Congratulations: Mr. Richard Childress

I am sure some of you out there now have heard that Richard “Pop-Pop” Childress has finally been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Richard started 285 races as a driver and had 76 top 10’s in those starts. That’s an average of 26.6% for top 10’s. His Hall of Fame nomination and induction come from being an owner.

As an owner Richard Childress has:

  1. 1 ARCA Championship
  2. 2 NASCAR Truck Championships
  3. 4 Grand National Championships
  4. 6 Cup Championships
  5. 212 Combined NASCAR victories
  6. 10 (?) ARCA victories
  7. 149 NASCAR pole positions
  8. 6 Pit Crew Championships

Richard Childress Racing, under the ownership of Richard Childress, has been in operation since 1969. That’s a full 47 years. The team has competed in over 4,000 races combined. The team employs over 500 people, this during a time when so many companies are downsizing.

In addition to the race team, he helped establish Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies, currently known as ECR engines who supply engines for not just NASCAR competition but also the United Sports Car Series, ARCA, SCCA, and many more. With over 250 victories and counting this just continues to add on to the legacy that is built more each and every week.

While the Hall of Fame typically only inducts those who have been retired at least 5 years, I do agree that owners should be granted a special exemption. With his grandchildren being involved in racing, I do not see him leaving the track anytime soon. To hold this honor back from a man such as Richard, would be a tragedy. He deserves to be inducted while he can still enjoy the honor. The greatest tragedy that occurs with any Hall of Fame is when they withhold the honor until the member has passed away.

If it hadn’t been for Richard and Dale, the sport of NASCAR would not be where it is today. The 2 men helped evolve and change the sport. They brought bigger sponsors, they brought about bigger and better TV deals. They changed the sport to one of the greatest spectator sports in the world. Both needed each other and now both… Are in the Hall of Fame.

As a child I looked up to Dale Earnhardt as a hero, as I grew up I realized that heroes rarely do it alone. Before I was 18 I looked up to Richard Childress. His drive, his determination, his foresight. He had the ability to change when needed, to get out of the seat and look for a new way to excel. My grandfather told me stories of Richard as a driver, who would get out and pit his own car, grab a piece of chicken out of the bucket, climb back in and take off on tires he himself had just put on with the chicken hanging out of his mouth. Now my grandfather could exaggerate at times, but I doubt old Lester was lying to me about this.

I heard how Richard would live on peanut butter sandwiches to put all available money in his car. I heard how he would pull into town and would put any sponsor on the side of the car that would feed him and his crew for the weekend as long as he had money for gas. Doing this, he managed to place in the top 10 in points 5 out of 6 years and finished 5th overall in points in 1975.

With all the history that Richard Childress has made and helped make it is only a wonder to me that he wasn’t nominated and put into the NASCAR Hall of Fame sooner. So, Mr. Childress, if you are out there and you happen to read my blog I just want to say….

Congratulations.

…and thank you, for giving fans someone we can look up to, admire, emulate, and follow every week. I know we are all proud of you and happy for you.

-Jonathan A. Gruenke-

Charlotte Setup

Welcome to Charlotte Motor Speedway. One of the classic B&B (Bread & Butter) tracks on the circuit. The center of most NASCAR teams and right near the NASCAR Hall Of Fame. With 24 degree banking in the corners and 5 degree banking on the straights, this is what most refer to as a cookie cutter.

Lets do some quick mop up, I missed the Dover Rollout. We are going to call that addition by subtraction. I don’t think anyone wants to relive that day. Pretty sure the same goes for the Sprint Showdown. Not making the cluster***k that was the All Star Race, I think was a blessing. The only thing that came from that was frustration, ask Tony Stewart. So where does all this leave us? Well the Challenge between Frank & Myself is scored, 4-3 respectively. I do not count equipment failures against the team, that’s racing. Austin, he has a 7 position above average finish currently.

So, what are we in store for this week? Well, I think we are going to be happy. The entire team is hungry to hit the track right now. They don’t like bad finishes and are eager to move on. Their story this year shows a bounce back. Before Dover the team had finished 20th or worse only 3 times. 2 of those 3 finishes were followed up with top 5 finishes. This plays right into the schedule for them.

