History - No. 3
As an owner/driver since 1969, Richard Childress saw the changing landscape of NASCAR midway through the 1981 season and put Dale Earnhardt, whose own ride at the time was having its problems, in the RCR No. 3 at Michigan International Speedway in August. They earned two top-five and six top-10 finishes in those final 11 races but Childress felt that his equipment wasn’t up to the level that Earnhardt, who won rookie-of-the-year honors in 1979 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 1980, needed. So they parted company at the end of the season, with the understanding that they might get back together again once Childress felt the performance level of RCR was where he wanted it.
The reunion happened two years later. They won two races and had 22 top-10 finishes in 1984 and Earnhardt finished fourth in the point standings but there were still obstacles to overcome. A total of nine blown engines in 1985, despite four victories and an eighth-place finish in the point standings, had Childress questioning the strength of RCR. But Earnhardt was in for the long haul and the racing world found out how right he was the next season.
There were five victories and the first championship in 1986, followed by a modern-day record 11 victories and a second championship in 1987. The team won eight more races and finished third and second in the point standings the next two seasons. There were nine victories and a third championship in 1990 and then four victories and the fourth championship in 1991.
They hit a bump in 1992 and, for the only time in their 17 full seasons together, finished out of the top 10 in the point standings (12th). Shame on those who may have thought the team had run its course because the No. 3 GM Goodwrench team took home 10 winner’s trophies on the way to earning their fifth and sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championships in 1993 and 1994.
There were no more championships but the strength endured, with the team winning eight more times and finishing no worse than eighth in the point standings from 1996 through 2000. As a matter of fact, the team’s second-place finish in the 2000 point standings led many to believe that the 2001 season held great potential for RCR’s seventh and Earnhardt’s eighth championship.