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Kelley Earnhardt Miller: “Don’t worry about what you can’t control”

Just be kind. We have no idea what kindness can mean to people. We don’t know what people are going through on a daily basis behind closed doors. A quick smile, glance, opening a door, saying thank you, asking about their day, asking about their family…the smallest gesture of kindness can scream the loudest to […]

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Just be kind. We have no idea what kindness can mean to people. We don’t know what people are going through on a daily basis behind closed doors. A quick smile, glance, opening a door, saying thank you, asking about their day, asking about their family…the smallest gesture of kindness can scream the loudest to someone that needs it!


As a part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelley Earnhardt Miller, part-owner and general manager of JR Motorsports and is considered one of the most prominent businesswomen in NASCAR today. She oversees the company’s race team, management team, and business ventures for her brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr. The daughter of seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt Miller graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a BA in business administration. A multiple-award recipient, she was named in 2015 as one of SportsBusiness Journal’s Game Changers/Women in Sports Business for her impact on the motorsports industry. Kelley is married to L.W. Miller and is mom to Karsyn, Kennedy, and Wyatt.

Thank you so much for joining us Kelley. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well, I was literally born into it I suppose. Being the daughter of Dale Earnhardt Sr., one might assume I would end up working in NASCAR, but when I went off to college, I was actually a criminal justice major. About a year into that, I changed to business administration as I felt it was more broad and applicable to many different avenues. My dad’s death led me to work for Dale Jr., my brother, and go on to manage his career for almost 20 years. When our dad passed, I knew Dale would need leadership and guidance, which was separate from Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he was a driver for my stepmother. After talking him into letting me work for him (he wasn’t sure he could afford me ☺), I’ve been there since Aug 2001.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

One of the most disruptive things about our work at JR Motorsports is the grooming of young, new racecar drivers. In our position in the Xfinity Series, we have the opportunity to provide a platform for drivers honing their talent and adding to their resume. And this isn’t just on the race track but off the track as well. We started a driver development program geared for off-the-track to teach these young drivers about building their brand, engaging with fans, interacting with the media, working with sponsors, and so much more. One of the rewarding pieces of our work is to see them grow in so many ways, then continue to the Cup Series of NASCAR, and do well.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I have two business mentors that have impacted me in a big way. The first is Joe Mattes, who I write about in my book. Out of college, Joe was my first boss. He is a no BS, hard-nosed kind of guy who prefers to call it as he sees it! The other is Mr. Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group. Mr. Hendrick taught me most about the value of people in your organization. Long before my brother went to drive for Rick, we saw his amazing care and concern for people when my grandfather was sick and he worked for Rick. Rick would come to the hospital and spend time with him (my grandfather) in the midst of his busy schedule. He just goes the extra mile to respect and honor all those who help achieve his success. It’s refreshing.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I share a few of these in my book. Aim for the win-win is essential in my world of sponsorship. Our sport relies heavily on sponsorship dollars to do what we do each week. I’ve learned that aiming for a win-win set you up for the best success. One party cannot “win” more than the other or the relationship is usually short-lived.

Mr. Hendrick always says you get one first impression, better make it the best! We always ask ourselves, is this going to be the best first impression we can make? If not, don’t do it. Make sure you are ready and prepared since you only get one shot at that first impression.

Someone once told me the decisions that are the toughest to make are the ones that need to be made the most. And boy, is this so true. How many times do we wrestle over a decision for whatever reason, but a decision is so necessary for the situation. My most difficult decision was having to let go of two important family members that led our motorsports team at JRM. I knew we needed a change, but it was family. And that was a tough, emotional decision, but one that was necessary for us to increase our performance.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I hope the release of my first book (“DRIVE: 9 Lessons To Win in Business and in Life”) and the people that read it shakes things up! That’s my goal — to share my experiences in this book so that as leaders, we can continue to shake things up and do things differently.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I can’t think of one book in particular but I’m a huge reader of self-help, inspirational type books and stories. I like to know about others’ experiences and what helped them overcome or achieve success and happiness in their life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

Just be kind. We have no idea what kindness can mean to people. We don’t know what people are going through on a daily basis behind closed doors. A quick smile, glance, opening a door, saying thank you, asking about their day, asking about their family…the smallest gesture of kindness can scream the loudest to someone that needs it!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t worry about what you can’t control.” I’ve had this quote on my Facebook page since inception…and although it’s hard to do at times, we really should not focus our worry and time on something that is out of our control. I do a lot of self-talk to keep this under control!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@EarnhardtKelley on Twitter. Kelleyearnhardtmiller on Instagram. KelleyKEarnhardt on Facebook.

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