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Dale Jr. Download: Richard Childress’ fighting advice: ‘Always take off your watch’

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Richard Childress learned a valuable lesson in the 1970s when it came to getting into a brawl. Take off your watch.

“We used to go out to the bars and have a good time and everything,” Childress recalled on this week’s Dale Jr. Download (airs today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “We were up at an old bar at Daytona one night and a big fight broke out. I happened to be in it. I had a Rolex. First Rolex I ever had in my life. I lost it in that fight. Ever since that you always take your watch off.”

That creed is now synonymous with Childress thanks to a 2011 altercation with Kyle Busch.

But the buildup to that confrontation began the previous year in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“We were running for the (Cup) championship,” Childress said. “The 18 (Busch) was kind of holding Kevin (Harvick) up. Kevin wrecked him coming off of (Turn) 4.

“That night, hell, I was good friends with Kyle. We were eating at a place and him and I think his girlfriend at the time, this was before he got married, and a guy from Toyota was there. (Toyota) had won the (Truck) championship.”

Childress went over to congratulate them on the Truck championship.

“You know I’m going to wreck your car?” Busch said, according to Childress.

“What do you mean?” Childress asked.

“Kevin wrecked me today. I’m going to wreck your car,” Busch repeated.

“What you need to do is wreck his Xfinity car, don’t wreck my car,” Childress said.

Kevin Harvick wrecks in the 2011 Southern 500. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“Nope, I got to do it in Cup,” Busch said, according to Childress.

That didn’t sit well with Childress.

“If you wreck my car I’m going to whip your ass,” he told Busch.

Six months later, Busch and Harvick were in a wreck in the closing laps at Darlington. The fallout spilled onto pit road, where Harvick reached into Busch’s car and Busch sped away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit wall.

“So they carried us over in the (NASCAR) trailer,” Childress said. “Got on to all four of us. I think Joe (Gibbs) was in there. Kyle and me and Kevin. I just told them what I was going to do and I kept my word.”

Three race weekends later, Busch was upset by how RCR driver Joey Coulter raced him in the closing laps of the Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway. That led to Busch rubbing fenders with him on the cool down lap.

Afterward, a watchless Childress confronted Busch in the garage and put him in a headlock

During Childress’ visit to the Dale Jr. Download, he also recalled a feud from Dale Earnhardt’s heyday.

Childress doesn’t remember how the late 1980s rivalry between Earnhardt and Geoff Bodine started, but he’s sure of one thing.

“It was one of those deals where whatever he gave that guy, Bodine, he deserved,” Childress said. “It was one of them deals we didn’t want to be run over and they started it. In my opinion, he started it. Once it started, we wasn’t going to be the ones to give up. Mr. France helped us give up.”

“Mr. France” was Bill France, Jr., the president of NASCAR at the time who played a hand in diffusing the rivalry that inspired Cole Trickle and Rowdy Burns’ feud in the 1990 film, Days of Thunder.

“A lot of the story part was true,” Childress recalled. “But it didn’t all go down like that. I remember Bill France bringing us in there and telling us, ‘I want to see you guys running and if you have to run on each side of the race track, you’re not going to get together again.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to destroy our sport.'”

There is one detail about the film, which Childress has only seen once, that he took issue with.

“They had some fat guy doing me as the owner (actor Randy Quaid) and I didn’t like that,” Childress said.

Darrell Waltrip taking the checkered flag on his broadcasting career

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip is retiring as a broadcaster upon the conclusion of Fox Sports’ final Cup race in June, he announced Thursday.

“I could’ve waited until Charlotte or somewhere else down the road, but it’s been hanging over my head,” Waltrip told The Tennessean. “I just wanted to clear the air, let people know what my plans are and then other people can make plans accordingly. Like who’s going to take my place or is somebody going to take my place?”

Waltrip’s last race will be June 23 at Sonoma Raceway, the final race for Fox Sports before NBC Sports broadcasts the rest of the Cup season.

The 72-year-old Waltrip has been with Fox since it began broadcasting NASCAR races in 2001, making his debut in the 2001 Daytona 500 – the race his younger brother Michael won and the race Dale Earnhardt suffered fatal injuries.

Outspoken and passionate, Waltrip sought to reach out to NASCAR fans in his own way.

“Darrell has been the heart and soul of the Fox NASCAR booth since day one, so it’s incredibly bittersweet to know this is his final season,” said Fox Sports CEO & executive producer Eric Shanks. “DW’s unmatched charisma and passion helped Fox Sports build its fan base when we first arrived at Daytona in 2001, and he has been the cornerstone of our NASCAR coverage ever since.”

Waltrip told The Tennessean he considered retiring earlier.

