It was a team on a tear in 2010. After a few down seasons, Richard Childress Racing was a top contender last season. After dropping their fourth team and enduring a miserable year, RCR hit the track in 2010 and quickly demonstrated they were back in the hunt for the Sprint Cup championship. All three teams made the season ending Chase and driver Kevin Harvick led the standings for most of the season before falling just short at season’s end. Harvick would win three races, driver Clint Bowyer two and the three teams would combine to score 32 top five finishes.
When 2011 dawned, many expected RCR to again be a major player for the season title.
Even team owner Richard Childress exuded a confidence not seen in some time. Not only did he reboot the fourth team and add driver Paul Menard, but Childress predicted that his team would be a contender this year even before the green flag dropped at the season opening Daytona 500.
“This year is the year to knock Jimmie from the throne,” Childress said during January’s NASCAR media tour. “We were close with Kevin (Harvick) last year, but this is the year to do it. And it’s going to be RCR, I feel certain.”
The team seemed to live up to the preseason hype led by Harvick who scored three wins prior to the halfway point of the season.
But since Harvick’s early season tear, the only highlight for RCR has been Menard’s storybook win at the Brickyard.
Both Harvick and Bowyer are struggling with only Harvick and his three wins a sure bet to be in the Chase. None of the RCR drivers helped their Chase hopes Saturday night at Bristol. Jeff Burton finished 15th, Harvick fresh off his win in the Camping World Truck series finished 22nd, Menard finished 30th, while Bowyer struggled all night and finished 26th.
While there seems to be no concrete answer has to why RCR hasn’t live up to the preseason hype, Harvick touched on one area they are focusing on.
“Right now we are working on making sure that we have the pit crew in order for the consistency on pit road that you are going to need for the last ten weeks,” Harvick said Friday at Bristol. “A lot of that comes with the experience with the guys that are doing it. The guys have done a great job. They have kind of hit a slump over the last few weeks. We are working on getting that in order before we get started.”
Harvick also admitted that perhaps the organizations efforts may be geared more towards the final ten races of the season than the final ones leading up to the Chase.
“I think we tried some new stuff,” Harvick said. “It was a whole new car last week (at Michigan where he also finished 22nd), and we didn’t really get the results that we were looking for. That failure was probably the best thing that has happened all year, as we look into the end of the season. It just opened our eyes to things that we needed to take a step back on and get back to doing the way we were doing leading up to this point. Last week was a great week at RCR, as far as making progress on a lot of things. I think we are in good shape there.”
The team may be looking past the final races in the regular season, but if their performance keeps slipping instead of two teams in the Chase, only Harvick will be there. And if their current performance continues into the final ten races in the Chase, Richard Childress Racing will come up short of a title again and the preseason prophecy of Childress will be only a fading echo.
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