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Martha Earnhardt, matriarch of famed racing family, passes away

A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 29, in Kannapolis.

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Martha Earnhardt, the matriarch of the Earnhardt family, died Christmas evening at the age of 91, according to family members.

Kelly Earnhardt Miller and Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that she died in a joint statement on Sunday:

“It is with great sadness that we share the news that Martha Earnhardt passed away Christmas evening. As we grieve her loss and begin to imagine life without our beloved ‘Mamaw,’ we find solace in knowing she is at peace in eternal glory and in joyous reunion with her husband Ralph and sons Dale, Randy and Danny. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers, and thank you so much for loving our Mamaw as if she were your own. She was not just the matriarch to our family, but she was the matriarch to multiple generations of race fans.”

JR Motorsports also shared the message on its website along with a photo of the Earnhardt family.

NASCAR also shared a statement on Sunday about the passing. 

The racing family left a big impact on the town where Martha Earnhardt lived and raised five children. 

"The name Earnhardt is important in NASCAR and in the community it’s just immense," said Frank Tapia, who lives in nearby Concord. "You telling me that Mrs. Earnhardt had passed away was a shock." 

In a statement, Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant said:

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Mrs. Martha Earnhardt.

In addition to being the matriarch of a legendary racing family she was a treasured member of our community. This was evidenced a few years ago when she was named the Kannapolis Christmas Parade Grand Marshal and thousands showed up to honor her.

If you dropped by her home you were always welcomed as if you were one of her family members that she loved so dearly. She would give you updates on all her children and their families and would want to ensure all was well with you.

On behalf of the City of Kannapolis we offer our deepest condolences to her family. She will be greatly missed.

A celebration of her life will be held at noon on Wednesday, Dec.29, at Memorial Baptist Church in Kannapolis. The service will be officiated by Rev. Jason Barber. According to the obituary posted by Whitley's Funeral Home, the family requests that all who attend be mindful and wear a mask and keep social distance. 

For people who are unable to attend, her service will be livestreamed on the church's website.

The family requests that memorials be made to either the Dale Jr. Foundation and/or Memorial Baptist Church.

The news comes less than a month after Danny Earnhardt Sr. passed away at age 66. JR Motorsports also shared the news to their website, saying he died at his home on Friday, Dec. 10.

Contact Indira Eskieva at ieskieva@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

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