Rudd reflects on NASCAR career, time spent with Childress
Ricky Rudd was a youngster in NASCAR at a time when the term described anyone under 30 that drove around in used equipment and hoped someone noticed their talent before the wheels fell off. Richard Childress was a 36-year-old independent, an owner/driver with a potential sponsor that wasn't interested in 36-year-old owner/drivers, independent or otherwise. Brought together by nothing more than necessity -- Rudd needed a ride and Childress needed a driver -- the pair spent just two years together. But in two years' time, a stellar driving career and a legendary ownership role were launched. "Even today I can't thank Ricky enough for what he did for RCR," Childress said recently during an unveiling of throwback paint schemes to be run by two of his organization's three cars later this year in the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . "Those were the breaking points that we needed to get both of our careers jump-started. I think it was a great time for both of us." Austin Dillon , grandson of the team owner, will drive a No. 3 Chevrolet bearing the likeness of Rudd's No. 3 Piedmont Airlines entry at Darlington. "I'd been talking to Piedmont prior to that," Childress said of the 1982 sponsorship agreement. "Even talked to them back when Dale (Earnhardt) was running … races (for us). "They said, 'We're an up-and-coming airline, we want an up and coming driver.' I said, 'Well I know exactly the person.' I convinced Ricky to run for us. We didn't even have it done when he came over to drive for us." Childress had gone the independent route for roughly a dozen years, earning 76 top-10 finishes but never a victory in 285 career starts as a driver. Rudd had begun to climb the racing ladder, but saw his career stall at the end of '81 when he was replaced at DiGard Racing by veteran Bobby Allison. "About that time I got a call from Richard ," Rudd said. "He said, 'Hey, nothing concrete but I've got some good equipment that I'm going to Daytona with, would you be willing to drive our car?' That's how it started. "That phone call didn't take place until late December, maybe early January. ... I didn't have anything going that was better than what Richard had to offer. I went to the car that I thought gave me the best chance to win races. Even though the prior half season Dale Earnhardt was driving the car and everyone knows Earnhardt's capabilities but they never really performed that well. There were reasons for that, but Richard was in a major rebuild during that time." Earnhardt drove for Richard Childress Racing for the final 11 races of '81, but departed to spend the next two years with Bud Moore where he won three times. Meanwhile, the RCR organization was beginning to make strides. "Before we went to Daytona, things had started happening. Piedmont Airlines had stepped on board as a sponsor. Goodyear came on board and helped us out with some tires ... there were a lot of people that got on board and liked what they saw," Rudd said. "The team just continued to snowball in the right direction after I was asked to join it, not because of me, but the timing was perfect for me as a driver and was perfect for Richard as an owner, through all the hard work and people he had. It came together and worked." Rudd and Childress went winless in their first season together, but the driver did finish ninth in points. The following year, Rudd began the season with three consecutive poles -- at Daytona, Richmond, Virigina, and Rockingham, North Carolina -- career win No. 1, for Rudd and for Childress , came in the season's 13th race, at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. Rudd led 57 laps of the 95-lap race, including the final 41. The victory came in his 161st start in the series. "It gave every one of us confidence," Childress said. "It gave him confidence to progress in the sport, gave us confidence that we could win as a team and as a company and we just had to keep digging." "It wasn't a road-race car," Will Lind, now Business Director of Competition for RCR, said. "It was our Martinsville car with the gas hole moved and the oil cooler for the transmission. The only thing specialized about it was him (Rudd)." Afterward, as Childress and crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine began the long trek back to the Carolinas, the team owner said he pulled off on the side of the road. "Kirk and I looked at each other and Kirk said, 'You know what we just did?' "I said, 'Yeah, we won.' " "He said, 'No, you won right outside of LA, with all the big sports going on ... we just won a major race here in Riverside, California.' " Rudd won once more that season, at Martinsville Speedway , and again finished ninth in points. The following season, he moved on to join Bud Moore Engineering; Earnhardt, meanwhile returned to RCR where he went on to win six premier series titles for the former owner/driver. Rudd retired from driving after the 2007 season, with 23 career wins and 374 top-10 finishes in 906 starts. He finished fifth or better in points five times, including second in 1991. He is one of five new nominees on this year's 20-person ballot to be considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame for 2017. