Richard Childress Racing’s place in the history of NASCAR is secured regardless of what it does in the seasons to come. Few owners in the history of the sport have a trophy case that is close to resembling what Childress has put together since he began his career as an driver/owner in 1969.
Childress’s best move as an owner came during the 1981 season when he crawled out behind the wheel with 10 races remaining and turned over the driving duties to a young driver by the name of Dale Earnhardt. The two combined to win 67 races and six Sprint Cup Championships before Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 season-opening Daytona 500.
Childress’s success in NASCAR has not just been limited to the Sprint Cup Series. Besides his six titles in the Cup Series, RCR has captured five Nationwide Series championships and two in the Camping World Truck Series.
His most recent title came when his grandson Austin Dillon won the Camping World Truck Series in 2011, but you have to go all the way back to 1994 for RCR’s last title in the Sprint Cup Series. The organization fields three teams in the Cup series, but all three struggled this past season and as we head toward the start of the 2013 season, this organization probably has more questions than answers at this point.
Kevin Harvick drives the flagship car for RCR’s multi-team operation and it could be that he is entering this season as somewhat of a lame duck driver if you happen to believe the rumors that he is going to be leaving at the end of the season to drive for his good friend Tony Stewart’s Stewart- Haas Racing. Also included in the rumors is that when Harvick leaves, he is going to be taking his Budweiser sponsorship with him as well as several of his associate sponsors.
Harvick is joined at RCR by Jeff Burton and Paul Menard, but he is the only one to post a victory in 2012 and to make the Chase. Burton at age 45 is the elder statesman of the group, but he is in a 185-race winless streak and has failed to make the Chase the last two seasons. Burton insists that he has a long term contract with RCR, but another down year for the former 1994 Rookie of the Year could be his last with RCR as Childress begins a youth movement that will include his two grandsons.
The driver that seems to be the most secure with his ride at RCR is Paul Menard, who will be entering his third year with the organization. Menard finished 16th last season in the final point standings, but his job security lies in the fact that he brings a sponsorship package with him from his father.
Childress has already announced that even though grandson Austin will once again be running for the championship in the Nationwide, he would be entering him in at least six races this season beginning with the Daytona 500 as he prepares him for the move up to a full-time Cup ride beginning with the 2014 season. He will also enter grandson Ty Dillion, who will drive in the truck series full time this season and in a couple of Cup races.
Austin’s move to the Cup level next season should give RCR the boost that it so desperately needs if it wants to regain some of its past glory. It will not hurt either if he and Granddad decide that it is time put the #3 back on the track that was made so famous by Earnhardt during his Hall of Fame career. Austin and the #3 could be the move that returns RCR back to the lofty position that it once held.