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Harvick defection a sign of deeper issues at RCR?

By admin | November 15, 2012

By Richard Allen

What’s going on at Richard Childress Racing? The organization, which is considered one of the major players in NASCAR racing, is in the midst of some serious turnover as three drivers will be departing from the fold in the near future. Most notable of which is Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick.

Last weekend in Phoenix it was reported by ESPN’s Marty Smith that Harvick has agreed to join Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2013 season. He joins Elliott Sadler and Joey Coulter who will leave RCR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series teams respectively at the end of this season. Each of these drivers are apparently leaving of their own accord.

Kevin Harvick is likely leaving RCR for Stewart Haas Racing

Sadler is rumored to be headed for the Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide program while Coulter is on his way to the Kyle Busch Motorsports truck team.

And don’t forget, Clint Bowyer left RCR after the 2011 season for Michael Waltrip Racing when sponsorship could not be secured to keep him in place. However, as time passed after the driver’s departure, conjecture had it that energy supplement ‘5 Hour Energy’ might have been willing to support him had he stayed with RCR but he chose to leave on his own.

So why all these departures?

The argument might be raised that the team’s performance has dropped off. However, Harvick did win the most recent Sprint Cup race in Phoenix. But, that was RCR’s first win this season at NASCAR’s highest level. Harvick was the only driver in the organization’s stable to qualify for the Chase for the Championship.

Some trace the company’s recent struggles to the loss of competition director Scott Miller who left RCR last season to work for Michael Waltrip Racing. Of course, it must also be considered that NASCAR racing is one of the most cyclical businesses around. RCR’s lack of success of late could merely be a matter of being in the midst of a temporary down turn.

One question that has to be asked with all the turnover taking place is whether or not the presence of team owner Richard Childress’ grandsons has caused discord within the team. Austin Dillon curently races in the Nationwide Series for RCR while Ty Dillon pilots an RCR truck in the Camping World Series.

Could it be that the rise of Austin and Ty Dillon is creating deeper issues at RCR?

While the organization’s Sprint Cup teams have struggled, their lower division teams where the Dillons race have done well. Sadler and Austin Dillon have won races and remained in contention for the series title throughout the season. And further, Coulter and Ty Dillon have also won races and were in championship contention for much of the year in that series.

Could it be that other drivers feel as though the organization is gearing itself to make the owner’s grandsons the centerpieces of their efforts and thus are choosing to leave rather than play second fiddle?

And more than drivers leaving, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing recently announced that it will forsake the Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines program for power plants from Hendrick Motorsports next season. That, of course, brings up a whole new question as one has to wonder exactly where RCR fits in with longtime manufacturer Chevrolet as HMS further increases its position with the auto maker.

Legendary NASCAR team owner Richard Childress

Is what’s happening at Richard Childress Racing simply a brief slump that could be turned around by the right people? Or, is there a deeper issue in which some insiders have come to realize their place within the organization has been jeopardized by the rise of the Dillon brothers?

Whatever the case, RCR is experiencing some rather rapid turnover. The future of one of NASCAR’s most historic organizations seems somewhat clouded.

Topics: Articles |

16 Responses to “Harvick defection a sign of deeper issues at RCR?”

  1. RacingFan Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 12:30 am

    I can understand drivers fleeing because of the Dillons, but for everyone else, I would think they would want to stay. They will get to work with an owner that will spare nothing to help them succeed.
    Wouldn’t Childress make a perfect match for Dodge if Chevy is concentrating on Hendrick? They could pick up the experts that Penske lays off and pick up 30 horsepower before the start of next season.
    The suggestion that Childress could go to Dodge might cause old timers to shriek, but they have mostly left the sport anyway or are so numb from gradually losing what they admired in NASCAR, that they probably will just say, “Whatever”.

  2. Wallbanger Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I agree except Sadler will be pumping gas in Emporia, Va next year at the family truck stop. Brian Vickers got the JGR Nationwide ride Sadler was roumored to have locked up.
    The only thing RCR is racing toward is obscurity. A grandfather’s pride and father’s ambition will put RCR right next to RPM in the NASCAR hierarchy.

  3. zhills fan Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 6:36 am

    No doubt in my mind that the Dillon brothers is the biggest reason for the defections. But had Miller not left the program would be in much better shape than it is now. Look what MWR has been doing since Miller has arrived. Although there is more to the MWR story than most people don’t know about.

  4. Sue Rarick Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 7:46 am

    The Dillon boys success has more to do with the trucks and Nationwide cars being managed by what was KHI people.
    Getting rid of Scott Miller was the biggest mistake Childress himself made. Success is funny. As soon as it arrives everyone claims it’s because of them but the reality is that because racing is so dependent on the cars themselves now, MWR racing success this year has to lead directly to Miller.