Charlotte, as a whole, has not been bad to Austin. In truck series he holds an average above 17th, Cup series he has an average above 12th, and in Xfinity he has 2 wins and a 6th place average finish. With the significant performance increase this year on mile and a half tracks, this could possibly be another career day for Austin. The math has been working for them this year, I think it does the same at the home track.

17+12+6=35/3=12-7=5

The simple math algorithm gives us a projection of 5th. Ironically the 7 points above average finish is the same amount as average finish below projection. That tells me the algorithm is working. As the year wears on the performance modifier will stabilize, in fact over the last several races it has been fairly steady.

Math hurts the brain, I get it. The important thing to see is that across all series Austin has a 12th place average, this year he is averaging 7 points above that. If he keeps putting himself in the top 5, he will luck into a win. For him and his team, I hope it comes sooner than later, especially since they all seem so very happy. Let’s keep that rolling!

I’ll see you in the box.

Couch Sessions: Nathalie Bijeau from Ice-Aid, sponsor of Derrike Cope Racing

Welcome to another “Couch Sessions” with Couch Crew Chief. Today we are speaking with Nathalie from ICE-AID™, sponsor of Derrike Cope Racing (DCR) #70 Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

CCC: Nathalie, first I want to thank you for being a sponsor of one of NASCAR’s small teams. It certainly is awesome of your company to help the little guy. What brought ICE-AID™ to NASCAR in the first place?

NB: Thanks Couch Crew Chief for having ICE-AID™ on Couch Sessions. ICE-AID™, formerly known as Beer Frost, wanted to bring product awareness to the public. Since NASCAR has a huge population of people that could benefit from ICE-AID™, inside and outside the track, we thought it would be a great place to start. We began sponsoring in NASCAR in 2015 with Go FAS Racing driven by Josh Wise & Jeffrey Earnhardt. ICE-AID™ was the primary sponsor when Jeffrey Earnhardt, grandson of Dale Earnhardt & nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., made his Sprint Cup debut in Richmond. ICE-AID™ also works with Jeffrey on his show “The Opener”, which broadcast throughout North America. ICE-AID™ began the 2016 season by partnering with Derrike Cope Racing in Daytona, and will have a notable presence throughout the entire 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series.

CCC: What is ICE-AID™ and how can it benefit NASCAR fans?

NB: ICE-AID™ is an all-natural, environmental friendly ice additive that turns a cooler into a freezer by dropping the temperature of the ice to as low as -10°F. It delivers a frosty cold beverage covered in ice crystals that, until now, you could only get by turning the refrigerator temperature to the lowest setting or using the freezer. ICE-AID™ will make ice last up to 3 times longer than ice alone, whether it be beer, water, sodas, sport drinks, wine, or food you chill on ice. You can use ICE-AID™ anywhere a cooler with ice is in use. So, NASCAR fans can use it in their coolers at the track and at the campground during race weekends.

CCC: Sounds like a product that everyone could use, might be good for me to keep some on hand in the event of a power outage. With all the camping and track time you’ve experienced this year on the circuit, what is your favorite part of the sport so far?

NB: Definitely Couch Crew Chief! For you and the fans to know, ICE-AID™ can also be used for:

CAMPING – Keeping food and beverages colder, longer

HUNTING – Transporting game back home

FISHING – Bringing that big catch back to shore

TAILGATING – ICE-AID™ cold beer and beverages

CATERING – Keeping food iced down & safe for consumption

GATHERING – Picnics, family reunions, company gatherings

BUSINESS – Events and Tradeshows

INJURIES – Icing down muscles and joints

Hum… I love NASCAR racing, period. But I love being at the track… the smell, the sound and the excitement from fans. High energy at its best!!! Everybody’s happy!

CCC: How much has the sport and its fans helped the exposure of ICE-AID™?

NB: A lot! We are not ready yet to launch our product into the market but when we do, we have many good leads and contacts coming from the sport. And fans are awesome! They support our company and buy our product online. Also, as followers on ICE-AID™ Social Media accounts, fans share, re-tweet and talk about us in their personal accounts… The ICE-AID™ name is making some mileage too! HA! HA! HA!

