Published April 27, 2010
Sunday should have been a clear indication that Richard Childress Racing has its restrictor-plate racing program back on track. For that matter, clearly you can't overlook the Earnhardt-Childress engine program. It's been really, really strong. To me, ECR power rules so far in 2010.
In addition, I think folks also finally have to give Jamie McMurray the credit that he is due. This guy gets it. He is a great restrictor-plate racer. Folks always talk about Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, etc., on the big tracks. In my book, it's about time folks start including Jamie's name in that club. The Pied Piper isn't necessarily Dale Jr. anymore. Jamie's a player, folks, when it comes to this style of racing.
Let's face it, the man came a foot and a half from winning three plate races in a row. He got beat by another guy that is an excellent plate racer, and that's Kevin Harvick. Are we seeing a changing of the guard when it comes to who we expect to see up front at these restrictor-plate races now? Can we automatically say it is going to come down to Dale Jr. and Tony Stewart for the win? I don't think so.
Plus, the timing of Kevin Harvick's win Sunday couldn't have been more appropriate. On the heels of the announcement of Shell/Pennzoil leaving RCR at the end of the year, Sunday showed the character and resiliency of the whole entire organization. They made a clear statement of, "You may be leaving us - but we aren't quitting on you."
That should send a loud and clear signal to folks who were reading all this stuff about the bad blood between Richard Childress and Kevin Harvick or that Shell/Pennzoil didn't believe in RCR anymore. Childress and Harvick showed everyone what they can do. They can still win races and be competitive. I think what they did Sunday drove their stock through the roof.
For any sponsor that's considering our sport, that's all you can ask for - winning races and being competitive every week. See, that's what Richard Childress is all about, winning races. Richard has always found a way to fight his way back to the top. Last year is a perfect example; 2009 was a very dismal year for RCR. Now they are back. His drivers are focused. So no sponsor should overlook what RCR can bring to the table for them.
Richard is one of the last of what I consider grass-roots racers that made it in our sport. Don't forget, Richard's history in NASCAR goes back a long way. He was here long before Roush, Hendrick, Gibbs and Ganassi. He deserves a lot more respect than what I think the media gives him.
Now a lot of folks are also wondering what Kevin Harvick is going to do. You couldn't have faulted Kevin in the last few years if he decided to leave RCR and go to Hendrick Motorsports. Let's face it, Hendrick has out-performed RCR. With the announcement that Kasey Kahne is joining Hendrick, then that door seems to be closed to Kevin.
If Kevin wants to remain associated with Chevrolet, then his options really are limited. Sure, he could go run a third Stewart-Haas car, but to me that would only be a lateral move. Now that's not a knock on Tony's organization. It's just that they don't have a third team in place to simply plug in a driver. It would be a complete start-up deal. Additionally, if Kasey Kahne were to go over there for the 2011 season, then that would mean a fourth team that would have to be started.
I am a strong advocate and believer in what Richard Childress is doing. Kevin might look back and see what Dale Sr. did. Dale drove for Richard, left Richard and then came back to Richard. I think there is something to be said about that. Don't forget, even when he started his own team, Dale decided to stay with Richard. I think Dale knew that Richard was going to give him the best opportunity to win races and win championships.
I don't think that is going to change. So my hope is after he weighs everything out, that Kevin's decision will lead him right back to where he is.