Childress: A NASCAR Legacy
It would be hard to overestimate how much the late Dale Earnhardt meant to many North Carolinians and to race fans all over the country.
His legacy is on permanent display at the RCR Racing Museum in Welcome. The museum is part of a 50-acre complex that is home to Richard Childress Racing and his teams that race in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series. The museum, which is built on what was the old No. 3 race shop, takes visitors from Childress’ humble beginnings as a driver/owner in the 1960s up to his team’s recent victories.
So, whether you have a little race fan in your house or a car-obsessed kid, you might want to visit the museum this summer for an up-close look at Childress’ rise in NASCAR.
A significant portion of the RCR museum is dedicated to Earnhardt. For those who just moved to North Carolina or have lived under a rock for the last two decades, Earnhardt was a legend in racing circles. He died during a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500 and was known as “The Intimidator” because of his aggressive driving style. Earnhardt won six NASCAR championships during his tenure with Childress. The museum has 47 cars that span Childress’s 35 years in racing. Twenty-two of those cars were driven by Earnhardt throughout his career.
One of them is the No. 3 GM Goodrench Service Plus Chevrolet Earnhardt drove when he first won the Daytona 500 in 1998. David Hart, who is the communications director for RCR Racing, says the car brings out an emotional response in many fans. He says it’s not unusual to see people lined around the car for up to two hours.
There are Earnhardt cars dating back to 1987 and a tractor-trailer transporter rig used by the No. 3 team near the end of Earnhardt’s career. My 8-year-old son loved going inside the big rig and discovering the lounge area near the front.
Hart says the museum was Childress’ way to pay homage to Earnhardt and to repay the fans for their support.
“This [museum] is a tribute to the fans and to Dale Earnhardt, his best friend,” Hart said.
For newer and, perhaps, younger fans of racing they’ll have a chance to see some of the cars driven by today’s NASCAR stars. Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears drive in the Spring Cup series for RCR, and you have a chance to see their cars being worked on in the Cup Shop, which is in an adjacent building.
Depending on the day of your visit, you can see members of the Cup teams working on the cars that will be used in the race that weekend. You might also be able to see the cars being loaded into the tractor-trailers that haul them. My son and I went down on a Wednesday and saw Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 Hamburger Helper car being worked on in the shop. It was the same car Bowyer used four days later in the race.
There are plenty of today’s cars on display in the museum as well. Harvick’s No. 29 car that won the Daytona 500 in 2007 is there along with Clint Bowyer’s 07 car that flipped on its top and skidded to the finish line during the same race. The car looks as if it was taken directly from the track to the museum since it still has some of the grass from the infield sitting inside.
There is also some living history to be found in the person of the museum’s curator. Danny “Chocolate” Myers was the gas man on the No. 3 team pit crew for many years. In addition to being the museum’s curator, Myers also has a national racing talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio, and is featured prominently in the My, Your, Our NASCAR commercials.
The museum, which attracts more than 50,000 people annually, is a major family destination says Myers.
“There is something here for everyone. You come to this place and you see the past, the present and the future of RCR,” he said.
During our mid-week visit, there were couples visiting from Holland as well as Australia. Myers says it’s not unusual for the museum to have international visitors, but he hopes that folks closer to home discover all the RCR museum has to offer.
“It’s just a good place to visit,” he said. “It’s one of those places you have right in your backyard and never knew it’s there.”
If You Go
$8 for seniors (55 and over)
$5 students (ages 7 to 18)
Children 6 and under are free
Address and Phone
425 Industrial Drive
Welcome, NC 27374