CCC: As a sponsor I’m sure you have a very unique view of things, I’m wondering, what can NASCAR do better to help the small sponsors just entering the sport?

NB: Ha!! This is of course my point of view… As you know, small teams who we also call “underfunded teams” or “underdog teams” are working very hard to get and keep sponsors on board race after race. As a sponsor, it’s all about visibility and ROI (Return On Investment). If NASCAR would give more TV time to underfunded teams, giving more exposure to the sponsors – for example, bring under the spotlight a small team every race, I’m sure it would help. Anyway, you know Couch Crew Chief as much as I, that fans are also asking to see and hear more about the small teams. It’s not only about sponsors visibility…

CCC: Being part of such a small team and seeing how hard they work, is there anything you can think of that NASCAR can do better to help a small team like DCR succeed on the track and with their sponsors?

NB: Trust me, they do work hard, at the shop and at the track! Again, very personal answer… but definitely let all cars make the race. For me, it starts with something as simple as that! Of course, you qualify for your spot but, everybody’s in!

CCC: I completely agree with you. If teams bring a legal car, let them race. If you have to double up pit stalls, do it. That or the lowest qualifiers have to go back to the garage to pit until a stall opens. But it gives them the chance to race. What brought you to DCR and also TMG in the Cup series?

NB: Elyshia Cope, DCR Marketing Director cold called me at the end of last season. She heard about ICE-AID™ and how she could save on ice every weekend. Ice is expensive at the track. Every dollar counts. I gave DCR some product to try. They love ICE-AID™ and use it every weekend. We love the way DCR works with their sponsors. Their hospitality, their Social Media, their energy… and of course, working with a Daytona 500 Champion is a privilege! As far as TMG, they also cold called me during the West Coast Swing of this season and heard about ICE-AID™ from another team. They also wanted to save on ice every week. Who wouldn’t?

CCC: With all of ICE-AID’s many benefits as a product, how have the teams utilized it at the track?

NB: Many teams now use ICE-AID™ in their coolers. It makes ice last longer, drinks colder and drops the temperature of beverages faster. Teams also save money by not buying as many bags of ice and they also save time by not walking back and forth to the ice truck. We also gave some product to officials. Some of them bring their own coolers. Anyone can stop by the #70 DCR Team Hauler in the Xfinity Series garage to get their free ICE- AID™ bag. We’d love to meet you too!

CCC: Sounds like the perfect product to help save small teams in several ways. I think we can all agree that they need every bit of help they can get. What is your best memory of the race year so far?

NB: With no doubt, the first time I saw the ICE-AID™ #70 DCR Daytona car on the track. WOW!!! I don’t want to brag but did you know that the car was voted by Richmond International Raceway as one of the TOP 5 best car schemes for all 3 Series during the Daytona weekend? It’s pretty sweet!

CCC: That is awesome! It was a gorgeous car and unique! I see you & ICE-AID™ post many pictures throughout the weekend, how much has social media helped you spread word of this amazing product?

NB: A lot!! DCR and ICE-AID™ have their own Social Media Directors. And they talk and help each other. As a brand new company, we are building our followers on our Social Media accounts. So please readers, follow ICE-AID™ and Derrike Cope Racing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! We like to do contests too! By the way, thanks for following us CCC! We appreciate your follows.

CCC: I am happy to follow you and the team. Some of the best accounts for interaction if you follow NASCAR. Thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate it and I hope we helped spread the message about ICE-AID™ to fans, teams, crew members, and officials. Where can they find or order this today?

NB: Again, thanks for having me and ICE-AID™ on Couch Sessions. It’s been a pleasure sharing my passion about ICE-AID™, DCR Team and helping Teams stay cool. People can go on our Website, http://www.ice-aid.com You’ll be able to see how to use ICE-AID™, how it works and how to order. Also, you’ll see our video made specially for our race 2016 season with Derrike Cope Racing (DCR). It’s a must watch!

CCC: Awesome! Readers, make sure you go look for it today! Nathalie, thank you again. Any final thoughts before we go?

NB: I want to thank fans for following small underfunded teams, drivers and sponsors of those small teams. It all makes a difference for us knowing that fans are supporting our efforts. Fans are the reason why we are all doing this!! And fans are the reason why we continue doing it, no matter what!

