Iracingone On One: Richard Childress/I

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(Richard Childress, a former Winston Cup driver, has been a Winston Cup car owner on a regular basis since 1976. He has nearly 70 Cup wins as a car owner and has been running a two-car team with drivers Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner since 1997. He also owns Busch Series cars driven by Kevin Harvick and Mike Dillon.)

RacingOne: Dale was so close to winning championship No. 8 this year. Is it a letdown that he didn’t, or are you looking upon 2000 as being a great success, despite falling short of the goal?

Childress: It was a great year for the race team, but it was also a building year. This was the first year we had run this type of body on the car, and it’s really the first full year that Dale and crew chief Kevin Hamlin have had a chance to work together with the equipment that we’ve had. It was disappointing that Dale couldn’t win that eighth championship, for sure, but we felt like we had a tremendous year, finishing second in the points. We wanted to be competitive and race for the championship. We feel like we’re going to be even stronger next year.

RacingOne: Your organization was once looked upon as the top organization in Winston Cup racing. Now that the Hendricks, the Yates and the Gibbs organizations have come along and tasted success, do you feel like you’ve got some work to do to catch back up to them in terms of winning championships?

Childress: We were there all year long. To win it, we’ve certainly got some work to do. The competition never lets you rest. If you rest on your laurels, you’re going to certainly fall behind and you’re never going to win again. You have to keep working hard and come up with new ideas. You have to stay on top of things and the new technology, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.

RacingOne: Describe your relationship with Dale. You’ve been together for such a long time, does it go beyond the realm of a normal driver-owner relationship, meaning, are you good friends on top of everything else?

Childress: Yes, we really are good friends. We hunt and fish together, although we haven’t been able to do that as much as we used to. We have a great personal relationship and a very healthy respect for each other. We have a lot of trust in one another. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to stay together for so long.

RacingOne: Perhaps in the not-so-distant future, Dale is going to be faced with the reality of retirement. How do you think both he and you will handle that?

Childress: As the old saying goes, “Nothing lasts forever.” When that time comes, and it will be coming sooner than any of us would like, we’ll be looking at some young drivers like Kevin Harvick and some others that could possibly be our next Dale Earnhardt. You’ll never replace Dale Earnhardt, but you’ve just got to find the next driver to put in the seat and go on. It’s just like a Michael Jordan or any other superstar in any other sport. You’ll never replace them, but you’ve got to find someone capable of driving your car and someone who will be successful at doing it.

RacingOne: This was yet another season without a victory for the 31 team and driver Mike Skinner. How much of a disappointment, considering just about everyone expects that team to win at least once, has that been to you?

Childress: It’s been one of the biggest disappointments that our organization has had. We thought that team would be winning races in its second year. This is the fourth year we’ve been running for Lowe’s, and we’re just super disappointed. We felt like we should have won races by now, and we’ve had the opportunity to win some races, but we never could put it together. We’re just going to have to work really hard on that program for next year. That’s our goal, to get Mike in the winner’s circle, and then to continue to try and build it into a championship contender.

RacingOne: There are some owners that might not stick that long with a driver that has so much potential and hasn’t won a race. Are you 100 percent behind Mike Skinner?

Childress: Yes, I’m still 100 percent behind Mike Skinner. Mike is a great driver. You’ve got to look back at what’s happened with us over the past three years. We changed crew chiefs in the middle of the season a couple of years ago. Last year, Larry McReynolds didn’t know if he was going to own a team or continue to be a crew chief. This year, halfway through the season, the crew chief decides he’s going to be a TV announcer. Not to say that has anything to do with Larry, but it’s just one of those deals where we have to give that race team a solid foundation on which to win races.

RacingOne: With Lowe’s going away as a primary sponsor, are you close to being able to talk about sponsorship plans for that team next year?

Childress: It looks like Lowe’s is going to still be on the car next year in some form or another. We will be looking for a replacement as the year goes on.

RacingOne: What can say about Kevin Harvick? What a tremendous season he and that AC/Delco team had.

Childress: For a rookie - and he’s not a rookie anymore - Kevin just has a tremendous amount of talent and we’re really proud of what that race team has accomplished. We’ve got great plans for him in the future.

RacingOne: Would anything less than a championship be a disappointment for you and Harvick’s team next year?

Childress: Winning races and championships is tough. The competition is tough, and the Busch Series is certainly no exception with the talent level of teams you’ve got there. Our goal is to go out and win a championship for Kevin Harvick, so if you judge it by that, yes, it would be a disappointment if that team doesn’t win the championship next year, but it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world. We know that team is going to have a very, very successful year next year.

RacingOne: Here’s something we ask each week. What’s right and what’s wrong with NASCAR racing right now?

Childress: What’s right with it is that it’s still continuing to grow. There seems to be no limit on how much the sport can grow. It’s great for everyone involved, including the fans, but we really have to strive to do more to entertain them. What’s wrong with it is that we need to get to where we have more side-by-side racing, more passing for position when it really means something. We’ve got to work on getting that back to make the racing more entertaining for the fans.

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