|Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs|
But, as much as I like Joe Gibbs for all of the reasons I listed, he is not my favorite car owner in the garage.
For those who know me you must have figured by now that Richard Childress is the team owner I fancy most.
Dale Earnhardt, oft stated as my driver, kept me riveted to the sport. And it was a familiar and cozy sight to see Richard Childress often by the side of his enormously talented and winning driver.
Interviews with Dale would indicate the close relationship he had with Richard.
They hunted together, they fished together, and they raced together.
Wondering why Richard Childress wasn’t a racer I did some background research to find he had been, but not a very successful one.
Richard Childress began his career as a replacement driver for NASCAR when a driver’s strike was going on in Talladega in 1969. Bill France Sr. needed replacement drivers and Richard stepped up.
His career was average at best and included six top-5, seventy-six top-10 finishes, with a career-best of third in 1978; solid but not stellar.
Richard Childress used to drive with the No. 96 until 1976 when he changed to the No.3 as a tribute to Junior Johnson. That auspicious change would foreshadow greatness for Childress.
Richard Childress knew deep down that his racing career had limits, but his business acumen and intuition would carry him far in this sport. In 1981 Richard was forced into retirement when a turn of events led to Dale Earnhardt’s availability. Richard knew Dale was the better choice to get behind the wheel of Childress’ No.3 racecar.
Dale raced for Richard for one season (1981), but Richard couldn’t equip Dale with the best money could buy so he let Dale go. When the two were reunited in 1984, however, the sky was the limit. Together the duo strung together six championships – 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994.
Of course, tragedy struck at the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 that ended the Childress/Earnhardt Dynasty.
Physical grief showed all over Richard Childress’ face in the days following Dale’s death. His eyes were dark, epically saddened, and hopelessly dull. He hadn’t lost a driver; Richard had lost his best friend.
Richard Childress boldly put his Busch driver Kevin Harvick in the newly numbered No.29 Goodwrench team, showing the legion of NASCAR fans, friends, and family that life and racing goes on even after tragedy.
At Atlanta, Harvick’s third start in Cup, he won the race.
Richard Childress was revived.
Although to date RCR has not won any more Cup championships, the team has been victorious in other NASCAR series.
In the 1995 season RCR won the inaugural Craftsman Truck Series Championship with Mike Skinner. In 2001 and 2006 Kevin Harvick brought home Busch Series Championships for RCR.
Richard Childress Racing became the first team in history to win all three of NASCAR’s national championship series.
Just last season Richard Childress’ grandson, Austin Dillon, won the Camping World Truck Championship for RCR driving the black No.3. In 2012 he will once again drive the RCR No.3 only it will now be on a Nationwide Series car.
And also making a name for himself in NASCAR is Richard Childress’ other grandson, Austin’s brother, Ty Dillon who won the 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Championship.
Having family surround him, running the black No.3 after the dormant years following Dale Earnhardt’s death, and still winning championships is surely a fantastic feeling.
And, with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Paul Menard running RCR cars in 2012, perhaps a Cup win isn’t out of the question for 2012 either!
Before long, Austin Dillon will be ascending to Cup and perhaps will make Richard’s life in NASCAR come full circle with winning Cup championships.
Having Richard Childress populate the garages of all three of NASCAR’s top tiers, is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.
Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.