JR Motorsports (JRM) was established in 1999 as the management company for professional race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Its first foray into racing came in the form of a street stock car that raced at Concord Motorsports Park in Concord, N.C., during the summer of 2002 with six employees.
Today JRM operates out of a large 66,000-square-foot facility in Mooresville, N.C. The team now has over 100 employees and encompasses a full stable of cars that compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and local weekly late model divisions.
Kelley Earnhardt, co-owner and general manager of JRM, began working for JRM in 2001 as vice president and general manager. In 2010 she became an equal owner of JR Motorsports with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Eury Jr., and Rick Hendrick.
“I grew up in this sport, so it’s pretty much what I know. I did take a break to go to college and study business – Dale Jr. always says it’s what keeps this operation going,” says Earnhardt. “Thank gosh one of us went to college for something other than motorsports or racecars!”
JRM competes in multiple racing divisions, including the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In 2008 JRM enjoyed a breakout season with four Nationwide Series victories between its two teams. The company followed suit with four more wins in 2009, and added two additional victories to its tally in 2010. Earnhardt credits much of the success to the partnerships JRM has formed over the years.
Miller’s place in the Earnhardt heritage
Miller products are used exclusively throughout the shops, and have been a part of the Earnhardt legacy since day one.
“Our association with Miller welders began with my dad, Dale Earnhardt, through his ownership of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. Dale Jr. drove there and used Miller products,” says Earnhardt. “As Dale branched out to his own team it was kind of a natural fit for Miller welders to follow Dale into the JR Motorsports fold.”
The Earnhardt children learned to weld at a young age, and both used those skills in their racing careers. Kelley raced late-model cars, her team also was supported by Miller products.
“Growing up in the Earnhardt family we had a lot of exposure to welding. My dad was constantly working on his own equipment,” said Earnhardt. “I was actually taught to weld by Ron Hornaday and my dad. Ron said that I was really good at it!”
Kelley doesn’t do any welding today, but the fabricators at JRM find that using Miller welders helps them get any job done quickly and easily.
Fabricator Robert Gee, who happens to be Kelley and Dale Jr.’s uncle, has used Miller products throughout his entire career.
“You can expect – and you get – the same quality performance every time you use a Miller machine,” says Gee. The Miller wire welders make my job easier, and I’d hate to have to do it without them.”
Gee works in the finished fab shop at JRM, which builds about 18 cars per year. The shop has approximately 40 welders, but he particularly enjoys using the Millermatic® 211 AutoSet™ with MVP™. He’s seen the evolution of Miller products throughout his career, and recognizes the impact welding has had on the sport of racing.
“My first exposure was the old Millermatic® 35 back in the early 70s. Then I began using the 200s that we still use today in our shop,” says Gee. “I’ve been in racing 40 years – it’s all I’ve ever done. The best part of my job is watching the cars I’ve built perform.”
James Keener, another fabricator at JRM, prefers the Dynasty® 350 TIG welder, because of the machine’s ability to work well with aluminum materials. The AC frequency range is 20-400 hertz, allowing for more control over the force and width of the arc.
“I like what you can do with aluminum, especially thin aluminum because of the frequency changes,” says Keener. “But I do use the 211 to tack together exhaust pieces. I typically use the Dynasty to weld up exhaust pieces, or mounting pieces for the pie systems for testing. And the Dynasty makes it so much easier to work with smaller pieces. That’s a big help, since I get to weld a lot of different things, not just exhaust parts or pieces for the test teams.”
The Dynasty also features Blue Lightning™ - High Frequency Arc Starter for TIG non-contact arc initiation. This provides more consistent arc starts and greater reliability compared to traditional HF arc starters. Because Keener works on a variety of projects each day, using the Dynasty helps him to increase his productivity.
A Family Affair
Known to many as “Pops”, Tony Eury Sr. has been a staple in the NASCAR garage for the past 25 years. Racing has always been both a way of life and a family affair for him. As a former brother-in-law to Dale Earnhardt Sr., an uncle to Dale Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt, his bond with the Earnhardt clan goes deeper than the racetrack - he’s family.
“I’ve been involved in motorsports for many years – my dad got me started when he got involved in racing,” said Eury Sr. “Dale Sr. talked me into leaving my job in 1986 and I went to work for him full-time. It was probably the best move I’ve ever made.”
Eury Sr.’s first exposure to Miller was when his dad first bought a MIG welder, and today Miller is a key partner to JRM in the shop and on the track.
“I think my brother still has that welder in his shop today – we’ve been using Miller for a long time,” says Eury Sr. “Miller has been a good friend of ours, and we really enjoy the partnership. We always have our Miller welders at our race track, so we’re prepared for major and minor repairs because we have the right equipment with us.”
At the end of the day, having family involved in the business is what makes JRM so successful.
“Growing up watching our dad and what he built with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and the teams that he started, it was natural for us to lean on our family and their talents in this sport,” says Kelley. “We’ve got about 15 people from our family involved in the business. Because of that we’re very vested in its success and we work really hard to do a good job.”
Both Gee and Eury agree that working with family makes the job easier.
“Working at JR motorsports and being a member of Dale Jr.’s family works out well for me, because we’ve always just worked with family. It’s no different working for him than it was working for my father,” says Gee.
“Whatever it takes to win, that’s what we’ll do. And it’s nice to have your family working with you on something you love to do,” says Eury Sr. “I have a lot of happy moments in racing – we won Daytona five years in a row with Dale Earnhardt. But The All-Star race, as bad as we were running, and we ended up in the wall – and to come back and beat those guys with a rookie (Dale Jr.) in the car – that was a pretty good night for us.”
The family legacy is important to the Earnhardt’s, and it pushes them to perform to the best of their abilities – on the track and off. It’s also what makes coming to work so enjoyable.
“This sport is my life – it’s what I know, it’s what I do. To build on our family’s heritage is really what drives us every day,” says Kelley. “The fun for us is to carry on our family’s tradition – for both the Earnhardt’s and our grandfather, Robert Gee, who was a fabricator. It drives us to continue that legacy in the sport.”
For more information about Miller’s partnership with JRM, visit the Racing, Customizing and Restoring page on MillerWelds.com.