“My dream had been that I was going to retire in 2017 because I love 17,” he told the newspaper. “Well ’17 came and I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, bad decision, no, no, no. I’m not quite ready for that.’

“A big wake-up call for me was when our first grandchild was born 14 months ago and I would come and go and it was just like when I’d watched my girls grow up. They grew up at the racetrack and they were grown and married before I hardly knew it.”

Waltrip also told the newspaper that the addition of Jeff Gordon also played a role in Waltrip’s decision to retire.

“Jeff Gordon coming along beside of me has just made me aware of what I know I know — that I’m old school,” Waltrip told The Tennessean. “I grew up in this sport in one era and Jeff grew up in a totally different era. When he talks to the drivers they talk a different language than I ever talked. When he relates to the drivers he relates to them in a different way than I do. And so it just became obvious to me it’s a young man’s sport. I’m not a young man anymore.”

What’s next for Waltrip, other than spending more time with family? He’s not sure.

“Every time I’ve made a change in my career or in my life I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me,” Waltrip told the newspaper. “And then next thing you know it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me. So I’m optimistic about future.”

The three-time Cup champion was inducted into the third class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2012. His 84 career victories ties him with Bobby Allison for fourth on the all-time list. Waltrip was the recipient of the Bill France Award of Excellence in 2000 for his lifetime of achievements in the sport.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps praised Waltrip in a statement:

“For nearly five decades, few people have been as synonymous with NASCAR as Darrell Waltrip,” Phelps said. “A Hall of Famer on the track and in the booth, Waltrip brought quick wit, tireless passion and a wealth of stock car racing knowledge to millions of NASCAR fans on FOX for 19 seasons. We are grateful for Waltrip’s many contributions to the sport over the past 47 years, both as a champion driver and broadcaster. On behalf of everyone at NASCAR, we wish DW all the best in retirement.”

 

 

Ryan: It’s a shame the story of Captain Kirk didn’t get its due

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Why don’t the guys who make the critical race-winning calls ever get the calls to the shrine that validates their race-winning careers?

That’s the question that the NASCAR Hall of Fame awkwardly is facing yet again with the nomination process for its 11th class.

Kirk Shelmerdine, the team-building genius who guided Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolet to four championships before mysteriously disappearing from the NASCAR limelight, inexplicably has fallen off the nominees list for the 2020 induction ceremony.

It was only last year that Shelmerdine had appeared on the ballot for the first time.

Now he’s gone, and it’s reasonable to ask if he ever will return for consideration given some of the names that have supplanted him.

There was never any doubt about three-time champion Tony Stewart being ushered directly into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

But there undeniably are greater questions about the other five new nominees — Sam Ard, Neil Bonnett, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal and Red Vogt. They all are deserving of consideration … but are they more deserving than Shelmerdine?

Shelmerdine has nearly twice as many wins (46) as a crew chief in NASCAR’s premier Cup series as any of those candidates.

He changed front tires and led the famous Flying Aces pit crew that was the best in NASCAR for several seasons.

He was a key cog during many of the greatest years ever posted by seven-time champion and inaugural Hall of Fame inductee Dale Earnhardt.

Shelmerdine is a living and breathing integral connection to the legacy of “The Intimidator,” which makes it even more indefensible that his candidacy has been suspended without explanation.

It’s patently ridiculous, and it’s a disturbing pattern that has emerged over the years since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Kirk Shelmerdine worked as a crew chief for Richard Childress Racing from 1982-92. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

Crew chiefs get no respect when it comes to being considered for legendary status, never mind actually being enshrined.

Of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 50 inductees, there are only four who have at least 50 races as Cup crew chiefs (Dale Inman, Glen Wood, Bud Moore and Ray Evernham). And of that group, only Inman and Evernham could be considered true crew chiefs.

Between Inman, Moore, Evernham, Leonard Wood, Robert Yates and Maurice Petty, the representative list of crew chiefs, engine builders and mechanics in the NASCAR Hall of Fame is painfully short, and the number of slights is unfortunately long.

–Dale Inman was elected to the third class of the Hall of Fame with 78% of the vote … two years after he inexplicably was left off the ballot for the inaugural class – a 25-person list with no crew chiefs.

–Ray Evernham, who was voted the greatest crew chief of all time 13 years ago, didn’t appear on the ballot until the 2016 class and wasn’t elected until 2018.

–Smokey Yunick and Banjo Matthews, two icons generally regarded among the finest mechanics of their generation, have yet to be recognized.

In the case of Yunick, the larger-than-life personality whose “Best Damn Garage in Town” is the stuff of Daytona Beach legend and Hollywood lore, there is a realistic fear he never will be nominated because of his endless wars with NASCAR executives and officials over the rulebook.

