Charlotte, NC - October 16, 2009 - Media visit RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING, met with media to discuss the Hall of Fame, the state of RCR, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Junior, Kevin Harvick, and more. WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION...
Charlotte, NC - October 16, 2009 - Media visit
RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING, met with media to discuss the Hall of Fame, the state of RCR, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Junior, Kevin Harvick, and more.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION ON JULY 2ND WHEN IT WAS ANNOUNCED THAT YOU WERE ONE OF THE 25 MEMBERS OF THE INAUGURAL NOMINATED CLASS OF THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME? WERE YOU SURPRISED AT THAT? "Yeah, I really was because there are so many great pioneers in the sport and so many people who have accomplished so much, for me to be picked to be in that first class of 25 was quite humbling and quite an honor."
TALK ABOUT YOUR REACTION THIS WEEK WHEN YOU SAW THE FIVE WHO WERE SELECTED AND IN PARTICULAR, DALE EARNHARDT SR. WHO YOU HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS WITH: "I think the choices were out of those 25 were phenomenal. I think it was a great choice. We wouldn't be here today if it hadn't been for the things that Bill France Sr. accomplished; and then for his son to come along and to be able to move the sport in a total different direction and carry us to a whole other level with his vision. And then you go to Junior Johnson who goes back and there is so much history for what he's done for the sport; and then you go to Richard Petty with his wins and his seven-time championships, I thought that was a good one. And Dale Earnhardt, I thought there was no way you could have not picked him with his accomplishments. Not only was Dale a great race driver and a great champion for the sport, but he was an ambassador and he carried the sport to a complete different level from Wall Street to the guy in the factory and the lady in the meals. He could touch everyone and I think that was one of the greatest things about his career and he never forgot where he came from at all."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE TO PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T KNOW DALE EARNHARDT, WHAT HE WAS LIKE? "Wow, that's a tough one. I know our relationship and that's all I could really say. He really, really took his fans very passionately. Every time he went on that race track he wanted to perform for the fans and do his best job. He was great to work with. I'll bet you I can count on one hand any disagreements that he and I ever had, and we worked them right out. But we knew each other good enough that I could walk in the truck and go over and sit down or something, and he'd say, 'All right, what's on your mind?' And I could do the same to him. We had that kind of relationship and it was very unique. Dale did a lot for people that people never knew about. He tried to help people out once he reached the point that he could and he never forgot the people that got him where he was at (like) the guys that way back when he was running dirt tracks and short tracks; he never forgot where he came from. But he had that drive about him that he wanted to win. And I never will forget him saying, 'Man, I have to drive so hard I don't know if I have a job in the future'. And I thought, you'll have plenty of jobs (laughs)."
HAVE YOU STARTED TO SEE ANYTHING FROM THE CHANGES YOU MADE IN YOUR COMPETITION DEPARTMENT A MONTH OR SO AGO? AND CAN YOU ADDRESS KEVIN HARVICK'S COMMENTS ON ESPN LAST WEEK SAYING THAT HE'S NOT SURE IF HIS BOOK WITH YOU WILL CONTINUE BEYOND NEXT YEAR? "I didn't see that or hear it. I've heard some comments about it. You know, all I've got to say is we're making a lot of changes. We'll probably be announcing more changes next week. We're using these last races to get prepared for 2010. We know we have to be better. We've seen some improvements. I think if you look we've been up front with the different cars in the last few weeks. This car is very touchy and right now Hendrick is right up on top of it. They've got it figured out for the most part. We're working hard. We're doing a lot of capital investments moving into next year on some new stuff. We're making changes in our personnel. We're going to be making more changes in the next weeks to come. And hopefully by the end of the year, before the end of the year, we can see even more improvements. We're seeing improvement if you look back to Atlanta. And then we hit a bad race here a couple of weeks ago. We didn't qualify good here but the cars are real good in race trim. It's such a fine line with this car. If you look, other than three or four of five cars, people can be off and on. And when you get off sometimes it's hard to get back on.
"The Kevin Harvick thing, Kevin is going to be with us next year and Shell is going to be with us. We'll just see how everything plays out in the future. I didn't see his interview. I've heard some comments on it. But whatever happens, happens. We'll just move forward."
