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NASCAR has moved to limit negative complaints about the new car and other racing-related matters.
NASCAR president Mike Helton had a mandatory meeting and told all drivers and car owners he was tired of hearing negative complaints about the new-generation car, problems with racetracks and other things.
Apparently driver complaints reached a critical point with the powers-that-be after the Pocono race.
“He (Helton) felt it has become a negative environment and reminded them to think about the fans and what they are facing with the rising costs of gas and other hardships brought on by the economy,” said NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter.
This was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s perspective.
“I was pretty critical,” he said. “Overly critical at times. The only reason that drivers are like that is we feel like our best avenue is through the media because it’s very effective.”
If NASCAR does succeed in stifling driver’s comments when they feel something is wrong, they will have succeeded in taking away what little freedom drivers still have.
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Success doesn’t keep Richard Childress from maintaining control over his three-car racing team. Despite other personal and business interests, his daily routine includes hours of hands-on supervision in Welcome at the Richard Childress Racing shop, which now has 16 buildings.
Childress’ life as an American sportsman and entrepreneur is about self-made success, associations with greatness, the finer things in life and the fine line between life and death.
His lifestyle in Davidson County has been made possible by his dogged persistence, shrewd investment and ability to produce winning race cars.
At the track, Childress is one of the most accessible car owners in the business. He’s ready to talk about his race teams, NASCAR or his next hunting adventure. You name it, and Childress will give you his comments. He hasn’t lost his desire to communicate openly and honestly about his teams.
It was Dale Earnhardt Sr. who really put him on the road to success. But before teaming with Earnhardt, Childress himself was a driver.
He made his first NASCAR start in 1969 at Talladega. His company, Richard Childress Racing (RCR), was formed in 1972. At the start of the 1976 season, Childress drove the team’s famed No. 3 for the first time.
After 285 starts, he turned the wheel over to Dale Earnhardt at Michigan in 1981, after Earnhardt brought his sponsor, Wrangler, with him.
“The money that Wrangler was paying to sponsor my car for the final 10 races of 1981 was the most money I had ever seen,” Childress said in Frank Vernon’s book, “The Intimidator,” in 1991. “When it was over, I was in debt $150,000. I was in worse shape than I was to start with.”
Earnhardt had six top-10 finishes in those 11 races, but Childress advised him to leave, to go to another bigger team.
Earnhardt did leave and it wasn’t until 1984 before the pair signed a 10-year deal. The Childress plan was to put a fearless driver into an unbreakable car.
The plan worked. With legendary Earnhardt at the wheel, Childress earned six Cup championships before Earnhardt died after hitting the wall at Daytona in 2001
Now, with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and rookie Clint Bowyer, Childress is back in the hunt for NASCAR glory, and he has plans to add a fourth Cup team in 2009.
Childress lives for the outdoors. His passions, beyond racing, include hunting and fishing. He also relishes getting away to his 700-acre Montana ranch, where he’ll typically fly-fish and ride horses, often taking friends or rewarding employees with a taste of the outdoors.
Closer to home, he enjoys inspecting the grapes from which he produces wine. Black Angus cattle graze on his North Carolina estate.
“If I wasn’t in the racing business, I’d be involved in something where I could be outside all day,” Childress told a USA TODAY reporter in 2006. “Call me an outdoorsman. I like to hunt and fish, but I’m also a huge conservationist.”
Childress is as much about preserving wildlife as he is for placing moose, elk and trout on the walls of the Richard Childress Racing Museum, which houses much of his North American trophy collection in addition to significant cars of Earnhardt and others.
“I like to give back by helping organizations that I know are making a difference in our hunting heritage and conservation of our wetlands. I want my grandsons, someday, to hear the elk’s bugle again in North Carolina. Keeping our youth involved in the conservation of our wildlife and outdoors, I think that’s important,” he said.
The world could use a few more people like Childress.
GERALD HODGES is a Beacon correspondent. You may contact the Racing Reporter at: email@example.com.