By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
With the 61st running of the Daytona 500 being 65 days away, Richard Childress Racing announced Friday their season-long 50th Anniversary celebration by unveiling two golden cars, driven by defending winner Austin Dillon and rookie Daniel Hemric, that’ll compete in the “Great American Race” Feb. 17.
Dillon will have a gold No. 3 Dow Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and for the Advance Auto Parts Clash Feb. 10, he’ll also run a gold car, with Bass Pro Shops being his primary sponsor. Dillon’s Clash car resembles a throwback paint scheme driven by Dale Earnhardt, who brought RCR 67 wins and six championships, in the 1998 Winston All-Star Race.
Childress said it’s hard to believe how his organization has grown since the journey began at the tender age of 17, when he bought his first car for just $20. Several years later, Childress started his tenure in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the Inaugural Talladega 500 Sept. 14, 1969, when NASCAR’s elite infamously boycotted the race due to poor tire grip.
“Who would have thought that a $20 investment more than 50 years ago would have grown into the organization that RCR is today,” said Childress. “I’m very proud of RCR’s accomplishments, from race wins to championships and the many drivers, employees and partners who have been associated with our race team along the way. I’m most proud of the relationships we’ve formed and the many race fans who support us each weekend.”
The championship-winning owner has gone out to have a successful run as car owner once he called is driving career a day in 1981, with six top-fives and 76 top-10s to his name. In 2017, Childress was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, seven years after Earnhardt was inducted into the NASCAR’s greatest honor.
In addition to Childress’ announcement, Hemric was also confirmed that he’ll drive the No. 8 Chevrolet full-time, with Bass Pro Shops/Caterpillar being his primary gold car at Daytona. Luke Lambert will return calling the shots for an eighth straight season at RCR.
The Kannapolis, North Carolina native will also have Liberty National, VF Workwear and coming from Chip Ganassi Racing, Cessna has now joined Hemric’s car.
“To have the support and backing from partners such as Caterpillar, Bass Pro Shops, Liberty National Life Insurance, Cessna and VF Workwear means the world to me,” said Hemric. “Each one is a world-class organization that is dedicated to producing the best products and services with a commitment to excellence.
“Our goals at RCR are to do the same, and we hope to deliver strong results and represent each of them to our highest ability on this No. 8 team throughout the year.”
Friday’s announcement also marks the end of the No. 31 car’s 22-year full-time ride that’s only seen eight Cup victories by Robby Gordon, Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman. However, switching numbers just furthers the legacy left behind by the Earnhardt family. In this particular case, it’s Ralph Earnhardt, who was known for running the No. 8 throughout his iconic dirt and sportsman career.
Dale made his Cup debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the 1975 World 600, with the No. 8 proudly represented. Perhaps more known by modern NASCAR fans, it was Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s number when he began his Cup career at Dale Earnhardt Inc., winning 17 of his 26 career wins with that number.
Hemric said driving a prestigious number made famous by the Earnhardts has been a dream of both he and Childress, just in time for 2019.
“Growing up in Kannapolis, it was all about racing,” said Hemric. “I always dreamed of having the opportunity to drive for RCR and for Richard himself. Now, two iconic numbers, the 3 and the 8, are going to be under one roof. I know it makes Richard happier than anybody, just understanding what that means for the sport of NASCAR and how our fans are going to be able to connect with that.”
The three-time Daytona 500 championship-winning owner added that car numbers is an essential part of NASCAR’s 70-year lore, and felt Hemric was the right fit to run the No. 8.
“Car numbers are a big part of NASCAR and it makes me proud to have two of the most historic of those numbers under the RCR banner for our 50th anniversary season,” said Childress. “With his Kannapolis roots and his old-school racer mentality, Daniel Hemric is the perfect choice to bring the No.8 back to the Cup Series on a full-time basis. He has demonstrated that he has what it takes to be a contender on the racetrack, and we are looking forward to the next step in his career.”