There were some other curious omissions on the 2020 ballot in the Landmark Award category, where racing pioneer Janet Guthrie and late Motor Racing Network legend Barney Hall got booted.

As Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer noted, the optics are poor to have Guthrie suddenly excluded with so much cultural focus on female equality and particularly given NASCAR’s persistent efforts to promote diversity (and rising stars such as Hailie Deegan).

The process for building the nomination list, though, isn’t necessarily wrong.

According to those involved in culling the nominees, the NASCAR Hall of Fame actually has been more proactive in pushing for a broader spectrum of nominees by providing more information for prospective candidates in several categories.

Much like the Hall of Fame vote, the nomination discussion is held in confidence, and the voting is done by secret ballot and tabulated by an accounting firm. As Winston Kelley explained Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR, it wasn’t as if someone were advocating for the exclusion of Guthrie, Hall and Shelmerdine.

The names disappeared from consideration through an honestly conducted winnowing. Another process might produce the same results.

The question that must be answered is why the results keep being returned with crew chiefs, engine builders and mechanics being snubbed.

If the argument is that they somehow aren’t personalities, that’s absurd, too.

Yunick’s autobiography probably could be optioned as a screenplay. Evernham has transitioned into a post-crew chief/team owner career as a highly successful TV analyst. Inman still is often at Richard Petty’s side weekly in the Cup garage, cracking hilarious stories about yesteryear.

Kirk Shelmerdine speaks during a 2010 news conference about pit stops at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

Shelmerdine has one of the greatest backstories in NASCAR.

How many people can say they competed in The Great American Race first as a crew chief and then as a driver (Shelmerdine finished 20th in the 2006 Daytona 500)?

At the top of his game as Earnhardt’s crew chief, a 34-year-old Shelmerdine walked away from Richard Childress Racing after the 1992 season to start a driving career, which he toiled through for 15 years with limited success racing his own team in ARCA, trucks, Xfinity and Cup.

Though Shelmerdine was a straight-talking Delaware native with an iconoclastic streak that made him a great in calling and managing races, the move still stunned NASCAR. Team owner Richard Childress said Shelmerdine simply was “burned out.”

Robin Pemberton, a rival crew chief before his run as NASCAR executive, once said Shelmerdine was “a pretty sharp fella who got out of the sport a little too early. He still had a lot to offer. It was a big shock. I think everyone was confused as to the reasons he left. I’m not so sure anybody knows.”

When asked by the Richmond Times-Dispatch 16 years ago (while trying to make the 2003 Daytona 500 with Junie Donlavey) why he quit, Shelmerdine said, “It gets to the point that you don’t care about winning, you just can’t stand to see the other (expletives) win.” The reporter who asked the question was so taken aback by the answer, he couldn’t even muster a proper follow-up.

Maybe the rest of Shelmerdine’s story finally might be told during a NASCAR Hall of Fame induction speech that’s long overdue.

Too bad we’ll have to wait at least another year to hear it.

Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jr. race car collection to be auctioned this weekend

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If you’re a Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, or if you’re looking for just the right gift for an Earnhardt fan and have, say, a few hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your checking account, you might want to check out this week’s Mecum Auctions from Glendale, Arizona, which will air on NBCSN.

Three full-fledged race cars formerly driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr., including a championship-clinching ride, will be on the auction block.

In addition, two red and white No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolets driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. when he raced for his father at Dale Earnhardt Inc., will also be up for bid.

The senior Earnhardt’s cars offered are:

* Considered one of the most famous cars in NASCAR history, the 1994 Chevrolet Lumina that he drove to a runner-up finish at Atlanta that year to clinch his seventh and final Cup championship (expected to fetch between $200,000 and $300,000). In addition, Earnhardt scored two wins that season in this car, as well as two additional second-place and two more third-place finishes.

* A 1989 Chevrolet Lumina that Earnhardt drove in road course races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma (expected to go for between $75,000 and $125,000). The car is unrestored and carries a 5.8 liter V-8 motor with a 4-speed manual transmission. It also has two race setup sheets included.

* The special orange-colored No. 3 Chevy Monte Carlo that Earnhardt drove to a fourth-place finish in the 1997 Winston Select race at Charlotte (will likely go for between $75,000 and $125,000). The car was actually built in 1993 and contains a 5.8L V-8 motor with a 4-speed manual transmission.  

All three of the senior Earnhardt’s cars will be auctioned Saturday.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s two rides up for auction are:

* The No. 8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he won the 2004 Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (expected to go for between $125,000 and $175,000). The car is autographed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and has been completely restored, including the original 5.8L V-8 engine, 4-speed transmission, original racing components, seat and headrest.

