When Dale Earnhardt was driving the iconic No. 3 car for Richard Childress Racing, the duo made a deal. For every victory Earnhardt earned at Martinsville, he could keep the first grandfather clock trophy but the next one had to go to Childress.
In the 17 years Earnhardt drove for RCR, he won five times at The Paperclip.
“I’ve got a couple clocks from Dale,” Childress said in a press conference at Martinsville Speedway on Monday.
Fans of both RCR and Martinsville now will get the chance to see those clocks as well as dozens of cars driven in the 50-year history of the racing team.
The Speedway and RCR announced Monday a partnership that would allow anyone who purchases a ticket for the upcoming NASCAR Cup Series First Data 500 to receive a voucher to go the RCR museum in Welcome, N.C., as well as a voucher for a free wine tasting at Childress Vineyards.
The First Data 500 will run at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 27.
“We’re really excited about teaming up with Martinsville,” Childress said. “We’re so close. Our museum has so much history and a lot of Martinsville history in it.”
Said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell: “I think if you look at our fan base, and where they come from, so many people come from down in that area. We have a huge amount of fans in Winston-Salem, Welcome and along the Triad. So many people come by Welcome to the events here, and we probably have the most die-hard fans of probably any fans on the circuit.”
RCR also announced the team will be having a fan day on Oct. 25, the Friday of the Martinsville NASCAR weekend, and they invite all fans to the museum to meet the team’s drivers – Childress’s grandson Austin Dillon, Daniel Hemric, and Tyler Reddick – and crew chiefs, get autographs and tour the museum.
With Welcome just about 60 miles from Martinsville, Childress and his family have always considered it their home track.
“Martinsville is really special to me, my family,” he said. “I know Austin and his brother, Ty [Dillon], used to come here and hang out even back when Dale was running in the early days. I look at some of the pictures on the wall here, and it brings back some really cool memories of coming here to Martinsville.
"I always enjoyed coming to Martinsville. I knew anytime we came up here with Earnhardt or Kevin [Harvick] or any of the other guys, I knew we had a good shot to win. I can’t wait 'til Austin gets his win up here and maybe gives me his clock.”
Said Dillon: “I love coming to Martinsville. It’s one of my favorite tracks. It is a home track. It’s nice when you can drive up here and come home back and forth between the two… I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been able to race at this place.”
Childress said there’s no track in NASCAR that provides a better fan experience than Martinsville.
“To see the fans and to see how they get into this race and this racetrack… they’ve got great hot dogs by the way, but even more than that it’s very fan friendly and that’s the key to our sport today. Bringing out younger kids and being to see the races.
“It’s just a great partnership. I’ve always been very happy to work with Martinsville in anyway way we can.”
“I think the guy next to me [Childress] is the only guy who’ll eat a Martinsville hot dog and drink wine with it,” Dillon said with a laugh.
The Childress museum has more than 40 of Earnhardt’s original cars, as well as Daytona 500-winning cars from Earnhardt, Harvick and Dillon.
Some of NASCAR’s biggest names have driven for RCR in its half-century. Harvick took over for Earnhardt after he was killed at Daytona in 2001 and spent 12 years with the team. Ricky Rudd, Clint Bowyer, and Jeff Burton have also called the team home for parts of their careers.
“This is special to be able to celebrate Richard Childress’s 50th anniversary in NASCAR,” Campbell said. “I think that speaks highly for what he stands for and what he has accomplished. For any business to persevere for 50 years, I don’t care what you’re doing, it’s a pretty big feat.
“He’s made a lifetime in NASCAR and NASCAR certainly would be at a loss without someone like Richard. Look at the accomplishments he has on the racetrack, as well as off the racetrack, it’s just unbelievable. I have the utmost respect for what he’s accomplished and it’s all been done in NASCAR from the very beginning.
“It’s a special year for you and we’re honored to be a part of that.”