It was the summer of 1969 and the eyes of the world were on an American spaceflight and a crew that was racing towards the stars. Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong spoke those now famous words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Fifty years ago, Caterpillar was there, providing the power for communications between the Apollo crew and NASA tracking stations around the world.
That same summer, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) was born when John Bishop, with help from NASCAR President Bill France Sr., filed articles of incorporation. That fall, the Pocono International Raceway played host to the first IMSA-sanctioned race.
Around that time, racing legend Richard Childress bought his first race car for $20. It was a 1947 Plymouth that had at one time been a taxi cab. He and a friend would split the cost, then flipped a coin to determine who would drive. Richard lost that coin flip, raced the second time and quickly bought another car to pursue his racing dream. The rest is motorsports history, as RCR has become one of the most successful and respected teams in NASCAR.
“Who would have thought that a $20 investment, more than 50 years ago would have grown into the organization that RCR is today,” said Childress, Chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing.”
It has been said that change is the only constant in life, and Cat Racing takes great pride in what Caterpillar, IMSA and Richard Childress Racing have done over the past 50 years to change their respective worlds. One area where all three have a lot in common is safety.
“The harness device is the single number one thing since racing started to keep the driver safe,” said Mike Shank, principal of Meyer Shank Racing that’s teaming up with Heinricher Racing and Caterpillar for the 2019 season. He says driver safety has come a long way and, “the evolution of the cockpit and the seat over the last 20 to 30 years is unbelievable. So, what they’ve done is save many broken backs, shoulders and legs by what we require now with netting and things to keep your head as still as it can be.”
NASCAR continues to make similar strides on safety including SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers, body panels, head and neck restraint systems, and frame enhancements for cars.
Over the past 50 years, Caterpillar has made safety a top priority. From Cat® Smartbands and in-cab systems that address worker fatigue to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that alerts operators to workers on the ground, Caterpillar is embracing technology to mitigate and manage various job site risks involving people.
While Cat customers were using our machines to finish the Three Gorges Dam or the Japan’s Kansai Airport on an artificial island, Richard Childress Racing was dominating the track. With driver Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel, RCR won championships in ‘86, ‘87, ‘90, ‘91, ‘93 and ’94. RCR has grown into one of the largest organizations in NASCAR, with nearly 400 employees supporting multiple teams in the Cup and Xfinity Series. Richard Childress was recently inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the Class of 2017.
IMSA currently sanctions seven different series and its WeatherTech Championship schedule includes some of the most iconic race tracks in North America.
Like Caterpillar customers who every day are building more than the roads that connect us, IMSA and RCR continue to build reputations and teams that will have a lasting impact on the racing world.