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Dale Earnhardt championship car being sold at auction denounced as fake

NASCAR team owner Richard Childress says Dale Earnhardt car at auction is fake

Dale Earnhardt's 1994 Winston Cup series championship car was auctioned at State Farm Stadium. Childress says the car is fake and claims he has the real one.
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Dale Earnhardt's 1994 Winston Cup series championship car was auctioned at State Farm Stadium. Childress says the car is fake and claims he has the real one.

A Dale Earnhardt Sr. race car billed at auction as “one of the most famous cars in the history of NASCAR” is not the original, his longtime friend and team owner Richard Childress said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“It’s sitting in my showroom at the museum,” Childress said of a 1994 No. 3 Goodwrench Chevy Lumina that Earnhardt drove to his seventh NASCAR Cup series title. “So I don’t think that’s the correct car. They definitely don’t have the ‘94 that he won the championship with.”

Earnhardt, known as “The Intimidator” for his aggressive style on NASCAR tracks, died in a last-lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.

The car was listed online as the most valuable of 20 cars affiliated with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and son Dale Earnhardt Jr. that were up for auction on Saturday at State Farm Stadium, home of the NFL Arizona Cardinals in Glendale. Wisconsin-based Mecum Auctions, which handled the auction, listed the car’s value at $200,000 to $300,000, The Charlotte Observer reported two days before Saturday’s auction.

Dale Earnhardt Sr. Goodwrench 7th championship car.jpg
NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. clinched his seventh NASCAR Cup series championship in what Mecum Auctions says is this 1994 No. 3 Goodwrench Chevy Lumina. The car went up for auction in Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Courtesy of Mecum Auctions

By 3 p.m. Saturday, all of the cars had sold, according to the Mecum Auctions website — except for the car whose authenticity Childress questioned a day earlier on the NASCAR show.

Bidding for the car stood at $190,000 at 3 p.m. Saturday, according to the Mecum website, and bidding remained at that price this week with an online tag saying: “The Bid Goes On...”

Richard Childress Racing followed up his comments with a statement to the Observer and other media:

“The cars listed on their website and sold at auction are former show cars, not the actual race cars used by RCR and Dale Earnhardt in the events claimed in the listings,” according to the statement.

“The Wheaties Chevrolet is a replica show car, as the original sits in the RCR Museum in Welcome, North Carolina. The 1994 no3 Goodwrench Chevrolet is also a show car and not the one used to win the championship [in 1994].

“The chassis numbers do not match and there are multiple indications of this being a show car (stock air filter, “Do Not Touch” on the doors, etc.).”

On Monday, RCR officials released a Facebook Live video from the team owner’s car museum in Welcome.

The video focused on the Wheaties car and the meticulous records team officials kept over the decades to document its cars.

Auctioneer’s disclaimer on the cars it sells

At the auction in Arizona, other cars in the Earnhardt Collection sold from $24,200 — for the 2008 Camping World 300 Chevrolet Corvette Daytona pace car — to $181,500 for a 2006 Hummer H1 Alpha with a Duramax diesel engine. The 19 cars sold for a total of just over $1 million, according to the auction site .

Officials with Mecum Auctions have not responded to questions emailed by the Observer, including if the company knew about Childress’s comments. Followup phone messages left with Mecum officials were not returned.

On its website, Mecum issues this disclaimer beneath the photos and descriptions of cars up for auction:

“Information found on the website is presented as advance information for the auction lot,” according to the disclaimer. “Photos, materials for videos, descriptions and other information are provided by the consignor/seller and is deemed reliable, but Mecum Auction does not verify, warrant or guarantee this information.

“The lot and information presented at auction on the auction block supersedes any previous descriptions or information. Mecum is not responsible for information that may be changed or updated prior to the auction.

“The decision to purchase should be based solely on the buyers personal inspection of the lot at the auction site prior to the auction.”

For an earlier Observer feature story about the car auction, Mecum spokeswoman Christine Giovingo said the company does not disclose names of the owners of cars Mecum auctions.

Mecum has sold collector cars for 29 years, “now offering more than 20,000 lots per year and averaging more than one auction each month,” according to the company’s website.

“Nobody sells more than Mecum,” according to its website. “Nobody. The Mecum Auction Company is the world leader of collector car, vintage and antique motorcycle, and Road Art sales, hosting auctions throughout the United States.”

Dale Jr. cautions fans about cars for sale

Childress on Friday was responding to a question about the 1994 championship car on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Beyond Racing” show with Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Angie Skinner. The question came from Kelley Earnhardt Miller, who is Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s daughter and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s sister. She and her brother co-own Mooresville-based JR Motorsports.

Dale Sr. notched 67 wins and six of his seven Cup series championships with Richard Childress Racing after starting full-time with the team in 1984, according to a history of Richard Childress Racing on the team’s website.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Richard Childress exits the stage following the Richard Childress Racing presentation at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour in Charlotte, NC on Thursday, January 29, 2015. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Childress’s remarks on Friday prompted this caution to fans by Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Twitter later that day: “RC out here stating SRs car not legit. Be careful folks.”

SiriusXM NASCAR Radio emailed a 3-minute, 30-second audio clip of the interview to The Charlotte Observer on Friday night, after the Observer inquired about Childress’s remarks. In the audio clip, Kelley Earnhardt Miller first asks Childress if he knew about the auction.

“No,” the grandfather of NASCAR drivers Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon replies. “I didn’t know they were selling some of them. I thought I had about all of them. There’s a few of the Dale cars still out there, I think.”

“Well, that’s what we thought, too,” Earnhardt Miller responds. She tells Childress that three of her father’s cars were up for auction the next day.

“No kidding?” Childress responds.

She tells Childress she understands the cars belong to “an avid collector.”

Childress chuckles when she then tells him that two of her brother’s famous race cars were also in the auction.

Childress proceeds to tell her: “I started saving (her dad’s) cars back in the real early ‘90s. I started a real small museum (at Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, NC) with some of my stuff in it and started putting Dale’s (pause) I think I have 42 or 44 of the original cars that he drove. Even goes back to ‘87, ‘86 championship. Those are cars I just put back because they have so much meaning.”

Dale Earnhardt4
In tribute to Dale Earnhardt, team owner Richard Childress drives the No. 3 car at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in October 2003 for the first time since Earnhardt’s death. Davie Hinshaw dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com


On Friday’s show, Childress said he “just enjoys walking through the museum” because it stirs “so many great memories. We have a lot of history up there of Dale’s.”

Find out who owns it, NASCAR’s ‘Humpy’ Wheeler advises

Whenever you’re buying a race car, get a certificate of authenticity from the owner, former Charlotte Motor Speedway President H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler advised.

“Any time you’re selling a race car, you’re going to get confusion,” Wheeler told the Observer in an interview.

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Former President and General Manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway H.A. ‘Humpy’ Wheeler walks down pit road before the NASCAR Monster Energy Open on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

For instance, “back in the old days, when a guy had three cars for the season, it was far easier” to authenticate. “Today, they build 35 cars for the season.”

Wheeler, who has sold one-of-a-kind cars at auction, said Mecum Auctions is “a first-class, highly regarded” auctioneer of unique, high-dollar cars.

A certificate of authenticity, however, signed by the original owner or a family member in the late Earnhardt’s case, tells a buyer “that the seller has determined this is a real Dale Earnhardt car.”

Retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. stars in a Goodyear commercial released on YouTube on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

Austin Dillon won the 60th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Dillon was driving the No. 3 car, the same number that was on Dale Earnhardt's car for his 1998 Daytona 500 win.

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