Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 11/20/14

TALLADEGA, AL - NOVEMBER 01: Team owner Richard Childress speaks to the media prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on November 1, 2009 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

 

What is to be done about the curious case of RCR?
Richard Childress Racing has been trying without success to win a Cup championship since the final time the late Dale Earnhardt ascended the highest pinnacle of the sport in 1994.
Throughout the last decade especially, changes in the driver (and crew chief) lineup have come frequently. We are just past the halfway point in 2012, and it's apparent than another change ought to be made.

Kevin Harvick has had a down year, although he'll still make the Chase. Jeff Burton isn't quite as terrible as last year, but he's done nothing to break the downward trajectory of his career. Paul Menard hasn't done anything of note to follow up on his Brickyard 400 win from last year. None of the three drivers has scored a win or led more than a handful of laps.
Clearly, the organization needs to shake things up. Adding a new driver is probably the best route to go.
That would almost certainly mean expanding to four cars, as subtraction isn't about to happen. Dropping Harvick (the team's best driver) or Menard (whose had decent success and comes with a major sponsor) makes no sense, and cutting Burton loose isn't a great option either. Despite his struggles, he's a solid veteran presence and still has time on his contract.
Team owner Richard Childress could also try switching crew chiefs around as he has in the past, and I wouldn't be surprised if that happens before the end of this season. But it's likely not a long-term solution for creating a significantly higher level of success.
So that leaves adding a fourth team as the best option for shaking things up. Bringing on some additional talent could (and probably a new crew chief) could bring a fresh infusion of innovation and energy to an organization that is clearly needing some new ideas.
It's well known that RCR has tried to expand to four teams not once, but twice in recent years. Bringing on Casey Mears in 2008 was an unmitigated disaster. Things went okay the first year, but the wheels fell off completely for the whole organization in 2009 and Mears moved on following the season.
In 2011, Paul Menard came on board to bring RCR back up to four teams. Burton was the only driver to not win last season, as Menard won at the Brickyard. However, Harvick was the only driver to make the Chase and Clint Bowyer left for Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the year.
Clearly, adding a fourth team hasn't been the silver bullet for RCR in the past, but maybe the third time will be the charm. The question is, who to add?
There are several talented drivers who figure to be available. Matt Kenseth tops the list, although he says his plans for 2013 are already in place (most likely with Joe Gibbs Racing). Kurt Busch is a good candidate...but can you imagine Harvick and the always-volatile Busch on the same team? Yeah, neither can I.
After those two former champions, the best option is Joey Logano. After JoLo, the choices thin out considerably and include David Ragan, David Reutimann and Elliott Sadler, with outside possibilities of drivers such as Brian Vickers and Justin Allgaier (someone needs to give Allgaier a shot in Cup!).
If it were up to me, I'd make a strong push for Joey Logano (assuming Kenseth is off the table). Considering his youth, "Sliced Bread" has the highest potential of any of the aforementioned drivers, and perhaps a change of scenery would be what it takes for him to live up to his hype. Being on a team with a veteran like Jeff Burton could be a huge boon after having to deal with the likes of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin at JGR--talented drivers, to be sure, but not exactly the best of mentors for a young prodigy.
After Logano, I'd pass over Kurt Busch and go with Sadler, who is already tearing it up for RCR at the Nationwide level and clearly hopes to return to the Cup level. It's unlikely that he could develop into a serious championship hopeful, but he'd likely be a solid Chase contender and put up better results than he had at any prior point in Cup competition.
Would a change of this type be what RCR needs to push it back toward the top of the sport?
Maybe, maybe not. At present, the team is severely lacking in both star power and overall performance--even Kevin Harvick has been struggling this year. But something certainly ought to be done to shake things up. The status quo isn't getting the job done.

 

 

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1 Comment:
  • should have tried to get kyle busch when he left hendricks
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