyland.

I explained to Kelley that I’m new to the Charlotte area and asked if she would share her family’s favorite local North Carolina vacation gem. Someplace close her whole family enjoys for a weekend.

She immediately responded: “One of my favorite things about North Carolina is all the small towns.” Her favorite small town? Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Why? Find out from her video response below:

{I’ll give you a hint, she’s a big fan of the “Mayberry Days” Festival held in Mt. Airy each year at the end of September!}

And while we’re at it, Kelley shares her ‘Ubiquitous Vomit Story’… you know you have one too!


NASCAR Working Mom on Travel and Family Ties

Surprisingly Kelly doesn’t travel as much as you would think in a business with more than 30 races. She attends 10 races each year and is only gone for a couple days at a time. Yet she is able to handle that much work travel and keep her three busy kids under control while she’s away. Grandparents, a nanny and the kid’s dads all help out when she travels. “I travel more days with my family than I do for work”, she told me.

On Her 13 Year Old Daughter Racing

DSC_0465Kelley’s 13 year old daughter is already showing her Earnhardt blood! She races a mini outlaw kart in as many as 25 races each year. —I have a nearly 16 year old who is about to get her driver’s license. I can’t imagine a 14 year old daughter racing a stock car (the age they are allowed to drive)! Will Karsyn Elledge become the next Earnhardt racing queen? Kelley shies away from directly answering that. It’s all up to Karsyn, she says, no one is pushing the family business on Dale Senior’s granddaughter—she loves it on her own. “I just want her to enjoy herself right now,” Kelley remarked.

Kelley said when her daughter is old enough to drive her main goal won’t be teaching her how to drive on the roads (no kidding!) but teaching her how to become a ‘defensive’ driver. Paying attention to a dog running into the street and especially to other drivers around her.

What Questions Would YOU Ask an Earnhardt?

Kelley Earnhardt Miller JR Motorsports TravelingMom goodncrazy carissa rogers2I asked my Facebook friends what they would ask Kelley if they had the chance. Not surprisingly many want to know how she feels about her father’s death during that fatal 2001 race. Others want to know what it’s like being a woman in a male driven sport. And those following the close Sprint Cup Chase this year are dying to know how involved she is in the strategizing for her brother’s races.

I was lucky enough to connect with Kelley Earnhardt Miller in her offices in Mooresville, NC.

Like any other busy working mom, Kelley Earnhardt Miller first drops off her kids at school and then heads into the office. She even has a fleeting moment where she considers life as an elementary school teacher.

Unlike any other job, Kelley is the General Manager of JR Motorsports. In other words, she is the powerhouse behind her brother’s marketing empire and the main decision maker when it comes to the family Foundation. (The Dale JR Foundation)

Being born into a NASCAR Hall of Fame racing family means Kelley has been breathing the racing air for most of her life. She raced herself in the early 90s calling it ‘hobby racing’ at the time—or the ‘minor leagues’ of NASCAR. When I asked if she ever gets into the stock cars now, she laughed and said, “oh no”.  (Sorry folks, she doesn’t strategize with her brother after every race!)

  • Why women? Why are women traveling to NASCAR races?

“I think women like NASCAR for a lot of different reasons.  It’s exciting and exhilarating.  It’s a family sport where you can attend with your husband, boyfriend and kids and you can create an experience for the weekend of it instead of only watching a stick and ball sport for a few hours.  I think women like the social aspect of it, watching the drivers as people and not just athletes.  Our drivers are very approachable and give you that down to earth feeling that they are just like you and me.”

  • Why travel to see NASCAR? What is NASCAR doing to appeal to women and families who consider travel for a race? Have you ever camped at a racetrack yourself?

“A NASCAR race gives you the platform of a full 2-3-4 day weekend to camp with your family or take a trip with your family or friends.  It’s a social atmosphere at the track with hospitality displays, concerts, vendors, and shopping.  There are driver appearances at sponsor booths and you can create a whole weekend of things to do as well as watch the racing action on the track.  I have camped at several races in my lifetime.  And it’s everything I described here.”

  • Working at the ‘Family Business’, do you ever have problems with your family members? How do you keep work at work and family at the back yard BBQ?

“Being involved in a family business means that you have to work harder at separating the line of family versus business.  It’s something that is always top of mind.  With Dale and I it’s pretty easy because we have worked this way most of our life.  We have other family members that work with us and at times, they have taken things personal that were business.  I think it’s because everyone cares so much and we are all passionate about the sport we love and how we participate in it.  We don’t get the opportunity for many family BBQs so it’s easy to keep work and family life separate.  We cherish the moments at the family BBQ and keep work at the office.  It’s not that hard to do.”

  • The big question. What is the hardest thing about losing your father to the sport and business you love?

“I had a good 27 years with my dad.  I was able to know him at every level, the racer, the dad, the businessman, the friend to many, etc.  But what makes me most sad about not having him here today is that my children will not know him as a grandfather or Papaw Dale as we call him.  My oldest was 5 months old when he passed.  They will never “know” him like I knew him.  We can share stories, videos, etc. but it’s still different and I hate that they will not experience that type of relationship with him because I know it would be special.  He would have a ball with them and all the activities they are involved with.  He would encourage them and shape them into better people.  I wish he was here to do that.”

See the other articles in Carissa’s NASCAR series: