An Interview with Richard Childress
Team Owner, Richard Childress Racing
Richard Childress is the founder and team owner of Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, North Carolina. Team drivers include Richard’s grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon, who both drive in the XFINITY and Sprint Cup series, and Ryan Newman and Paul Menard for the Sprint Cup series. Drivers Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones drive in the XFINITY series.
Richard got his start racing local tracks, dirt tracks, and then he moved up to the Grand American Series. At the time, the top series in NASCAR® was known as the Grand National Series, and would later come to be known as The Sprint Cup.
In 1969, Childress got his first real break as a replacement driver during the driver boycott at Talladega. But perhaps the most defining event in Richard Childress’s career was teaming up with driver, Dale Earnhardt, in 1981.
Grainger had an opportunity recently to sit down with Richard in Welcome, North Carolina to talk about his career and passion for racing.
Grainger: What do you love about racing?
Childress: As a driver, I loved it because of the speed, the competition, getting to just go so fast in cars and run so close together with other cars. Winning plays a big role. I won some races back in my day. I just love the people I work around, the partners that we have, and the fans that come up and talk to you. None of us would be here today, doing what we’re doing without our fans.
Grainger: How did you meet Dale Earnhardt?
Childress: We were in the same hunting camp in the late 1970s. Then in 1981, Rod Osterlund, sold his racing team to J.D. Stacy and Dale didn’t want to drive for them. The guys from Wrangler talked to me about sponsoring us if we put Dale in the car.
Grainger: Tell us a little about the number 3.
Childress: Back in the day, a funny story, I had an old buddy of mine who would letter the car. And my car numbers were #41, and #26 and different numbers like that. And he said it would be half as expensive if you got a single digit number. I liked number 3 because Junior Johnson was one of my heroes, and the different people who had driven the 3 car. I went after the 3 and actually got it through Ray Fox. It was an iconic number at the time it had won a lot of races, but when we took it and it was with Dale, he made the number 3 famous.
Grainger: How would you describe your leadership style?
Childress: I’m passionate about what I do. I’m passionate about the people who work with me. I just want success for everyone around me. If everyone around you is successful, you’ll be successful as well. Leading a company or a business with great ethics is the key to success. And always treat people — your customers, or your employees like you would like to be treated.
Grainger: What Qualities Does RCR Look for in a Driver?
Childress: You’ve got to have a passion, number one. You’ve got to have a drive that you want to win. You’ve got to have that passion that whatever it takes you’re going to go out and do your best and give 100% every lap on that racetrack. And In today’s world, you have to be able to work with our partners, work the fans, with NASCAR, and with NASCAR partners. Those are the things you look for in a driver, how do they handle themselves with the media, and how competitive they are.
Grainger: Tell Us About Your Interests
Childress: This is a high-pressure, high-intensity sport, so when I can get away, why I enjoy the great outdoors; to be able to go sit on a mountain somewhere, or sit over a duck blind, just being outside to enjoy the outdoors is a great pleasure. I enjoy taking kids and people who have never been in the outdoors hunting, fishing. Seeing that smile, you know, you get as much pleasure in that as you do going by yourself.
Defining Moments in RCR History
- Bringing on Dale Earnhardt in 1981
- Winning our first race with Ricky Rudd 1983
- Winning our first championship in 1986
- Winning the Daytona 500 in 1998 with Dale Earnhardt
Grainger: Looking back on your career, is there anything you would change?
Childress: You can learn so much from history. A lot of the things we did in business we were able to improve upon. And I think Dale would be happy with where we are today. I don’t have a lot of regrets in life or business, because I’ve been fortunate to have great people around me throughout my whole career.
Grainger: Where Do You See RCR in the Future?
Childress: I see our future winning races, racing for championships. I see the grandchildren someday running the business or being involved with the business. We’ve got a great group of people that we work with. I think the key to success at RCR is having great partners, having the ethics to run a business to be honest with everyone. Loyalty means a whole lot to me. And I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great people who have been here with me 30-40 years.
Learn more about Grainger Racing, including race schedules and more here.
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