Back in 1981, if things didn’t turn out for Richard Childress as they did back then, he would have had a very different career.
He decided to become a team owner back in 1981 but had to put a lot of things on the line during the initial months as an owner. He decided to put Dale Earnhardt Sr. behind the seat of the car that Childress had been fielding and driving himself since 1976.
However, the initial agreement was for only 11 races, as Childress couldn’t afford more than that. Infact he couldn’t even afford the 11 races. He took out a second mortgage and was in a debt of around $75,000. Fortunately, there was a Jeans company that bailed him out.
“I was maxed out. I did everything I could do on my home, I sold everything I thought I had that I could sell, just to run Dale those (11) races,” Childress said. “I had borrowed some money from folks and everything just to run those (11) races.
“And when it was over, Ed Bowman (president of primary sponsor Wrangler jeans) called me and said, ‘Come on over and have lunch.’ I told him exactly where we were. I was somewhere around $75,000 in debt. I was really in the hole.
“So about a week later, he called me and said, ‘I want you to come over again. I want to talk to you.’ I came over (to Wrangler headquarters in Greensboro) and he handed me a check for $50,000. So that really helped me going into the following year.”
If it were not for that check, we might not be seeing the team that has accumulated win a total of 15 championships across NASCAR’s top three national touring series,
“It would have been tough,” he said. “It’s hard to say. I never looked back. I just looked ahead, and that was one of the things that helped me look ahead. I don’t know where we would have been.
“Hell, who knows? Maybe I’d still be in debt – or worse. It’s not easy. Those were some tough days.”
Not only that, Earnhardt Jr. won six of his seven championships with RCR. So, the check just didn’t save RCR but also helped put together one of the best owner-driver partnerships in the history of NASCAR.