Is Dale Earnhardt’s Widow, Teresa Earnhardt, Trying To Make Peace With Dale Jr?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Teresa Earnhardt
UPI Photo/Chad Cameron via Alamy

Is this her way of extending an olive branch?

The widow of the legendary Dale Earnhardt, there might not be anybody more hated by NASCAR fans than Teresa Earnhardt – and she hasn’t even been involved in the sport in a decade.

“The Wicked Witch of the South” hasn’t done much to win over her late husband’s fans – or his family – since the Intimidator’s passing in the 2001 Daytona 500.

Teresa was the third wife of Dale Earnhardt, and the stepmother to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

And when Earnhardt tragically lost his life in the final turn of the Daytona 500, Teresa also inherited another role: NASCAR team owner.

Dale Earnhardt had started his race team, Dale Earnhardt, Inc., in the 1980s to field cars for himself in the then-Busch Series. The team eventually grew into the Cup Series, and in 2000 he began fielding a car for his son, Dale Jr.

Longtime NASCAR fans know how the story ends: With the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., leaving the team his father built after a bitter (and public) battle with his stepmother over ownership in the company, and the team folding just a few years later (after Teresa said they would just “make another Dale Jr.” if he left the team).

It’s a saga that’s left many in the sport unwilling to even discuss Teresa Earnhardt. And when the fans discuss her, they usually don’t have many nice things to say.

Teresa and her stepsons, Dale Jr. and his half-brother Kerry, have had a turbulent relationship to say the least. Aside from Dale Jr.’s battle with his stepmom over his dad’s race team, Teresa also filed a lawsuit against Kerry over his use of the Earnhardt name when Kerry announced plans to roll out a line of homes and furniture called “The Earnhardt Collection.”

Then there was the commercial that Budweiser released to honor Earnhardt Jr. before his last race in the Cup Series. Fans quickly noticed that the commercial didn’t feature Jr.’s #8 on the car, or any of the trademarks of Dale’s DEI car that are still owned by Teresa, leading many to assume that Teresa refused to allow Budweiser to use the DEI trademarks in honoring Dale Jr.

So yeah, Teresa hasn’t exactly endeared herself to Earnhardt’s sons – or their fans.

But is she ready to finally try to make amends?

Since Earnhardt’s death, Teresa has controlled all things DEI, even after the race team folded after merging with Chip Ganassi Racing. And she still tightly polices the use of the intellectual property owned by the former race team, which now serves as basically a merchandise company.

A few years ago Teresa did abandon the trademark to the #15 logo, the car driven by Michael Waltrip, that was owned by DEI. But until now she’s kept the trademarks to the #1 and the #8, the other two car numbers that the race team put out onto the track.

In fact, back in 2022 when Ross Chastain (who currently drives the #1 car) sported a Dale Earnhardt throwback paint scheme, his team was forced to change the font of the number on the car because it infringed on Teresa’s trademark.

So petty.

Of course there’s some history there too: Chastain drives for Trackhouse Racing. The president of Trackhouse is Ty Norris, a longtime NASCAR executive who served as the president of DEI until being unceremoniously dismissed by Teresa. So there’s a lot of speculation that there’s still some bad blood from Teresa towards Norris.

Which brings us to today. The trademarks for both the #1 and the #8 logos used by DEI were set to expire next month, meaning that if they weren’t renewed, Teresa’s control over those logos would finally be released – and Dale Jr. could sell his own #8 merch featuring the car he’s most famous for driving, or teams could run Dale Jr. throwback paint schemes without having to worry about a lawsuit.

Well Teresa did file to renew the trademark…for the #1.

Now, I’m not sure how much Steve Park merch is still flying off the shelves these days. But apparently Teresa wanted to keep the trademark for the #1, in what seems like a petty shot at Ty Norris since he’s the president of the team that currently runs the #1 car.

But even more interesting, Teresa has not yet filed to renew the trademark for Dale Jr.’s iconic #8.

The current registration for the trademark is set to expire on June 3. After that time, DEI’s registration of the mark will be cancelled and Dale Jr. will be free to use the number and font however he wants.

Is that what she’s planning on doing? Is this her way of extending an olive branch to her stepson?

It’s obviously a little odd that she wants to hold on to the #1 trademark but not the #8, considering Junior’s number is much more valuable than the #1 of Steve Park. I mean, Dale Jr.’s #8 car was iconic, and he still remains one of the most popular figures in the sport. There’s plenty of demand for Dale Jr. #8 merch, even though it’s been 15 years since he drove the car.

Of course she could also still be planning to renew the trademark before the deadline, which would be a pretty shitty move to make everybody think that she’s going to let Junior have it and then file to renew it at the last minute.

But then again, if she’s willing to sue her own stepson over the use of his own name, I wouldn’t put anything past her at this point.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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