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel will meet Wed., May 25 to decide next year's five-member class. "It's an exciting time for me," Rudd said. "It would be great if I make it but there are some guys that are probably better qualified than me. I'd love to be elected this year but hopefully that day will come. At least I'm in the pool anyway; you've got to get in the pool before you can be elected. We'll see how it turns out. But there are some guys that deserve to be in there before I do." It is Childress' eighth year on the Hall of Fame ballot. In addition to six premier series titles and 105 victories, RCR teams have also XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series titles. "You could tell early on that there was something special about it," Rudd said of the organization. " Richard was more than just being a car owner ... it was family. They live, eat, sleep and breathe racing . ... "At the time there were no victories here but as a group it all started happening. And it was just a neat time to be a part of it." MORE: Cast your NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot
Hall of Fame preview: Mark Martin amongst contenders
RELATED: Meet 2017's nominees " Live stream of reveal, 5 p.m. ET Mark Martin will be one of 20 people considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when the Voting Panel convenes in Charlotte on Wednesday to determine the 2017 class. (TV coverage: NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET) Three of those on the ballot are former premier series champions -- Red Byron, NASCAR's first Strictly Stock champion in 1949; Benny Parsons, the 1973 winner who went on to enjoy a successful second career in the broadcast booth; and Alan Kulwicki, killed in a plane crash just four-and-a-half months after capturing the 1992 crown. There was no championship trophy for Martin, who retired from competition at the end of the 2013 season. But that doesn't diminish the accomplishments the Batesville, Arkansas, native garnered during a career that spanned more than three decades. Martin, 57, won 40 times in the premier series, with victories coming at 21 different tracks. He finished 10th or better 453 times, in more than half of his 882 career starts. He also won 56 poles. RELATED: Live stream, 5 p.m. ET, Wednesday In the battle for the championship, Martin placed second five times, a mark he shares with current Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison, and he scored 17 top-10 points finishes during his career. "It makes me proud I was able to be as successful as I was and grateful for the opportunities I had," Martin told Little Rock, Arkansas, radio station KABZ-FM recently. "To be real honest I didn't enjoy a … significant part of my career because I was trying so hard to get that championship because I wanted it, and even more than that, the people who supported me wanted it for me so badly. I saw time running out. "I spent too much of my time focused on that and not enjoying the opportunities I had. Today, when I look back on it I wish I hadn't done that." Martin lost the 1990 title by 26 points to Dale Earnhardt and finished second to the Richard Childress Racing driver again four years later. Other runner-up finishes through the years came against Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson . "My life would not be different one bit had I won one of those or not," Martin said. "I had a great career. … I don't think it would have changed a thing in my life had I won one of those trophies. I was very close. I got beat by only four of the greatest of all time in NASCAR in my opinion. … "I'm not embarrassed." Earnhardt was one of five members inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class in 2010. Gordon, a four-time series champion with 93 career victories, retired from driving at the end of 2015 and won't be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until 2018 and possible induction until '19. Stewart, winner of three premier series titles and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , will cease to compete full time in the series following the 2016 season. Johnson is a six-time champion and boasts 77 career wins, including two thus far this season. In addition to his premier series exploits, Martin held the XFINITY Series record for career wins for 14 years and is also a seven-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. It is his second consecutive appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. First-year nominees for the 2017 ballot are former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr ., team co-owner Jack Roush, driver Ricky Rudd, noted crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson and broadcaster Ken Squier. Rounding out the list of nominees are Buddy Baker, Richard Childress , Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Larry Phillips, Mike Stefanik and Robert Yates. Also to be determined by the Voting Panel is the 2017 recipient of the Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR. The five nominees are Martinsville Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles, driver Janet Guthrie, team owner Raymond Parks, former RJ Reynolds executive Ralph Seagraves and Squier. The Voting Panel is scheduled to begin the selection process Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Charlotte Convention Center. The announcement of those chosen will take place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Great Hall (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN). NASCAR.com will also live stream the event: You can watch it live here.
