They witnessed history and were a part of it. Even through their battles on and off the track over the years, they remained friends and will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame together.
There really isn’t any other way for Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress to be honored at 8 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN. They’ll join Mark Martin, Benny Parsons and Raymond Parks in the eighth Hall of Fame Class.
Both Childress and Hendrick have had at least one Hall of Fame member drive for their teams. Childress and Hendrick drivers have combined to win 18 of the last 31 Cup championships (12 by Hendrick drivers and six by Childress drivers).
From 1990-98, Childress and Hendrick to combined to win eight of nine championships. The lone exception was Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 title. That was the only time in that period that a Childress or Hendrick driver did not finish in the top two in the points.
For all that they’ve overcome and accomplished, both cite a shared moment — not a victory — as among their most memorable in the sport.
They were both a part of the storied meeting NASCAR’s Bill France Jr. held in 1989 with Geoff Bodine and Dale Earnhardt.
Bodine, who drove for Hendrick, and Earnhardt, who drove for Childress, had several on-track incidents and neither owner could curtail their driver’s aggression. France, who ran the sport at the time, called both drivers and car owners to Daytona Beach, Florida, for a meeting that gained notoriety when a similar scene played out in the movie “Days of Thunder.’’
“I remember Rick and I sitting in with Bill Jr. and Bodine and Earnhardt at Daytona after the melees that we had then and Rick and I made a pact,’’ Childress said. “These guys are drivers. You and I are aren’t drivers. We’ll do our best to keep them straightened out. We’ve had a great relationship and still do.’’
Said Hendrick: “I remember one day they tore the cars all to pieces, (Childress) and I walked down pit road and we were both shaking our heads. What I know about Richard Childress is if you treat him with respect, he’s going to treat you with respect. We got to be friends and we understood each other. We wanted to beat each other, that’s no different than me and Roger Penske.’’
Hendrick became a car owner in NASCAR in 1984, two years before Childress won his first series title with Earnhardt. That was the first of six titles the duo won in nine years.
“He and Dale Earnhardt, they were the standard,’’ Hendrick said of Childress. “When I first started, I didn’t think anybody would ever beat them. When Jeff (Gordon) came along and started running really well, he was challenging them. It kind of got to be a little bit of a deal between Jeff and Dale. It was very, very, very competitive, but Richard and I … (remained) good friends.’’
Hendrick’s drivers have won seven of the last 11 championships, including Johnson’s record-tying seventh crown last season.
“Today, they’re the goal we’re all shooting for,’’ Childress said of Hendrick.
Tonight, they both will be on the same stage with many others looking to be in their place some day.