Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was engaged in lengthy negotiations with Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI), the company founded by his father and run by his stepmother, before he struck out on his own and invited other Nascar teams to court him. Junior’s chief negotiator is his big sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, who is vice president and general manager of JR Motorsports, his Busch Series racing team. In New York Times articles published after last week’s news conference, both siblings described a childhood where each was the lone constant in the other’s family life, with Kelley looking out for Junior from an early age right through today. Junior said he was lucky to have someone of her talents with him and felt very comfortable with her on board. Kelley, in turn, when discussing some of the more obvious pros and cons of teams who have expressed interest in Junior, was keenly aware of the emotional aspects of affiliation with various suitors.
Emotions and business decisions can be difficult to reconcile, especially in a family business. In Junior’s case, he has left one family business — DEI, founded by his father and run by his stepmother — and remained in another — JR Mototorsports, where he leans heavily on his sister. One thing that Junior and Kelley appear to have going in their favor is their awareness of the potentially potent role of emotions in their business dealings, an awareness that is a key first step to dealing effectively with conflicts as they arise.