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.
This weekend marks the second Crown Jewel event in a row on the NASCAR schedule, as the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This year’s Brickyard 400 will mark the 26th time the stars of NASCAR’s top series hit the ‘Yard of Bricks’ and during RCR’s 50th anniversary season we look back at how crucial the organization was in helping NASCAR get to the track once reserved for open-wheel cars and the success it has enjoyed over the years.
When NASCAR first entertained the idea of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the early 1990s, Richard Childress and his organization were eager to help make the dream become a reality.
On June 22, 1992, NASCAR began a two-day Goodyear tire test at the iconic speedway, marking the first time stock cars had made laps around the Indy Car staple. An estimated 150,000 fans packed the grandstands for their chance to see NASCAR make those historic laps over two days.
"We had tremendous crowds for the test," team owner Richard Childress remembered.
Although this was just a tire test, the competition between the teams both in the garage and on the racetrack was on full display.
"We were doing everything we could do to be the first car out to make a lap – to be the first stock car to make a lap around Indy – but Rusty Wallace beat us out and we were second," said Childress.
On the second day of the test, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt climbed behind the wheel of the No. 3 Chevrolet to try his hand at a stock car around Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Also, that day – much to the delight of the massive crowd in attendance – NASCAR set up a 15-lap exhibition race. The nine drivers did not disappoint.
Racing three-wide into the flat Turn 1, Dale Earnhardt dove under Ernie Irvan and Rusty Wallace at the front of the field. Earnhardt move up a groove and into the side of the No. 4, slid through the corner and held onto the car – but added a donut to the right side.
"It was great coming down the straightaway with all those grandstands up on each side," a smiling Earnhardt told reporters after the test. "Watching Indy Cars here on TV, I’ve never been at the racetrack before – it’s a pretty good rush."
While Childress had been to Indianapolis prior to this June 1992 test, the experienced of being there as a team owner – one who had come from those humble beginnings and survived the days as an independent – was something much different.
"To stand out there, where so much history was made, and to see these stock cars go around was special," said Childress.
– RCR (@RCRracing) September 5, 2019
THE FIRST MAN TO WIN
When the inaugural Brickyard 400 rolled around on Aug. 6, 1994, Earnhardt and the No. 3 team had one goal in mind – win.
Qualifying second, Earnhardt started on the outside and did all he could to lead the first lap of NASCAR’s first race at Indy. However, pole-sitter Rick Mast took the advantage and while trying to catch him, Earnhardt made contact with the outside wall exiting Turn 4.
While Earnhardt’s car fell backward, Jeff Gordon’s took command of the race. Gordon went on to win that inaugural race, which motivated Earnhardt that much more.
The RCR team was able to make their own history at Indianapolis the following year when Earnhardt led the final 28 laps of the race to win the 1995 Brickyard 400.
Poking fun at his friendly rival Gordon, Earnhardt said after his win, "I’m glad I’m the second man to have won, if not the first. We really appreciate it. NASCAR is happy to be here."
CONTINUED SUCCESS AT THE BRICKYARD
RCR’s success at Indianapolis has continued throughout the years since that initial test and first victory.
Kevin Harvick won from the pole in 2003 and laid down some rubber on the Yard of Bricks with a massive burnout. Paul Menard scored the lone Cup Series win of his career in the 2011 Brickyard 400.
On the NASCAR Xfinity Series side of things, Ty Dillon and the No. 3 team won the July 2014 event.
All told, across both series, RCR has earned four wins, 21 top-five and 48 top-10 finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Austin Dillon, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick all look to add to those numbers this weekend.