The Inside Line: Childress recalls fond memories of Indy

Richard Childress doesn't have the most car owner victories in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he is the only owner who has won this prestigious race with three separate drivers.

The Sprint Cup Series will compete at this historic 2.5-mile oval for the 20th time this weekend. Team owner Rick Hendrick has won there eight times (four with Jeff Gordon and four with Jimmie Johnson). Childress and Joe Gibbs are next in line with three victories each.

In April 1993, officials from NASCAR and IMS announced the inaugural Brickyard 400 would be held on Aug. 6, 1994. Several teams in NASCAR's premier series (then known as Winston Cup) participated in a tire test at Indy prior to that announcement. Dale Earnhardt was among those who took part in the test.

Childress claimed his first victory at Indy when Earnhardt took the checkered flag for the second running of the Brickyard 400 in 1995.

"It doesn't seem 20 years ago when Dale Earnhardt pulled up there to run our first test," Childress said. "I guess that was a year or so before we went up there and raced, just to see how the Cup cars would do.

"To be able to see that car go around the racetrack in such a historical place as Indy with all the history there, to have Dale go around there, it was pretty amazing. That was one of the first memories I have of being at Indy, other than going up there and jumping the fence one time."

Eight years after Earnhardt's win, Childress returned to victory lane at Indy when Kevin Harvick won the 400-mile race from the pole.

But Childress' third Brickyard 400 win in 2011 was perhaps his most special victory there. Paul Menard scored his maiden Sprint Cup win at Indy after conserving enough fuel late in the race and holding off Gordon in the closing laps. Menard was in his first season with Richard Childress Racing at the time. His father, John Menard, had long sponsored and owned cars in the Indianapolis 500.

"What made that so special was knowing that Paul's family was there," Childress said. "Knowing what John Menard had put into that, I think he had entered like 30 some cars over 20 years at Indy, in the Indy 500. To be part of watching his son win that race was such a special day.

"Riding around the track, that's the neatest part of Indy, is getting to ride around the track, seeing all the fans hollering. That's really a cool thing right there."

RCR has four drivers entered in this weekend's race at Indy - Harvick, Menard, Jeff Burton and Austin Dillon, who is a Nationwide Series regular and Childress' 23-year-old grandson.

Burton has competed in all of the previous 19 Brickyard 400s, but he has yet to win this race. After finishing a season-best third last week at New Hampshire, Burton moved up four spots to 17th in the point standings. Seven races remain before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins.

"Jeff ran his best race last week at New Hampshire," Childress said. "Hopefully things are starting to click with him and (crew chief) Luke (Lambert). He's had some really good runs. We're going to try to get him in the Chase."

After this season concludes, Harvick is moving over to Stewart-Haas Racing and taking his Budweiser sponsorship with him. Burton and Menard are under contract with RCR for 2014. There has been speculation that Dillon will graduate to Sprint Cup full-time next year and drive the No. 3, as Childress is considering the return of that car number made famous by Earnhardt.

Childress is currently working on sponsorship opportunities for a fourth car in Cup next season.

"Right now, we're finalizing some things," he noted. "We have sponsorship on a third, and we actually have some sponsorship on a fourth. But having it all finalized and put together, it could be a couple of months down the road before we have everything ready to do some announcing on any of that."

While a fourth car is in the works for Childress next year, he would love nothing more than to have another one of his drivers win the Brickyard 400 on Sunday.

"Hopefully we can add the fourth driver to that list this weekend," he said. "Not taking anything away from Kevin or Paul, but it would be neat to go win it with either one of the four."