Thursday, May 25, 2023
Today was the day JB has been looking forward to the most. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and it did not disappoint.
For those unfamiliar with NASCAR history, Dale Earnhardt raced for RCR for most of his career and he won 6 of his 7 cup championships with RCR. To say it was one of the all-time greatest owner/driver pairings is an understatement. Johnny’s favorite driver ever is, of course, Dale Earnhardt. Sadly, Dale Earnhardt died in a racing accident on the final lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001. So, to see the shop where all the magic happened and is still happening has been on his bucket list for a long time now.
Today RCR has two Cup drivers, Kyle Busch & Austin Dillon, and two Xfinity Series drivers, Austin Hill & Sheldon Creed. Our tour was led by Mike Dillon, an Executive Vice-President at RCR (and Richard Childress’ son-in-law), and Danny Lawrence, Director of the Xfinity Series Program for RCR. The tour started in the museum, which was neat because our tour guides have worked at RCR for over 30 years and they had a lot of personal stories to tell about the exhibits. The museum tour was neat but the best part came when they took us through the floor of the actual working garage. We saw the mechanics & engineers working on the cars that would be racing this weekend in the Coke 600. We also saw all the other cars in progress, teams have to be continuously building and re-building multiple cars per driver all year. Next, we got to watch pit crew practice. Let me tell you, these guys are athletes, like really, race teams hire former college & pro athletes to work their pit stops. These guys change 4 tires and fuel up a car in under 10 seconds. They throw these floor jacks & 50lb tires around like they are feathers. It’s a well-choreographed dance that is awesome to watch. And, when I say we watched it, I mean we were within feet of the car as it sped into the pit stall. Finally, we went on to our favorite part of the tour, ECR Engines. ECR builds engines for all the Chevrolet teams. We were not allowed to take any pictures or video in the engine shop but it was one of the neatest things we saw all day. The precision and attention to detail that goes into these engines are unbelievable. One of the things I was most impressed with is the way the shop is set up to have highly educated engineers working with mechanics who have been working in race shops their entire lives. The amount of knowledge and the product that comes from that combination is second to none.
The RCR tour lasted about 4 hours so by the time we finished we were ready for some lunch which led us right into the next part of our day, Kannapolis, NC, the hometown of Dale Earnhardt. We ate at a local burger drive-in then went to the memorial statue of Dale Earnhardt erected in the town square. There wasn’t much else to do there so we headed further south to Mooresville, NC, the home base of many NASCAR race shops. We visited Team Penske, JR Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, and drove by shops for 23XI Racing, Rick Ware Racing, and who knows how many others. Unfortunately, it was late in the day so we didn’t have time to go into each of the shops we came across. Also, I should probably clarify here, NASCAR is one of the most fan friendly sports there is. Each one of these shops has an area where fans can either watch the activities of the shop through the windows or from a walkway above the shop. Of course they also all have gift shops where you can grab your favorite driver’s gear.
Our day didn’t end on the best note though. Macy woke up with a sore throat this morning and she started feeling worse and worse as the day went on. Of course, as a mom, I knew exactly what was going on. Our boys had each had strep throat in the month leading up to this trip, I guessed it was her turn for it. Thank goodness for walk in clinics! We found a CVS Minute Clinic that was open and took her in, sure enough, strep throat. So, antibiotics and some rest should get her on the mend so she can enjoy the rest of the trip.
We finished the evening ordering pizza & hanging out at the campground. Tomorrow….NASCAR Hall of Fame!