  5. Tony Geinzer Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I really think it would cause a rough future if you had all Free Agents.

  6. Russ Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 9:03 am

    While few type A people want to continue in a company once nepotism raises its ugly head I doubt thats all of it.
    Evidently GM has finally decided to go the route that Ford and Toyota have already gone. Consolidating all engine building for the brand with one team. While not there yet they could be soon, all it would take is to threaten RCR with a reduction in support.
    And of course there are the rumors that some of the major investors in RCR are looking to sell and get their money back. Which is of course why they are called investors.
    As to the long term position of RCR, its probably something not far, although better, from RPM or EGR. A middling player in Sprint Cup.

  7. Kevin Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Bowyer left for more money. Coulter left because he wasn’t going to get the same opportunities as the Dillon brothers. Sadler left for an equal N’wide team & a partial Cup ride. Harvick most certainly isn’t leaving because he’s threatened by the Dillon brothers.
    Recall Harvick talking about moving on to the next chapter in his interview with Marty Smith a few years back. Instead he signed a contract extension, made a couple runs at the title & came up short. Now he’s looking at an RCR team that has lost its way & is in need of rebuilding vs racing for a team owned by one of his best friends that he feels will give him as good an opportuity at a title run as the ride he’s in. It’s just time for a change. Nothing more, nothing less. RCR will get its stuff together & will be back, competitve as ever.

  8. Jesse Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 10:00 am

    zhills fan, please fill us in. I am still waiting for Mikey to tell us who put the stuff in the fuel. Drivers are leaving these teams to go Gibbs and MWR because Toyota is spending buckets of money, just look at the truck series, no sponser but Toyota on the front runners. The top ten in each division, five are Toyota and next year they will spend more and more. Jack Roush said it best years ago, we can not out spend them

  9. mreddy Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Its because nobody can stand to look at the Dillons wearing the cowboy hats.

  10. oldirtracker Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Richard Childress has always been my favorite team owner, he did it the hard way, with his own sweat and tears. I believe he will right his ship but to do so he needs to put someone at the helm that has the same level of talent as Miller. Clean out the over the hill driver that is just hanging on and go back to being more hands on. The Dillon boys are his legacy, it is his right to make them the future of “HIS” company. I would love to see him defect to Dodge and be the #1 team for a manufacturer instead of 3rd or 4th for the bowtie brigade.

  11. Richard Allen Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 11:08 am

    As always, thanks for the comments.

    I do want to point out one thing. This is not an anti-Dillon piece. I love the Dillon brothers as drivers and appreciate the fact that they race on dirt when they have the chance to do so. Both of my sons have had their pictures made with them and they were very gracious.

    The point of the piece is to ask whether or not other drivers might feel as though they have little chance of advancement because those seats are obviously already taken.

    And yes OldDirtTracker, if I owned a racing team I would definitely be paving the way for my sons(or grandsons) to drive.

  12. Lydia Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Mr. Allen…you asked a question in your column and then answered it in the comment section. ALL teams go through cycles… SHR is down this season…Hendrick was down last season (well for their standards)…obviously RCR is on the downward path…while MWR is on the upswing. I think the owners understand the cycles and do their best to fix what they feel is broken…which leads us to the Dillon Brothers. Childress is either going to look like a hero or a zero in a few years…and family…no matter how talented they may be..don’t always make the best “bedfellows”…just ask Junior. I don’t think the departing drivers or the fans are discounting the Dillon boys’ talents…but when you see the writing on the wall and it’s in permanent ink…doesn’t it make sense to save yourself and move on to a team with a clean slate?

  13. Wayne T. Morgan Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    RCR died when Earnhardt did and he is banking on his grand sons bringing it back. I too would leave to assure myself equal parts of any team not bottom of list for a chance.

  14. The Old Guy Says:
    November 16th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    If Richard Childress could control Dale Earnhardt, do you suppose he could control Kurt Busch.

    Whether or not you like Kurt Busch, you can’t deny his talent.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see RCR put Busch in the 29 car upon the departure of Harvick.

    And, I do believe KB has something that none of his current stable of drivers have. A past Champions Provisional. Very important now that the top 35 rule is history.

    One of the Dillons will bring the #3 car back into NASCAR.

  15. kaner Says:
    November 17th, 2012 at 12:16 am

    who cares as aretired teamster childress was at best a DIRTY SCAB talladega 69 for which bill sr&jr france gave him special treatment. also his 2 grandsons with their cowboy hats remind me of paul williams (little enos) from smokey and the bandit

  16. Wallbanger Says:
    November 17th, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Old Guy makes a good point. The departure of both KH and Jeff Burton after 2013 makes room for both Austin Dilon and Kurt Busch at RCR while RC can still cash John Menard’s check each year. Millions of dollars in driver expense saved.