Richard Childress was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and is a former NASCAR driver and successful team owner of Richard Childress Racing (RCR) in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition. As a business entrepreneur, Childress has become one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina. A recent successful business venture was the 2003/2004 opening of a vineyard in the Yadkin Valley wine region of North Carolina.
Childress's career in NASCAR's top levels started auspiciously as a drivers' strike at Talladega Superspeedway left NASCAR President William France Sr. looking for replacement drivers. Childress was such a driver, and started his first race as a replacement.
By 1971, Childress began racing on the top level as an independent driver, using the number 3 as a tribute to Junior Johnson's past as a driver. Although he never won as a driver, he had six top-5, seventy-six top-10 finishes, with a career-best of third in 1978.
He retired from driving in 1981 after Rod Osterlund sold his NASCAR team to J.D. Stacy, and Osterlund's driver, Dale Earnhardt, did not want to drive for Stacy. Childress, with recommendations from R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, chose to retire and put Earnhardt behind the wheel of his #3 car, complete with Wrangler Jeans sponsorship.
That first alliance lasted for the season. Ricky Rudd was hired in 1982 and drove for two years, giving Childress his first career victory in June 1983 at Riverside. Earnhardt returned for the 1984 season, and together with Childress formed one of the most potent combinations in NASCAR history. They won championships in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1994.
In the mid-1990s, Childress began expanding his racing empire, fielding entries in the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series. The team won the 1995 Craftsman Truck Series championship with driver Mike Skinner in the series' first season. He also expanded to a two-car operation in what is now known as Nextel Cup, with driver Skinner driving the #31. In the first part of the 2000s, he expanded to three cars, with the #30 car driven by Jeff Green.
Tragically, Earnhardt would be killed in the 2001 Daytona 500 on the last lap. Childress promoted Busch driver Kevin Harvick to drive the renumbered #29. Harvick would win in only his third start, at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
With Harvick having won the Busch Series championship in 2001 and 2006, RCR became the first team in NASCAR history to win all three of NASCAR's national championship series. RCR also won the Busch Series owners championships in 2003 with Kevin Harvick and Johnny Sauter and in 2006 with Harvick and Jeff Burton.
Richard Childress currently resides in one of the largest mansions in northwestern Davidson County, North Carolina. The Richard Childress Racing Museum is located in nearby Welcome, along with numerous racing maintenance shops. The Childress Vineyards winery is located a few miles south of the museum in Lexington at the US 52/US 64 interchange. Childress remains active in his current county of residence, attending fundrasiers and supporting local candidates for office.