Michigan II: Richard Childress interview

RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING, WAS THE GUEST AT TODAY'S WINSTON BREAKFAST CLUB. HAVE YOU TALKED TO PAUL TRACY ABOUT JOINING RCR? "A lot of people have asked me about that when the word came out about the IRL and wanted...

RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING, WAS THE GUEST AT TODAY'S WINSTON BREAKFAST CLUB.

HAVE YOU TALKED TO PAUL TRACY ABOUT JOINING RCR?

"A lot of people have asked me about that when the word came out about the IRL and wanted to know if Paul Tracy would be my driver since he's in CART now and might be looking to move to IRL some day. I don't know what his plans are. I haven't talked to him in two years. Two or three years ago we talked about it. He said some day he wanted to go Winston Cup racing and whenever he did, he was going to talk to us. So I haven't talked to him. But he's my kind of driver. He's got a little flair to him. I'd rather have the drivers that you have to sit down and talk to or the driver that wants to win every week. They've got to have a little fire in their guts. I was with one of the best for 20 years so that's set the standards for what we've got to have for RCR."

HOW DO YOU MANAGE THESE DRIVER PERSONALITIES LIKE ROBBY GORDON AND KEVIN HARVICK?

"Well, first of all you've got to treat them with respect. And you've got to have respect for each other. And I think we do that. When we sit down and talk, we talk about everything. I just don't sit down and say why did you do this or why did that happen or something. We just sit down and start talking in general about how things might affect you besides what might happen on the race track. You've just got to talk to these guys when the time is there. An owner needs to be there for them when times are tough for them as well."

DALE JR. RECENTLY CREATED A STIR WHEN HE SAID HE WAS A FREE AGENT. DO YOU EVER SEE HIM DRIVING FOR RCR?

"No, not as long as DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) is going and their doors are open, I think you'll see him racing for DEI. I know what Dale's (Earnhardt) plans were for DEI and where he wanted to see Jr. and Kerry race. I hope that if he ever did decide to race somewhere else that he would come and talk to me and would want to drive an RCR car."

HAS HE EVER DONE THAT?

"No, not really. We haven't sat down and talked about it directly."

DO YOU THINK THE CURRENT WINSTON CUP POINT SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE TWEAKED?) "I think one of the reasons they want to tweak the points system is to see the cars pass more and to see the whole race run harder all the way through. If it will accomplish that and give the race fans a better race, that's a good way to go about it. I think some of these guys are talking about bonus points a quarter of the way for the top 10 cars and extra for leading half way and three-quarters of the way and you'd have the same system on top of that.

"But I think to get our back to where we're passing, we've got to work on a better aero package. That's what I'm suggesting - getting something like the aero package we had at Talladega and Daytona a couple of years ago. We need that package everywhere. It's just so hard with these cars so aerodynamic these days to pull out and make a pass. If we had a big block of wind out in front of these guys, you'd see some awesome racing. It's no different from what CART did with the Handford (device) wing. It just went from a few lead changes to (several) lead changes. If you look back at the lead changes we had at Daytona and Talladega after they took it off and when we had it on, I think you would see a lot more lead changes at that point. That's going to accomplish what we want to see in more passing on the race track. That's my opinion."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HAVING TRAVELING SAFETY CREWS? DOES THAT MATTER TO YOU?

"Safety matters. I think NASCAR really has done a good job of boosting up the safety. They've brought in the crew that travels with us now that know the people and has the records. They have medical assistance everywhere we go. Bringing a complete crew? Yeah, I think that would be a good idea. But is it the answer? I don't know. I guess the biggest controversy or question now is the amount of time it takes them to get to the scene. And that's not an easy thing - even in CART. It's tough when cars are out there running 150-200mph.

"There are also questions about the best way to do it - to stop racing back to the caution or race back to the caution. There are pros and cons to both ways. My side of it is that you race back to the caution as quick as you can and get them under control of a pace car. If not, cars are still going to be coming to the caution and somebody is going to get hit sooner or later. That's my opinion. I've heard it's better to race under the caution and let everybody hold their positions. But the cars are still coming to get back around there. Unless they just stop on the track when the caution comes out, there's no way to get to those guys that quick with cars still coming until the pace car stops them. Again, that's my opinion."

