By admin | August 16, 2010
By Richard Allen
Last year, Richard Childress Racing ran four teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the results were certainly not up to par for this typically front running organization. None of their four drivers made the Chase for the Championship playoff and there were no race wins recorded in 2009.
After downsizing to three teams this season the results have been far better to date. Kevin Harvick leads the Sprint Cup standings and has scored three victories. And although drivers Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer have not yet won in 2010, each is inside the top-12 of the standings with just three races remaining before the Chase cutoff.
So, after having had such a disastrous year in 2009 then rebounding in 2010, why run the risk of adding a fourth team?
As was announced last week, Paul Menard will join RCR in 2011 along with the guaranteed sponsorship from his family’s business. However, team owner Richard Childress says this time his organization will get it right.
“We’re going to do this team completely different than we did that one,” Childress said. He points to his organization’s improvements in the areas of engineering and engine building. RCR’s engines come from Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines, a partnership between RCR and the former Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Childress admitted that those two aspects of his company were not fully in place at the end of 2008, but they are now. Also, the fourth team RCR fielded in 2009 was essentially pieced together from the existing three teams and a Research and Development team. This time, RCR will look to add more depth rather than limiting themselves in terms of personnel.
Instead of the title of this piece being what it is, perhaps it should be ‘Is there ever really a good time for any organization to field four teams?’
The final Sprint Cup standings since 2004, the first year the Chase was used, reveals that very rarely has any team gone four for four in terms of having success in NASCAR. Even highly regarded Hendrick Motorsports has never placed all four of its teams in the Chase in a single season. Granted, they have come close on a few occasions and they did finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the standings last year. But still, they have never had four teams to make the Chase.
Of course, one example that is often pointed to in regard to multi-car success is that of Jack Roush in 2005 when his organization placed all five of its teams in the Chase. However, in no other year has Roush placed as many as four teams in the Chase.
The sport’s other major teams, Joe Gibbs Racing, Penske Racing South and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing have never seriously attempted four teams for any extended time period.
If the Chase is to used as a benchmark in NASCAR, it would seem as though having four teams operating under one umbrella is not necessarily the recipe for success. Only once has any organization place four teams in the playoff. And the Childress example of a year ago would seem to indicate that four teams can even prove to be a drag rather than an enhancement.
So, is this the time for RCR to expand to four teams? Or better, is there ever a good time for any team to expand to four teams?
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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