Note: This is a collection of stories and images for an eight-part series highlighting Richard Childress’ induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2017. Each of the items will be featured in Childress’ “shadow box” for one year inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
At first glance, the 1979 season agreement form, required by NASCAR for each driver to sign in order to compete, looks like a fairly standard document. And it was. But to Richard Childress, it was a lifeline to the longevity of RCR.
NASCAR had grown leaps and bounds by the 1979 season – it signed its first live television deal with CBS Sports, had a series partner in RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and a booming fan base attracted to its personable drivers and thrilling competition.
RCR was growing, too. Richard Childress had hired a few more employees and had just come off a solid season in 1978 with a 10th-place finish in the point standings. Tenth was stellar for the single car team Childress owned and operated, meaning he would collect a respectable payday from NASCAR. Prize money was key to continue funding his racing operations. Sponsorship was tough to come across, and even if Childress did have a sponsor, he couldn’t count on it to propel RCR into the future.
At the beginning of the 1979 season, Childress signed this driver’s agreement in hopes that he could finish again inside the top 10 to receive the bonus money promised to the drivers. Payments would be made three times throughout the season, then again at the conclusion of the season based on the overall championship point standings.
“We went and borrowed money against our earnings from a little bank in Daytona Beach at the beginning of each season.” Childress said. “That really put the pressure on us finishing races and performing well.”
Driving the No. 3 CRC Chemicals Chevrolet, Childress managed to stay inside the top 10 of the point standings for a majority of the 1979 season, meaning he collected prize money. At the end of the season, Childress found himself eighth, his second-best finish in the Grand National series standings.
“There were a few times throughout the season where I slipped outside the top 10.” Childress said. “I knew I had to pick it up and finish inside the top 10 to collect the prize money. We worked harder because of those incentives.”
Childress’ 1979 driver’s agreement now lives inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It was one of his last seasons as a professional stock car driver, but he remembers it as a year that advanced the sport of NASCAR.
“Putting additional prize money on the line made NASCAR that much more exciting to watch. You had guys going all out because it meant being able to stay and race, or go home and not being able to fund your operation.”