Whelen to sponsor Newman's Coca-Cola 600 car
WELCOME, N.C. (May 23, 2016) - Richard Childress Racing announced today that Whelen Engineering Co., the "Official Warning Lights of NASCAR", will serve as the primary sponsor on Ryan Newman 's No. 31 Chevrolet SS for the 57th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2016. "Whelen Engineering, the Official Warning Lights of NASCAR, is pleased to be the primary sponsor of the Whelen No. 31 Chevrolet for the Coca-Cola 600 ," said Phil Kurze, vice president of motorsports. "Ryan (Newman) is a familiar name to us since he has been in Victory Lane a number of times in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway . It is fitting to have a graduate engineer driving a race car sponsored by an engineering company. The familiar red and white Sam Bass paint scheme will be displayed on the car and we look forward to the excitement of the longest race on the Sprint Cup schedule." The red and white colors of the No. 31 Whelen Chevrolet will hit the track for the annual Memorial Day weekend event, in which Newman has three top-five and six top-10 finishes, in addition to five pole awards. "Whelen's commitment to motorsports is comprehensive, and we are proud to partner with them for the Coca-Cola 600 ," said Torrey Galida, president of Richard Childress Racing . "Their dedication to innovation and safety is in line with the philosophy here at RCR, and we look forward to seeing the No. 31 Whelen Chevrolet on the track this Memorial Day weekend." A company that now employs over 1,400 workers, Whelen began in 1952 when George W. Whelen invented the first rotating aircraft "anti-collision" beacon in his garage in Deep River, Connecticut. Over the years, Whelen grew out of the garage and into the mainstream, working with police, public works, and fire departments across the country. Today, Whelen has two manufacturing facilities totaling over 1,000,000 square feet, employs the largest staff of design engineers in the industry, and has partnered with OEMs on new vehicle design and product integration. While this is RCR's first partnership with Whelen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Whelen has an extensive history and presence in motorsports. As the "Official Warning Lights of NASCAR", Whelen provides all of the caution lights, pit road entrance, and pit road exit lights, "hot pit/garage area" warning lights, as well as all of the warning lights used on pace cars and safety vehicles across all three NASCAR national touring series. Whelen also serves as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Whelen Euro-Series. This commitment to motorsports extends beyond NASCAR as well. Whelen is the primary sponsor on the Action Express No. 31 DP Corvette in the IMSA Weather Tech Championship Series. For additional information on today's announcement, and all that's happening at RCR, please visit rcrracing.com .
Richard Childress Racing
The history of Richard Childress Racing and full crews for Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon
Richard Childress Racing cars have parts confiscated
Richard Childress Racing 's three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars had trouble in pre-race inspection Sunday. After multiple trips through the line, NASCAR pulled the Nos. 3 of Austin Dillon , 27 of Paul Menard and 31 of Ryan Newman out of inspection and confiscated the braces in the right rear corners of their respective vehicles. According to NASCAR, the parts in question were optional braces (brackets) in the rear-wheel area of the cars. NASCAR officials had them removed and will take the parts back to the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. No penalties -- such as a loss of starting position -- are expected today or post-event, according to NASCAR. Mike Dillon, general manager of Richard Childress Racing , said the team didn't replace the parts due to time. For the race, Dillon finished 11th, while Menard finished 18th and Newman finished 24th. Kenny Bruce contributed to this story from Atlanta
Stewart: Relationship with Harvick similar to Earnhardt, Childress
In a sit down with Kenny Wallace for FS1, Tony Stewart comments on Kevin Harvick’s extension with Stewart-Haas Racing and how their relationship compares to the one Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt had.
Racing Seats: Sitting still at 200mph
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and Chris Rice break down racing seat technology and how certain features of the seats keep drivers safe.
Photos: Tour of Richard Childress Racing shop
Go behind-the-scenes at the Richard Childress Racing shop in Welcome, North Carolina.
Richard Childress Racing 2016 Team Preview
Richard Childress Racing drivers Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon discuss what it takes to prepare for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Richard Childress Racing pit crew coach steps down
Eric Wilson stepped down as head coach of Richard Childress Racing 's pit crews, effective immediately, PitTalks.com has learned. Wilson took over the coaching job three years ago, replacing Matt Clark. Wilson's plans are unclear at this time, but what is clear is Ray Wright will be the new coach. Wright has been the strength-and-conditioning coach for the past seven years. Wright was also the rear tire carrier for the No. 27 Chevrolet SS of Paul Menard . Taking his place over the wall will be Adam Mestemacher. As far as the strength-conditioning role, Tyler Rader will likely take over the void for the foreseeable future. Rader also fuels the No. 3 Chevrolet SS of Austin Dillon for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. RCR officials declined comment. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .