Richard Childress Racing details the history of the 1997 Wheaties car; One of the cars supposedly sold at a recent auction
Recently, the orange 1997 Wheaties car driven by Dale Earnhardt was supposedly sold at an auction. This week, Richard Childress Racing shows off the car inside the team museum.
For those that didn’t connect the dots… The car sold at the auction could not be authentic if the team has the very machine at their museum.
Let’s walk through a history of the car. In the NASCAR all-star race, Richard Childress Racing started a trend of bringing one-off paint scheme for the special event.
Come 1995, they brought a special edition silver car. In 1996, they brought an Olympic car. For 1997, Wheaties came on board for one race and the car was introduced with a bright orange paint scheme.
“After the race, Dale sat down. He said, ‘Man, leave this car just like it is. Leave the orange on it. I don’t want it painted. Can we please come back next week and run this car again?’ Of course, we couldn’t. We had to come back and paint the car black,” Jerry Haley stated of the machine.
“He really loved this car. This is one of his favorite cars of all time.”
“We ended up building another car that we took out on the road, that we could show to the public. We just didn’t have enough race cars at the time. So, we would take other cars and paint them with the [orange] scheme.”
“They were still authentic race cars. But, we could take them out on the road.”
1997 Wheaties Car: History
Richard Childress Racing has highly documented inventory with setup notes to go along with it. They know where each car was raced and what the driver/crew chief had to say about the car that day.
This Wheaties machine was first built in 1997. It’s first showing came at a test at Texas Motor Speedway. It then took it’s first green at that track.
Texas Motor Speedway (Test)
Texas Motor Speedway (6th)
NASCAR All-Star Race (4th)
Coca-Cola 600 (7th)
Auto Club Speedway (16th)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Test)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (27th)
Charlotte Motor Speedway (7th)
Atlanta Motor Speedway (16th)
Pocono Raceway (7th)
Pocono Raceway (8th)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (5th)
Texas Motor Speedway (8th)
“Then, we brought it back here, painted it orange and put it exactly how we raced it. Back in it’s original condition,” Jerry Haley continued.
All-Star Race / Coca-Cola 600
“I don’t think we built any cars that were just for the all-star race. Our plan would always be to go to the all-star race and then we had a backup, that was going to be the 600 car,” Chocolate Myers explained.
“It seemed to never fail that Dale would go there, he’d run the All-Star car and say, ‘This is the car that I want to run next week.’ “
That took a whole lot of work to make that happen. The All-Star race concluded on Saturday night.
“You had to be back at Charlotte on Tuesday. Not Thursday or Friday,” Chocolate Myers stated.
“We left the race track with a good car or a torn up car. We got the car inside this building on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, we’d strip the car down.”
“We’d get all the suspension off of it. It would go back into the body shop. Body shop guys would work on it all day long on Sunday. On Monday, we’d start putting it back together.”
“One more thing, nobody wrapped anything. These cars were painted. It night be an orange car on Saturday night. It was a black car again on Monday.”
NASCAR Chassis Log Books
“We went for many years here without destroying cars. A Monte Carlo went from a Lumina and back to a Monte Carlo.”
“Because Dale Earnhardt, he was an aggressive driver but he was also a driver that didn’t tear up a lot of equipment. Maybe a fender or a bumper but we used these cars a lot.”
Every chassis has a log book per say. It tells the team exactly how many races and how many miles is on that chassis. Today, it extends beyond the chassis itself. The suspension parts and engine parts are also included in the log. That allows the teams to know how used every piece on the car is.
“We are in a time in our sport right now that we can duplicate these cars. We could not duplicate the cars back then.”
“Go out build a car, we’d run it, we’d like it. So, we’d build another one just like it. Dale would say, ‘It’s not even close.’ “
What’s the modern day significance of this?
Recently, this very car was supposedly brought to an auction. It clearly wasn’t the car as it’s still sitting in the RCR museum.
The car was listed as a car built in 1993. It was. But, it was also converted to a show car. It was never the car that ran the 1997 NASCAR All-Star race.
Yet, the listing read that it was the actual car from the 1997 All-Star race. It was sold for $40,700 at the auction.
A day ahead of the auction, Richard Childress made it clear that the 1997 All-Star Wheaties car was not authentic. He also made it clear that another one of the machines, the 1994 championship winning car was also not authentic to the listing events.
The 1994 car drew $190,000 as it rolled across the auction block. However, it was not immediately sold. The bid went on behind the stage as the reserve was not met at $190,000.
The ‘Earnhardt Collection’ featured 20 cars at the auction last week. Three of the cars claimed to be Earnhardt race cars and two of them claimed to Dale Earnhardt Jr machines.
They were actual race cars. For some, the history of the cars listed just didn’t match up to the one they gave. Such was the case with this Wheaties machine.