Richard Childress Racing – a 40-Year Legacy Begins with a $20 Racecar
Richard Childress, owner of the multi-million dollar empire Richard Childress Racing (RCR), stretching across more than 70 acres in Welcome, N.C., began his racing career with the purchase of a $20 racecar in 1965.
He bought the 1947 Plymouth when he was just 17, beginning a legacy of championship teams and one of the most famous partnerships in racing.
Childress began racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 1969, earning six top-five and seventy six top-10 finishes. RCR was also officially incorporated as a business venture in 1969, debuting at the Talladega 500. After retiring in 1981 and putting Dale Earnhardt in the drivers’ seat, the duo went on to win championships in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994.
“The day you think you’re good enough, you’re gonna get beat,” says Childress.
That mind-set continues to contribute to Childress’ successful operation. Today, RCR has four cup teams, two truck teams and two ARCA teams and that takes a large staff to keep the operation up and running smoothly.
More than 500 dedicated motorsports professionals work at the RCR complex, which consists of 12 buildings and 500,000 square feet of shop space, including Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines, the high performance engine production and research and development company, which built the engine that powered the 2010 Daytona 500 winner.
“A good 100 people are fabricators or use the welders – we have 110 different Miller welders throughout this facility. We build our cars with them, the chassis – there are just so many applications for them,” says Childress. “We also have eight haulers and each one has a Miller welder on it.”
Long-time Miller Partner
“I can remember the very first time that I picked up a welder, back in high school in the ninth grade,” says Childress. “That was the old days of nothing but Stick welding, but I still use those theories when I weld today.”
While Childress does not actively weld in the RCR facilities, he continues to rely on Miller welders for both professional and personal endeavors.
“Miller has been a great, great partner. When it comes to welding, Miller is about all I’ve ever known, and it’s all that RCR has every operated with.”
Beyond the track, Childress also owns and operates Childress Vineyards, Yadkin River Angus and the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma.
“Me personally, I have them on my farm, my ranches and we even have one at our winery,” says Childress. “We put in a lot of pipe fencing on the farm and you can’t beat a good Miller welder for that.”
Though RCR uses a variety of Miller products, the Miller Dynasty®350 TIG welder is a favorite in the shop. The pulsing capabilities and high-frequency adjustment, among other features, are considered some of the top features of the Dynasty 350.
“It’s so versatile,” says Michael Tennyson, RCR’s Finish Fab Shop Foreman. “You can do so much with it – weld a piece of 24-guage steel and then turn around and weld a piece of quarter-inch aluminum.”
The finish fab shop, which employs 75 to 80 employees, uses a wide variety of Miller welders. They do a lot of welding on lower control arms and trailing arms with the Miller Dynasty® 200 TIG welder.
Tennyson notes they also use the Millermatic® 212 Auto-Set™ MIG welder, which gives the fabricators the option to manually change settings, or rely on the Auto-Set™ function to select the proper voltage and wire speed automatically.
“Anywhere from five to 10 cars come through this shop each week, for maintenance or as brand-new builds,” says Tennyson. “Pretty much anything on the car that needs to be fabricated comes through my shop.”
Because of the high volume of work that flows through the finish fab shop, Tennyson and his team need reliable and dependable products. The Dynasty 200 features Blue Lightning™ for TIG non-contact arc initiation. It offers a high frequency arc starter for more consistent arc starts and great reliability — a key feature considering the amount of work that comes through the finish fab shop each week.
“We use Miller products because we never really have any issues. If we do, there’s a repairman here in a snap,” says Tennyson. “In fact, there’s a guy who has been here 20 years and still uses the same Miller machine. It’s a very reliable product.”
Maintaining a Family Atmosphere
Despite the fact that Childress has expanded his businesses to include more than 500 employees, he still tries to make them feel at home while in the shop.
“We try to keep it a family atmosphere here at RCR. Usually when people get to work here they love it and end up staying,” says Childress. “I try to treat people how I want to be treated and give them an atmosphere.”
Tennyson, who has been welding for more than 25 years, agrees.
“It’s a family oriented team. I’ve worked for a couple different teams, but I’ve been here 11 years, so obviously I don’t want to work anywhere else,” says Tennyson.
Whether helping create an institute dedicated to saving children's lives, nurturing grapes to produce the premium wines of Childress Vineyards, supporting the NRA and hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation efforts of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, or breeding some of the finest Angus stock in the country, Childress insists on the best at every turn. And after more than 40 years as a team owner, he still looks forward to the start of each race.
“I think dealing with the fans, all the sponsor partners – when the race starts I’m still excited as I ever get, I want to win. I still enjoy the sport,” says Childress.