MORE ON CREATING A BETTER AERO PACKAGE

"When we had the roof fin and the wicker on the spoiler, that caused a tremendous amount of drag on the cars. It kept them bunched up. We had the best racing with those on there. When we took it off, the drivers complained that we were in too big of a bunch. Well, they're still in a bunch now even with it off. But they're just not passing. They're sitting there just riding."

WOULD IT HELP IF WE LOOKED AT SOFTER TIRES SO THEY WOULD HAVE TO PIT MORE OFTEN?

"Car owners don't want it. That costs money (laughs). That's a good question. Again, the problem isn't the tires. The problem is the aerodynamics on the cars. They're so slick and streamlined. A speedboat in the water puts off a little wake. A barge in the water puts off a big wake. I remember when I was driving here and we raced three and four and five wide here all day long because the cars were so dirty. You look back when the cars didn't have the aero package that they have now and we had some great racing. It didn't matter if you were first. You didn't want to be first. Today, you want to be first because you know nobody can pass you. It used to be a gamble if there were three or four cars there. I think that'll help. I support going back to some way of getting these cars dirtied up so that you can pass on these race tracks. I'm a fan too and I want to see more passing."

CAN YOU LOBBY AS A GROUP TO DO THIS?

"NASCAR is already looked at it. I think they've done some testing with it. They're well aware that we want to see some changes in that area."

ON SUNOCO BECOMING THE OFFICIAL FUEL OF NASCAR IN '04

"I ran Sunoco back when I was running Modifieds. You'd go to the local place and buy it. I think they are probably the largest racing fuel producer in the states. It's sad to see Unocal go - just like RJ Reynolds. But times change. And the economy changes. And that causes people to take different actions in business. But we at RCR - including our engine department - are not concerned at all because we know the quality of product that they've always had out there. Sunoco probably supplies more racing fuel to the Saturday night racers than anyone else."

WITH NASCAR'S GROWING POPULARITY AND ATTRACTION TO FOREIGN DRIVERS, DO YOU ENVISION HAVING NASCAR RACES OVERSEAS?

"We went to Japan two or three years in a row. It was an expensive venture to do that. I'd like to see us race Rockingham (Motor Speedway) or around London. I'd love to go to Europe and race. I'd love to see Nextel Cup racing to a place like Rockingham, England. Yeah, I would jump on that." (WHAT ABOUT CANADA OR MEXICO?

"I think we'd be accepted very well there as well. Anywhere that they've run the Rally cars, NASCAR Winston Cup would be accepted very well."

ARE YOU GOING TO RUN THE BAJA 1000 WITH ROBBY GORDON THIS YEAR?

"I don't know. He's asked me to. Have you ever ridden in a truck with him? (laughs). Those trucks are neat. He's building a new one now to take the press around in at Phoenix I think. It has 42-inch travel. You can go over a ditch three-feet deep and not even feel it. You think of them as a truck, but they're probably as sophisticated as an Indy car when you look at all the stuff that it takes. They're about as expensive to build as an Indy car."

WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU AND ROBBY GORDON TO SWEEP THE ROAD COURSE RACES THIS YEAR?

"When he came and first drove for us, we thought we'd have a shot at winning. And we did. We were in a position to win Watkins Glen but the camera caught on fire. We had a pit mistake last year that cost us. We beat ourselves last year on road courses. This year, fortunately we got the right breaks at the right time. But we also had to have the right driver and the right car. I'm really impressed with the way Kevin Harvick has come around as a road racer. His car was in a position to be able to win either race as well."

ON DIVERSITY, WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST AFRICAN AMERICANS DO TO GET MORE INVOLVED IN NASCAR?

"If you watch drag racing, there are a lot of African Americans in drag racing. They were brought up in that area. One of the problems is that they're not brought up around Go-Kart racing and Short Track racing. There are a couple of drivers out there that have some future in NASCAR racing. But you've got to start out when you're very young. When I was a kid, I started going to races when I was six years old. They haven't been given access to it through their parents or locations or whatever. But I think they have all the chance in the world. Some day you'll see an African American racing Winston Cup. If you can get the kids interested and get them to an event where they can see, taste, and smell the excitement of NASCAR racing. It all has to start with the youth and getting them involved. We welcome all forms of racers. They bring new fans and it's great to have new fans."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Paul Tracy