Several of the No. 3 Chevrolets driven by the late Dale Earnhardt will be part of a special display celebrating the 35th anniversary of Richard Childress Racing during the Sept. 16-19 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway.

Richard Childress first showed his entrepreneurial spirit while selling peanuts at Bowman-Gray Stadium, a legendary race track in his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C. By the time he was 17, Childress had earned enough money to purchase a race car, a 1947 Plymouth, and he moved from the grandstand to the track.

Competing on both dirt and paved tracks throughout the Carolinas, Childress struggled to make ends meet while climbing the racing ladder.

He finally made it to the big leagues on Sept. 14, 1969, at Talladega Superspeedway. His 23rd-place finish attracted little attention that day, but it became the cornerstone for a team that would take NASCAR racing into the next century.

"I couldn't get into this sport today like I got into it then," Childress said recently. "I got in it at a prime time. I was a young guy having fun, not really realizing what I was doing and built a race team."

Childress became one of the top independent owner/drivers over the next 11½ seasons. In 285 starts in what is now the NEXTEL Cup Series, Childress had 76 top-10 finishes, including three at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway.

In August of 1981 when Dale Earnhardt quit the team with which he had won the previous year¿s championship, former driver and team owner Junior Johnson urged Childress to put Earnhardt in the cockpit of his No. 3.

Childress heeded Johnson¿s advice and Earnhardt drove the final 11 races of the 1981 season for RCR. But the second-generation driver left Childress¿ fledgling operation for veteran Bud Moore¿s team.

After two mediocre seasons with Moore, Earnhardt returned to RCR and the formula he and Childress developed set the standard for modern-era stock car teams.

For more than 15 years, the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet was the car to beat as the Childress-Earnhardt combination made 67 trips to victory lane and earned an amazing six NASCAR championships.

The final half of the 1990s was a building period for Richard Childress Racing.

"We had a five-year plan," Childress explained. "We were ahead of where we wanted to be from '95 to 2000 and that was with race teams, equipment and building. We had a 2005 plan and Dale and I talked about it ¿doing things that we knew we could work together on."

But everything changed in the 2001 Daytona 500. When Earnhardt crashed on the final lap, the sport lost its biggest star and Childress lost a champion driver, a business partner and his best friend.

The day after Earnhardt's death, Childress stood on a dock looking out over the Halifax River in Daytona Beach, thinking he was through with racing.

"I was done," Childress said.

But that's when Childress recalled the night on a New Mexico mountainside when he and Earnhardt agreed that if anything happened to the other, the team would continue. Childress knew he had to uphold that agreement and move forward.

Today, Richard Childress Racing fields four NEXTEL Cup Series cars with full-time efforts for Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Robby Gordon with Kerry Earnhardt running selected races in another entry. The team also has two NASCAR Busch Series Chevrolets with veteran Ron Hornaday driving one and Harvick sharing the other with newcomer Clint Bowyer.

Nine NASCAR owner championships, more than 125 victories and one of the sport¿s most impeccable reputations are just a sampling of Richard Childress¿ many accomplishments that will be recognized by this special Food Lion AutoFair display.

The four-day Food Lion AutoFair includes a car show featuring various makes and models from nearly 50 clubs; thousands of vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia; and a car corral with nearly 2,000 vehicles of all makes and models available for sale or trade.

Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults with children under 12 admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.

Contact the Lowe¿s Motor Speedway events department at (704) 455-3205 or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com for information.