Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

Authentic Richard Childress Racing serial #5, with a Chevy Lumina body, sponsored by Goodwrench and raced by Dale Earnhardt.

This NASCAR Cup car comes with supporting documentation from crew chief Kirk Shelmerdine, who personally inspected the car and found it to be 100% true as raced by Dale Earnhardt. This car was raced by Earnhardt in 1989 and 1990. The car was originally built as a Monte Carlo Aerocoupe and was sponsored by Wrangler, then in 1990 changed to one of the first Goodwrench-sponsored Lumina Aerocoupes.

As documented, this car was the Atlanta race winner and 500-mile record-holder. It was the last win by one of the original RCR rear-steer cars. The current owner purchased the car seven years ago. It has not been restored in any way since. The fluids, fuel, etc., have been replaced; receipts included. A new, smaller carburetor has been added for ease of operation. The original Holley carburetor, from when the car was purchased, comes with the car.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1989 Chevrolet Lumina Goodwrench #3
Years Produced:1989
Number Produced:N/A
Original List Price:Over $100,000
SCM Valuation:$27,820 (all NASCAR)
Tune Up Cost:$250-plus
Club Info:Historic Grand National, SCTA
Alternatives:Any NASCAR racer raced in period, specifically with big-name provenance
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 648, sold for $220,000, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s sale in Palm Beach, FL, on April 6–8, 2017.

As the resident Southerner on staff, I often field questions such as, “Jay, what’s a grit?” “Jay, what’s the difference between supper and dinner?” and “Jay, why do people spend truckloads of money on old stock cars?” Some of these questions are easier to answer than others.

I’ve written about several retired NASCAR racers over the past few years, but most were purchased inexpensively and were likely to go on to lead an active life in the vintage-racing arena. I find researching and writing about those types of cars exciting because it’s easy for me to imagine myself bringing one home and beating it like a rented mule.

This car, at this price, is a bit different. It’s not much of a stretch to assume this one has turned its last competitive lap. Big-money stock cars are, like the sport itself, a bit of a niche market within a niche market.

Engineering the character

Parity in motorsport is a knife’s edge that virtually all sanctioning bodies walk in an effort to limit undue advantage. But perhaps nowhere in the top echelons of racing is parity of machine so tightly regulated as it is in NASCAR.

The organization’s top decision makers determined many years ago that tighter racing, bigger crashes and feuding teams would put more fans in the seats more consistently than if the sport encouraged innovation and freedom of ingenuity in engineering. As a result, NASCAR is, unambiguously, all about the drivers. As such, it is the personalities that drive the merchandising, not the machines.

NASCAR’s history is riddled with some of the most audacious, unabashed, and larger-than-life characters in all of motorsport. If only one of those personalities could be chosen to represent all that is NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt would likely be the hardcore fans’ choice — particularly if we base the results on a quick Google search for “NASCAR tattoos.” Dale easily owns 75% of the results. Throw Dale Jr. in the mix, and the number jumps to 90%. Hell, Senior simply dominates the search for “NASCAR back hair.” Science doesn’t lie.

Dale was a hard-driving, take-no-prisoners competitor with a Southern accent, a quick wit and an insatiable appetite for victory lane. Millions of fans saw him not only as one of them, but as the best among them. As such, they christened him with what I consider to be one of the most badass handles in all of sports — “The Intimidator.” He was a high school dropout who tapped, rubbed, spun and man-handled his way up the ranks, and revealed himself to be a pillar of resilience, dedication and hard work along the way. The man was both hugely respected and hugely despised, and, as such, was one of the most exciting and polarizing figures in stock car racing history.

What’s notoriety worth?

If it seems like I’m waxing poetically about The Man/The Myth/The Legend in an effort to butter you up to justify the price paid here, I am. Dale’s untimely death in the last corner of the 2001 Daytona 500 meant that he would never have an opportunity to be the winningest racer in NASCAR history, and his seven championships are matched by both Richard Petty and Jimmy Johnson, the latter of whom is still actively racing. These facts, however, matter very little to the diehards. That’s why any attempt at solid valuation in this territory is a bit like a shot in the dark, and I’ll tell you why.

First, sale prices for retired stock cars are all over the board. With documented large-sum sales virtually nonexistent prior to the feeding frenzy of 2008/2009, there simply is very little historical data to lean on. The issue is only complicated by the fact that many high-dollar sales see the proceeds handed directly to charity, so the true value for highly desirable cars is muddied quite a bit by generosity.

Second, cars that change hands over the $100k mark are somewhat inconsistent in provenance. Most are documented race winners, but not all. Some come from championship-winning years, but not all. The problem here is that few cars are one and done. Is a 10-race, no-win car more valuable than a two-race, one-win car? Maybe.

Third, it’s incredibly difficult to quantify a popularity contest. As I reasoned earlier, the cars themselves vary physically from their competition in livery and pilot only, so the script name above the window has more to do with the hammer price than just about everything else.

The Intimidator reigns supreme

The reality is that documented race winners piloted by the top drivers will always pull the biggest money. Exactly what that dollar amount may be varies year to year and auction to auction. What I do find interesting about the sale of these cars is that there seems to be very little in the way of year-over-year turnover, which leads me to believe that fans — true fans — quite possibly buy these cars for the joy of ownership over financial upside.

Sound too clichéd? Shortly after taking on this assignment, I made the long haul between Chicago and Cleveland on the somewhat less-than-luxurious I-90. Somewhere along the way, in the middle of open fields and hardwood clusters, I was running the relevance of a man who’s been dead for a decade and a half around and around in my head. I was trying to understand why someone was willing to separate themselves from almost a quarter of a million dollars for an old race car when I spotted it: Drug out to the edge of a field, by what was likely no small effort, sat a brush-painted, all-black school bus with an enormous 3 emblazoned on the side.

Who is popular on any given Sunday has a tremendous effect on the ups and downs in this market, and when it comes to NASCAR, there are few, if any, who can match The Man in Black. Well sold.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

Comments are closed.