The Richard Childress Racing Museum located in Welcome, North Carolina may contain the largest collection of Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolets, but it is home to a wide variety of items and artifacts from the organization’s nearly 50-year history.
Each week during the 2018 season, we will celebrate Throwback Thursday by featuring an item in the newly redesigned Richard Childress Racing Museum by showcasing its story and unique history to the famed organization.
In 167 starts at Bristol Motor Speedway since 1972, Richard Childress Racing owns nine wins, 34 top-five and 68 top-10 finishes at the ‘World’s Fastest Half-Mile.’ However, the team’s first trip to Victory Lane came during the 1985 season with Dale Earnhardt and the No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet.
Heading into the race, Earnhardt and the No. 3 RCR team had already scored one victory of the year at Richmond Raceway. The team was forced to wait a week before trying for their second victory of the season, as rain postponed the Bristol race one week.
Starting 12th on the eventual race day, April 6, the No. 3 Wrangler Chevrolet took the lead for the first time on Lap 91 of the 500-lap event.
The race was slowed 15 times by cautions, with some of the toughest competition taken out of contention early in the going.
One of the strongest cars all afternoon, Earnhardt lost power steering just 100 laps into the race and was forced to wrestle the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet around the half-mile track and give up the top spot to Ricky Rudd. Late in the race, Earnhardt complained that his right arm was going to sleep, which caused him to take a more conservative approach to chasing Rudd for the lead.
With 24 laps to go the final caution of the day flew, slowed the field, provided Earnhardt a rest and brought the leaders to pit road for the final time. Rudd changed right-side tires, while Earnhardt’s team opted for left-side tires to get a better run off the corner.
Restarting with 22 laps to go, Earnhardt was stuck to Rudd’s back bumper and went to work fighting for the lead, using the bumper when needed. Sliding around the track, rubbing fenders and smoking the right-side tires, Earnhardt finally cleared Rudd with 18 laps to go and never looked back.
“This Wrangler bunch, the worked awful hard,” Earnhardt said in Victory Lane. “Richard and all of the guys worked so hard on preparing this car – it’s the same car we won Richmond with. Everything worked just super today, except the power steering today, it went out about 100 laps into the race and I ran the last 400 laps without power steering.
“The car still handled real well even though it didn’t have power steering, it was just a little hard to turn. My arms kept going to sleep from tugging on (the wheel) all the time, but we made out.
“Ricky was real tough all day. At the end we raced pretty hard,” he said. “At the end on that last stop he got rights and we got new lefts (tires), and I think that’s what made the difference. We had a left rear blister that was tore up because of the way I was driving the car.”
When asked if he would be willing to run another 500 laps around Bristol without power steering, Earnhardt smiled and simply said, “No.”
The victory was Earnhardt’s second of the year and RCR’s first at Bristol Motor Speedway. When the series returned to Bristol in August later in the year, it was once again Earnhardt and the No. 3 RCR team that dominated and scored the victory over Tim Richmond.
Both Bristol win trophies from the 1985 season are proudly on display at the Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome, North Carolina. Ironically, the trophy for the team’s first win has the race date as March 31, 1985, but rain forced the race to be postponed until April 6.