CCC: There you have it everyone! Thank you for reading and make sure you check out ICE-AID™ for your next race or tailgate party and all outdoor events. Also, watch for the #70 Ice-Aid™ Chevy Camaro driven by Derrike Cope at a track near you. See you next time, right here for all your race therapy. As always, keep your nuts tight, especially the one behind the wheel.

Fans, get this Twitter post to 20 RT’s or 30 likes and I will do a very special give away!

A weekend in the garage

Once upon a time I had a wish. I wished that I could be part of a race team for a weekend, just so I could show them how dedicated I was. I had this dream that if I had one weekend I could prove myself. As fans we all have those moments. Then, I got to live it.

Last year Derrike Cope Racing gave all fans the opportunity to purchase hot passes for a weekend. So my dad and I did it. Not only did it change my view on race teams but also on us fans. It was an eye opener as to how much we bumble around in a giant cluster-you know what. So I want to share with everyone what I saw.

Thursday was roll-in at Road America. Late afternoon the haulers roll in and park. They had their annual gig in Random Lake with a cookout and then full parade to the track. The trucks aren’t just transportation, they are homes to the men that drive them and many have their own personality, but they were all spotless and beautiful.

Friday morning we wake up, have some coffee, head up from the campsite to the garage. Dad and I both work 6am-2pm every day so we are up and ready and rolling and in line to get hot passes at 7:15. Well, apparently every person in the garage without hard card is there too, waiting. So we wait. In line it is almost every driver and crew member you could dream of. By the time we get processed through, it’s going on 8am. When we get to the garage crews are already a**holes and elbows in the car and under the car, awnings are up and it is just a busy mess.

This is the best time to walk the garage and just see the teams and mechanics in their most excellent moments. I had hawked autographs for years, so I didn’t need to get any. It’s a good thing too because this is the worst time for autographs. If you see a driver they are heading somewhere. Could be NASCAR meetings, could be team meetings, could be to see the car in inspection.

As you walk through some teams are down off the jack stands quick and then into inspection line. Now, this is a great time to say hello to some of the team members simply because they are doing nothing in line. Seriously, it’s like waiting in a long bank line. The only difference is they are pushing a 3,400 pound stock car and not talking into a phone. This is literally the slowest parade ever.

Aftwr they go through the big claw they go to rear end and front end and laser grid. Every inch of that car is checked and rechecked and that’s before they even go set up for the day. Before any of this NASCAR will have come around and checked body and chassis and motor. There is nothing that is not touched. If you like to touch cars, this job is for you! Now, if you pass all the inspections and can continue on you go back to the hauler and it’s back on jackstands. Now begins initial set up.

Things will be adjusted and changed for the weekend. NASCAR will come around again to check window nets and windshields. It sounds stupid but it is all checked again. Meanwhile mechanics are working on all parts of the car at the same time. I’m not sure if it is organized chaos or chaos in motion or absolute organization. After all this the car may be resubmitted for inspection, if you failed, you have to fix it and many times go back to station number one.

By the time practice rolls around the engineers and mechanics are just grabbing something and throwing it in their mouth. There may be coffee cups strewn about and yes, fans all around. During hot periods I am convinced they don’t just kick fans out for their safety, it’s to give crews a break. They’ll have earned it after 4+ hours of solid work. As cars hit the track some will watch from the wall, others will escape to the hauler. Small teams, likely their people will still be working or pulling double duty. Big teams, the tire tech will go down pit road and wait for the driver so they can hop over and check temperatures and pressures and gauge wear.

Also during practice there may be a big change, shocks and springs and ride heights, so the crew really doesn’t get a “break” they just get a little less busy. At the end of practice everyone is back up on jackstands with mechanics in the engine bay and under the car and in the car. Back to the craziness. At least, it looks crazy when all you do is stand there. It became so much easier when I started helping with little things. I felt less in the way with DCR.

If there is a second practice, this will all be repeated. From inspection to tear down and set up. It is truly amazing the countless hours invested in a machine. That’s if it was kept clean during practice. Usually there’s a team that will go to a back up car and start from the beginning. There’s always someone changing a transmission or steering box at Road America. Somewhere before all of this there was a driver/crew chief meeting.

