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RCR 50 Throwback Thursday: RCR’s Dominant Performances at Martinsville

With the 2019 season serving as the 50th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing, we plan to dip into the archives to present the stories of iconic moments, race wins, championships and much more as part of our weekly Throwback Thursday series.

As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the year’s first short-track race of the season at Martinsville Speedway, we look back at Richard Childress Racing’s success on the half-mile paper-clip track in Ridgeway, Virginia.

Since making his first start there in 1972, Richard Childress and his team cars have earned impressive numbers at the track just over 60 miles from Welcome, North Carolina. RCR has recorded seven wins, 30 top-five and 63 top-10 finishes, four pole awards and 3,383 laps led in the Cup Series at Martinsville.

The first of those seven wins came in 1983 with Virginia-native Ricky Rudd behind the wheel of the No. 3 Chevrolet.

Rudd had scored back-to-back poles at Martinsville for RCR in October 1982 and April 1983 but started second for the October 1983 event. Rudd had delivered RCR’s first Cup Series win in June of that year at Riverside International Raceway and was looking for more success close to home.

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Rudd did just that when he flat out dominated the Goody’s 500, taking the top spot on Lap 171 and never giving it up. Leading a total of 380 of the 500 laps, Rudd gave the small team its second victory of the season and first at Martinsville Speedway.

The next most-dominant performance by an RCR driver at Martinsville came during the 1995 Goody’s 500. Dale Earnhardt and RCR were coming off back-to-back championships in 1993 and 1994 and already had three victories to their credit before the October race at Martinsville rolled around.

Earnhardt posted the second-fastest time in qualifying but told RCR head engine builder Spenny Clendenen that he believed the race motor was not good enough to win. At this time, teams had specific qualifying motors and specific race motors, and Earnhardt believed his qualifying motor was the one that needed to be in the car.

Clendenen talked him down and when the green flag dropped on a soggy Martinsville Speedway, Earnhardt learned there was plenty of power under the hood of the No. 3 Chevrolet.

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Battling rain in the area and Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte on the track, Earnhardt put his RCR Chevrolet out front for the first 62 laps and was a factor at the front of the field all afternoon.

Wallace got the advantage with 35 laps to go, but Earnhardt’s Chevrolet had fresher tires and a hungry driver behind the wheel. With just nine laps to go, Earnhardt used a bit of intimidation to get under Wallace and force him to slip up the track.

Jumping at Wallace’s mistake, the black No. 3 Chevrolet took command of the race and drove away for his fourth victory of the 1995 season. It was RCR’s sixth victory at the iconic Virginia short track.

“I’ve got to hand it to this race team,” Earnhardt told ESPN in Victory Lane. “Andy (Petree, crew chief) and all of the guys worked hard at the shop. Spenny’s engine ran great today. I was on him a little bit about the qualifying package being better than the race (engine). This was a good race engine today.

“The car worked good and we got two tires on that last stop, that was the key to beating them out,” he said. “Terry had better tires, but he couldn’t work them. I was worried about getting by Rusty, but I just saved my tires and was patient, kept working on him and finally he started slipping and I got under him. That was all it took.”

Kevin Harvick also took RCR to Victory Lane in 2011, but unlike when Rudd and Earnhardt dominated their events, he led only six laps to score the win.