Childress reboot returns stable to top
Posted: Friday, July 9, 2010 6:44 pm
By JENNA FRYER
AP Auto Racing Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Richard Childress Racing was shut out of the championship hunt last season, when all four of its drivers struggled through a winless year.
A slew of changes followed, from personnel and shop procedures to dropping a driver to make it a three-car team. Now, at the midseason mark in the Sprint Cup Series, RCR is NASCAR’s most improved team.
Led by current points leader Kevin Harvick and his two victories, RCR has two drivers currently eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. All three would be inside the top 12 had an ill-timed caution not cost Clint Bowyer a win Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Instead, that late yellow as he closed in on the white flag set up a sequence of events that took Bowyer from certain victory to a 17th-place finish while Harvick got the win. Jeff Burton, who led 11 laps, finished fifth to cap what had been a dominating night for RCR.
Where RCR now finds itself is a direct result of the commitment owner Richard Childress showed exactly one year ago.
“He stepped out on a huge limb to spend the money to start over … halfway through the year, and it’s paying off now for us,” Harvick said.
This time last year Harvick was 26th in the standings, Burton was 15th and Bowyer was 16th. Headed into the 19th race of the season this Saturday night at Chicago, Harvick holds a 212-point lead over Jeff Gordon in the standings, while Burton is eighth and Bowyer 14th.
“It’s pretty remarkable, to tell you the truth,” Harvick said. “Richard is the one who pulled all the triggers to make everything happen.”
It also appears that RCR and Joe Gibbs Racing have improved their overall organizations to the point that they can now compete with Hendrick Motorsports. Toss Kurt Busch of Penske Racing into the mix, and there are some very serious contenders to Jimmie Johnson’s four-year hold on the Sprint Cup.
JGR, with seven wins between Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, has at times this season appeared to be the most dominant organization.
But Hamlin and Kyle Busch are streaky, and neither has the consistent finishes that Harvick is knocking down.
Published in The Messenger 7.9.10