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Danny Earnhardt, the brother of NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt and a longtime NASCAR mechanic, died Friday morning at his home in North Carolina. He was 66.

The youngest of five children born to Ralph and Martha Earnhardt, Danny Earnhardt began his racing career working on his father's cars while also working as a pipe insulator. After Ralph Earnhardt died of a heart attack in 1973, Danny moved on to work with his brother on his burgeoning racing career, serving as both a mechanic and a pit crew member for Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Earnhardt would then go on to advocate to his brother about the abilities of his nephew, Dale Earnhardt Jr., behind the wheel of a racecar. The conversation would help lay the groundwork for Earnhardt Jr.'s NASCAR Hall of Fame career, and was recounted during a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download.

Earnhardt would go on to work in the suspension room of JR Motorsports, building cars that won a total of 58 races and three championships in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

"The Earnhardt family holds a special place in NASCAR history and Danny Earnhardt was an important part of their success," read a statement by NASCAR. "Danny worked hard behind the scenes, helping three generations of Earnhardts succeed. On behalf of the entire NASCAR industry, our thoughts are with the Earnhardt family during this difficult time."

Danny Earnhardt is survived by Sherry, his wife of 47 years, son Danny Earnhardt Jr., his wife and two grandchildren, and mother Martha. Danny Earnhardt Jr. currently works as a car chief for JR Motorsports.