By the time the garage closes for the day you can see the team members are spent. I have always told my teams that they are welcome at my campsite, I always will but I can honestly say… They will likely never make it. Most will be in a hotel several miles away. Some of the drivers have their RVs there, but crews will have hotel rooms from what I saw.

When Saturday morning rolls around its all right back to it. Wheels off the ground and crews double checking the car and making adjustments the car chief, crew chief, and driver discussed. Then, back to more waiting in line. Danny will be gaping and fans will be watching everything. After inspection it is wheels up and put in qualifying set up if they haven’t. Then you have a qualifying session which is short. Then it is back up off the ground and adjustments for race setup, then back down for prerace inspection.

After all of this, all the checks and changes and verifications someone has to set up the pit box. I got to do this part, since they do it every week, not a huge ordeal. My first time, I was like a leg less duck trying to swim. After it gets all set up and you get all the VIP seating set it will be almost race time.

Now, a small team will actually cobble together a team at conjunction races, when it is a separate race they take who they can. A big team has their guys and many help the small teams when their cars aren’t pitting. Though I have to say this for the over the wall guys, if you think a stop is fast on TV, you should see it in person. It is so much quicker and it happens all around you.

During the race there are guys getting tires and fuel. There are guys by the hauler packing in the unneeded stuff. There are guys practicing their stuff and some sit on the wall. A pit box will have up to 6 people on it making decisions, that’s just what I saw.

At the end you have the winner in victory lane, that’s where you want to be… Especially if you have teammates. Why is that? Glad you asked. If you are in victory lane, your teammates teams will tear down your stuff for you while you celebrate! If your teammate wins, your work doubles.

After all is said and done, they pack it all up in a race to be out of there as soon as possible. The sooner cars get back home, the sooner they can assess the total picture and load up another car and get it back on the road.

This is just the small bit I saw with a hot pass. The teams roll out and head home. The funny thing is, during the week they do many of the tasks at the shop, then they go do it all again. Racing is about heart. You have to want it to be in it. From the smallest team of Morgan Shepard to the biggest teams like Richard Childress Racing, there no easy task for anyone on the team. While we idolize the drivers, it’s the crews that deserve our applause.

This is just the Xfinity series. This is such a small glimpse. It doesn’t even include what happens when there is an issue. What happens when David Green starts getting involved. By far the biggest display of heart is how teams help each other. Big teams help small teams. It is big brother and little brother. The more fortunate helping the less fortunate.

So the next time you are in the garage, take a look around, give the bus some room, cut them some slack. Remember, this is their job, the paddock is their desk. Say hi, say thank you, and keep your head on a swivel. 3,400 pound cars win and none of them want to be the one to hit you with it.

Thank you for reading, I’ll see you in the box.

 

This is solely written based upon my experience and recollection of events from Road America, 2015. Any crew member that would like to add to this or change something or tell me their weekend story, please let me know. We fans love to know about the sport and I value your input. I would love to help write an article or open letter to fans from you who work in the business, from those in the garage, from those under the car and in the car. Also, I’d like to take this chance to tell all crew members on all teams, “Thank you, for selflessly giving to provide us with entertainment.”

Dover Setup

Welcome to the old Dover Downs International Speedway! Once an asphalt track but repaired in chalk white concrete in 1995. After the first race in 1995 they painted a stripe around the track on the bottom of the wall because drivers couldn’t tell where the white track ended and the white wall began. Thus created, “The Monster Mile” known for chewing up cars. Turns banked at 24 degrees and straights banked at 9 degrees, this is a miniature Daytona. High speeds, tall turns and a whole lotta wall inside and out will challenge every driver and funnel them all together as the physically drop into the turns.

Austin Dillon has a lifetime average of around 16th across all 3 series. While not a “stunning” result he does have a promising history here in the Xfinity series. Never finishing worse than 10th with 6 top 10’s in 6 starts, one could say he has this track figured out when the car and goal are both set to “win.”

While having never placed higher than 20th in Cup he averages a solid 13 in trucks. All this tells me he was just logging laps and gaining experience the last few years in Cup, which is exactly what rookies and young drivers need. So where does that leave us for this weekend?