IS THIS ANYTHING LIKE IN 1992 WHEN YOU DIDN'T WIN ANY RACES, BUT THEN YOU WENT ON TO WIN TWO CHAMPIONSHIPS THE NEXT YEAR. IS THERE ANY SIMILARITY? ARE THERE GOING TO BE PEAKS AND VALLEYS IN THE SPORT? "Yeah, it definitely has. This is our 40th Anniversary. We're having a big fan appreciation day this coming Thursday, Oct. 22nd for all of our fans and that night we're having a big dinner to take that money and donate it to the Children's Institute for Pediatric Trauma. But throughout those forty years, we've had several valleys. But then we've had the great peaks that winning championship and winning 11 or 12 races a year. I look back to 1988; 1985 was horrible. Dale and I sat right outside my house in Winston and I told him, 'Dale, you're a better driver than this. You need to go somewhere else and drive,' because we'd blown 12 engines or something. He said we started this together and we're going to finish it together. And the next year, in '86, we came back and won a championship and in '87 we won a championship and I can't tell you the rest of the story in '88, but anyway in '88 we had a real bad year. We came back and won in '90 and '91 I think it was and '92 was a tough year. It was really a tough year. Then we came back and won a couple more. That's your peaks and valleys and you have it in life as well. And we can see the crest up there. We've just got to be ready for it. It's like the book Peaks and Valleys, it'll kind of tell the story as to where we're at."
SPEAKING OF PEAKS AND VALLEYS, YESTERDAY DALE EARNHARDT JR. CAME IN AND HAD A LOT OF COMMENTS AND SEEMED DOWN AND DISCOURAGED. WHAT WOULD YOU TELL HIM? HAVE YOU SPOKEN WITH HIM? "I spoke to him earlier in the year. It's a tough situation. I don't know if you've ever heard the song that Hank Williams Jr. sings, it's tough living (in the shadow) of a very famous man. That's what Junior is doing and everybody's got their expectations so high. And when you don't fulfill those expectations, people think you're not there. But Junior can still drive a race car. He can compete. He can win. And he will win a championship some day; it's just a matter of going through a few of these peaks and valleys and I've spoke to him a couple of times trying to give him the encouragement to keep digging because we've been there. We're almost there right now. We're seeing a little daylight."
DO YOU THINK IF DALE, SR,. WAS STILL AROUND, WOULD HE STILL BE DRIVING? "He would have retired for sure by now. We had talked about it that winter, knowing kind of what his plans were and what he wanted to do. Where he wanted to see his career go. He sort of had his plan. I'll tell it someday, but not today."
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM FOR 2010? "We are still working on that right now, but we are getting close on a couple of new guys that we are looking at. Naturally, my Grandson Austin (Dillon), hopefully we're going to put him in a truck next year. We are getting close to a few things. Ty (Dillon), his brother, we're going to run him in the NASCAR Camping World East. Ryan Gilford, he's going to be working with the diversity program. Ryan has got a very good future in front of him. I think of the diversity kids I've seen come along, he has as much talent and desire as anyone and we still have him under contract. We are still working with Stephen Leicht some. There's a couple of other drivers that we're talking to and looking at that we think we can prepare ourselves to....what we're going to do is get another driver in a position to where if we do had a driver get sick or have to get out of the car like Kyle (Busch) did last week, we have someone out of our own stables we can put in. We'll be working work on a lot of the development. We have to invest in that."
CAN YOU UPDATE US ON WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE NO. 07, SPONSORSHIP THINGS ON THE HORIZON? "Right now we are meeting with companies, we have had several meetings. As you know the economic times are tough right now for sponsorship. And it is tough for sponsorship right now. We do have a lot of, not a lot, but we do have a lot of interest in it. We are running it. We can't turn it into start and park. I don't want to do that, I won't do that. We will probably, if we don't have a sponsor, we've got some sponsorship for a few races next year. But, to be competitive, that isn't the way to do it. We are kind of weighing our options to see what we are going to do.
"Casey (Mears), he has really shown a lot of improvement these last several races. He's run up front, the top-10. We've had some good runs with him.
"I would have liked to have seen him in our cars a year when we had our cars really going. We don't know what happened yet. All of a sudden, we fell off of the wagon. We will get back on it though, I promise you.