* The No. 8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Junior drove in the 2006 race at Watkins Glen (likely to go for between $100,000 and $125,000). Car contains all original components, including 5.8L V-8 engine and 4-speed manual transmission.

Here’s the telecast schedule for the event (all times Eastern):

* LIVE today (March 14) on NBC Sports Gold from 1-7 p.m.

* LIVE Friday (March 15) on NBCSN from 5-6 p.m.

* Same Day Delay Friday (March 15) on NBCSN from 11 p.m. – 1 a.m.

* Delayed telecast Monday (March 18) on NBCSN from 6 p.m. – Midnight

* Delayed telecast Tuesday (March 19) on NBCSN from 1-3 a.m.

In addition, several old pace cars and street cars from the Earnhardt Collection will be up for bid as well.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Long: In a time of change, some things remain the same at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — They’ve reconvened in Daytona International Speedway’s infield, some back for a fifth year, others a 10th and still others for more, to watch cars go around in circles.

Their flags pledge loyalties to Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, celebrating days gone by. Other flags wave for Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and reigning series champ Joey Logano.

New or old, fans have returned for Sunday’s Daytona 500, which will held among a swirl of changes.

The season starts with talk of rules that debut next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and will change how the racing looks. There also have been discussions of a new look for 2020 and beyond. Schedule changes are expected next year, even more in 2021 – when the Gen 7 car is projected to premiere.

The dawn of a new season and what is coming has reinvigorated a garage beaten down the past couple of years. Jim France is now in charge and he’s in the garage, a marked change from Brian France’s approach.

Seeing Jim France each weekend gives those who work in the garage optimism. How long it lasts depends on what changes the sanctioning body make.

For fans, it’s all about what the racing looks like.

That’s a lot left to be desired at Daytona so far. Asked if he thought the racing had been good this week, Richard Petty said: “No, I don’t.”

His comment came before Saturday’s Xfinity race won by Michael Annett, who led the final 45 laps. It was great win for Annett personally but the single-file racing frustrated some fans and left them to wonder how Daytona could turn into a high-speed conga line.

“I don’t know what’s going on with the high line becoming just so clearly dominant,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after watching JR Motorsports win the season-opening Xfinity race for the fourth time in the last six years. “To listen to the drivers and to watch what happened (Saturday) in the race, it doesn’t seem like it’s entirely by choice that they all ride up there, it’s by necessity.”

Fans saw that same type of racing in the Clash and both qualifying races during Speedweeks. What often was missing in those events were things Clint Bowyer says are important to make a good race.

“Moments,” Bowyer said this week. “No different than when I go to a football game. The Super Bowl sucked and I am a football fan. Again, you go watch the (Kansas City) Chiefs games, I was lucky enough to be a Chiefs fan this year and it was a highlight reel one after another with (quarterback Patrick) Mahomes and (Tyreek) Hill.

“I don’t know, there wasn’t a highlight the whole Super Bowl in my opinion. It was a snoozer. Was it an extremely challenging game in other eyes, yes. I guarantee you there are football gods out there saying it was the best game in the history of football. To me, there weren’t enough moments.

“You have to have good passing, side-by-side (racing), changes for the lead, cautions – I don’t want a caution because that means somebody has wrecked or had a problem but there are so many things that go into adding up to those moments. Us drivers, you have to be in a situation that you can make the most of.

“Again, without a caution at the end of some of these restrictor-plate tracks, we may not have those moments. Sometimes all it takes is a caution to make that moment that someone takes to the office the next (day) to say, ‘My gosh, you should have been there and seen that.’ We have to have more of those, no question.”

There is a belief that the racing should be better in the Daytona 500 with a full 40-car field. The Clash had 20 cars and both qualifying races had 21-car fields. There weren’t enough cars to create a competitive second lane, so most ran the high line. That said, Chase Elliott made a number of passes on his own in his qualifying race. Daniel Suarez also tried such moves.

But for all the talk about the racing, some things remain the same. Cup veterans often dominate Speedweeks and have done so this week. Jimmie Johnson won the Clash after contact with Paul Menard. Kevin Harvick and Logano each won their qualifying races. A Hendrick Motorsports car is on the pole for a fifth consecutive year, this time with William Byron.

Maybe things will change Sunday. The Truck Series saw Austin Hill score his first career series win. Then Annett recorded his first career Xfinity win Saturday. 

That’s why fans travel near and far to be at Daytona on a Sunday in February. For all the questions about the racing, for the surprise winners, no one knows what to expect. Just like it has always been at this track.