My projection is 8th. With a lifetime average of 16th, Austin is also averaging 8 positions higher than career average this year. Barring some major incident I think the 3 team and Austin can finish inside the top 10 again. The more you run there, the more comfortable you are up there. Not to mention you race better drivers who are less likely to lose control or cause an accident.

If Freddy and his team hand over another car like they have been and they unload it with a setup like Greg and Slugger have been known for this year, look for top 15 speeds in practice right off the truck. I have a feeling this weekend is going to be a good one and help Austin build even more confidence, momentum, and comfort.

Finally, by my count, the crew gained 3 total positions on the slow road and had zero penalties. If you take that into count you can bet Austin will see a career high finish in Dover this weekend.

Remember to check out @RCRracing on Twitter for the recent unveiling of throwback paint schemes for Darlington this fall. Give the guys a shout and wish them well.

As always, I’ll see you in the box.

Kansas Rollout

Tonight the crew will hastily pack everything into the hauler and run for the airport. The American Ethanol Chevrolet crossed the line 6th tonight for a Cup series best at this track for young Austin Dillon. Now it is time for all team members to get home to loved ones for Mother’s Day.

The green flag dropped with the 3 car in 17th and she slowly drifted back and hovered around 23rd. Through pit stops the team slowly made the car better and by the third pit stop started gaining positions on the slow road. No mistakes and no self imposed adversity made it a relatively calm night. While some would call it a “routine” evening, in honesty it was anything but.

Most races see some form of self imposed adversity to overcome, tonight, no mistakes, no errors. The team gelled and grew. This brilliant evening was rewarded with another top 10 besting my projection by 1 spot. When things start going right, the team cannot be stopped.

Theres not much else to update tonight, other than being held up in traffic, no issues tonight. Everyone kicked butt and stayed positive.

So on that note, Happy Mother’s Day! Enjoy your Sunday and we will Cheer the 3 next week!

To: Those who carry the load.

I wanted to take a short moment here and recognize some members of the racing community that are rarely acknowledged by us, the fans. We don’t see them and most don’t even think about them. We go to the track and cheer, we watch on TV and scream. Some fans yell and scream and complain about drivers and crews and teams but they forget all that is attached, we forget about those who carry the load.

It use to be that NASCAR had every Mother’s Day off, that was tradition. Not only was it a chance to spend time with their mothers and honor them, it was a break and a chance to give a break to those who carry the load. That was the way it was, probably the way it should be now.

Who are those that carry the load? Is it the guys at the fab shop? No. Is it the guys in the engine shop? No. Is it the officials? Is it the office workers? No, sorry. I appreciate them all and all of their tireless work. I am talking about someone much more important.

I am talking about the wives or husbands and families of all those who pick it up and go racing. The people who manage everything at home while the mechanics and crews and drivers and all those who cover the sport go racing from Thursday to Sunday for us fans. Those who carry the load while those in the shop work around the clock, come home for a quick meal and sleep and go back to it at dawn. They carry the load and watch fans tear their team and their family down when something goes bad.

They don’t have a day, they don’t have a race, they don’t do autographs, they don’t tell a fan how much of an ass they are being when the fan yells and screams and tweets nastiness about the person they love. They just take it, they do it and they hold it all together. They worry and stress when things go slightly wrong and worry if the job will be there Monday, because we fans are always demanding better.

So with this being Mother’s Day weekend, I want to take a moment to say this…

Thank you, for giving your all so we fans can enjoy the work your family has done. Thank you, for all the quiet nights alone so we fans can go to the track and be entertained. Thank you, for carrying the load so we fans can go unload and unwind.

Thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

-CCC-

To the fans: the next time you are going to tear someone on the race circuit down for some marginal thing, I want you to think, what if it was your husband? Your wife? Your son? Your daughter? Your father? Your mother? Before you call for someone’s job because of a tenth of a second on pit road, remember, they have families too, they are human and entitled to make a mistake. They will always be harder on themselves than you, you don’t always need to add to a bad moment. Finally, always remember that positive reinforcement and encouragement is ten times more powerful than a negative reaction. Give them and their families a break.

-CCC-