"Right now I can't comment exactly because I don't know. We are working on some stuff. Right now we are looking at right before Homestead, before we take off for Thanksgiving, we'll make those decisions then."
WITH COMMENTS LIKE KEVIN HAS MADE AND OTHER DRIVERS HAVE DONE, HOW AS AN OWNER DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT AND TRY TO GO BACK AND FIX THESE PROBLEMS AND WORK WITH THAT DRIVER? "No one is happy when you aren't running well. I'm not happy. No one is. We just try to control it as well as we can. Kevin's a driver that really wants to go out and run well and win. I don't blame him for being upset when we don't. We just try to work through it as good as we can.
I can remember when one of those years we were talking about earlier. I think it was maybe '95 or '96, we didn't have a very good year. Dale was telling me 'It has just got to be me.' I kept telling him, 'Dale, it's not you; we don't have you the equipment you need.' And he worked through it. It is just different times that people look at things different. There is a lot of unhappy people when these cars....
"These cars are tough. I'll tell you. They can bring the best out of you. We are getting them better, we are putting on good shows with them, it is a great product. But there is such a fine line of being good and bad. You can be good through two stops, two runs. and the next one, you wonder what happened."
HOW DID DALE DEAL WITH ADVERSITY? WHAT WAS HIS APPROACH TO THOSE TYPES OF THINGS BECAUSE YOU GUYS ALWAYS CAME BACK UP OUT OF THE VALLEYS? "Whenever we would get off and go in to a season and not running very good, he and I would really spend a lot of time talking about it. He would admit, here is where we have got to work. Here's where we have got to work as a team better. Here is where I know I need to improve. I'll never forget in 2001 in January, he called me one night; he was in Daytona running the sports car, because we had talked earlier going in to 2001. I think we finished second in the points in 2000. We felt we great chance of winning the championship in 2001 and he told me then, and we had talked that winter about improving and he wanted to improve his road racing, I'm going to make you a better road racer after this. I have learned some things, these guys have helped me out. It wasn't always about the team. He would be one of those guys that say I have to get in here. The team, we were all together. He was the one that was in there that was helping fix when we got off. That is how we would come back the following year and fix it."
DALE, JR. WON TWO NATIONWIDE CHAMPIONSHIPS, HE WON A BUNCH OF RACES IN THE OLD CAR, COULD BE HE JUST ISN'T QUITE YET ADAPTED TO THE NEW CAR? "He's got a lot more he can do and a lot more he will accomplish. I see so many bright spots. I mean, I watch these guys and I see the bright spots when he is on the race track, when he is racing, when he is driving. Again, these cars are different than the other cars. But I really feel that once he hits that combination and gets that feel, he's as good as anybody when it comes down to winning with these cars. They are difficult and they will test you."
WITH THE REORGANIZATION IN THE AMERICAN AUTO INDUSTRY, HOW DO YOU SEE THAT AFFECTING THIS SPORT NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND AND DO YOU THINK OTHER AUTO MANUFACTURERS WILL COME IN TO THE SPORT? "I think you will see there are other manufacturers interested. GM as they get better financially and as things change, I think you are going to see them get more supportive. They give us great support now. They supported RCR in 1985 when nobody else was around and we're going to support them in these tough times. GM is the only one I can speak to because that is the one we have been with. They will be back and they will be strong. I feel that you'll see other manufacturers maybe come in to the sport. But I feel strong about GM has coming knowing some of the cars that they have."
WHAT ROLE IS JEFF BURTON PLAYING BEHIND THE SCENES TO KEEP EVERYONE'S SPIRITS UP? WHEN WILL YOU START TALKING ABOUT CONTRACT EXTENSION WITH HIM? "I think both his and Clint Bowyer's contracts are through 2011, I'm pretty sure they are. He has played a major role in this reorganization. He's been in a lot of our meetings. He's one of those guys that has been there. He's had those tough years and tough times. He is there helping us with his knowledge and experience. I feel that he has got a few more years that he wants to drive, probably another four or five or six. We have never discussed him quitting. I don't think that is in his mind right now. I think he is going to play a major role in us turning our program back around."
-credit: gm racing