Photo by Benjamin Palmer / TheRacingExperts.com
Ryan Newman (31) passes Reed Sorenson at Phoenix International Raceway. Newman, along with his RCR teammates, are currently inside the Chase.
By Cody Jackson
June 3, 2014
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
With the 2014 NASCAR regular season halfway finished, the picture of Chase contenders is starting to look clear-cut. Strong front runners include drivers from Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Team Penske. But what about Richard Childress Racing?
The long time veteran team has had its struggles this season. Only one top-five finish has been posted in 2014 among the team’s three drivers, a third for Paul Menard at Las Vegas. But, RCR is by no means out of contention.
After losing a sentimental veteran in Jeff Burton and powerhouse contender Kevin Harvick at the end of last season, RCR's new crop of drivers had big shoes to fill.
Sure, Paul Menard won the Brickyard 400, new driver Ryan Newman is formidable, and the return of the famed No. 3 with rookie Austin Dillon brought back fan support, but how does this benefit the team in the long term?
The regular season is halfway done. Top-tier teams including Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, and Team Penske have all shown they will have drivers making the Chase in September. With the new format of the points however, RCR is still lurking.
Despite not having a single win across all three drivers, RCR has all three of its drivers, including rookie Austin Dillon, within the Chase picture. Newman sits 11th in points, Menard 14th, and Dillon 15th.
The schedule can be played to the team’s advantage, as we start to approach tracks the team—and drivers—have run historically well at. It might just be a matter of time before we see an RCR driver in victory lane.
Has this been an off-season for RCR? The picture can be painted in both lights. Kevin Harvick scored two victories for the team 13 races into 2013. Yet, top-ten and top-fifteen finishes have kept all three drivers as Chase contenders in the first half of the season.
2014 is most definitely a rebuilding year for the veteran team. With the addition of the experienced Ryan Newman, the sponsorship dollars and youth of Paul Menard, and the skill and bright future of Austin Dillon, RCR’s chances of returning to championship form in a couple more years is looking promising.