We halfway through the NASCAR Sprint Cup season and there has been no shortage of drama, good racing and exciting finishes. Richard Childress Racing has led the way and here is their midseason report.
After a rough 2009 season the RCR camp regrouped during the offseason and all three drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer came to Daytona expecting nothing but contending for wins and the championship.
So far this season they have done just that. Harvick has been leading the charge since Daytona with 13 top 10 finishes and eight top five finishes.
His two wins have come on restrictor plate tracks but Harvick has been a contender every weekend. The current series leader is a serious threat to Jimmie Johnson’s attempt for a fifth straight title.
The key for Harvick and this team is to be able to sustain their early season success. We have seen it the last couple season with multiple drivers. As the Chase approaches the regular season leader see’s a drop off in performance and results.
Burton has actually led more laps than Harvick this season but don’t have the results to show it. On multiple occasions they led the race late only to have a late caution not go there way.
Burton has had flat tires, has wrecked, poor restarts and pit road miscues. Burton though has remained adamant that this team will win multiple races this season.
Burton currently sits eighth in the standings and has eight top 10’s and four top five finishes. Burton and his team have brought fast cars to the track every week. They are good early in the race in fact have worked their way to the front after not so impressive qualifying runs.
The problem this team faces is closing the deal in the final half of the race. They need to eliminate mistakes under their control. We know they can’t control late race cautions or pit strategy but they need to capitalize on others mistakes.
Out of the three RCR drivers, Bowyer is the only one sitting outside the top 12 in points in 14th. After a strong start to the season Bowyer quickly cooled off. He has only one top five finish and nine top 10 finishes.
He struggles with consistency on a week to week basis. One week this team looks like title contenders running up front and finishing in the top 10. Other weeks they seem to be off a step, like they don’t have their hands wrapped around the car and the handling.
That’s not to say this team can’t and won’t make the Chase this season. Of the teams outside and battling to make it into the top 12, I believe Bowyer will make it in. This means one team inside the top 12 will drop out.
To say RCR turnaround was unexpected means you have not been following NASCAR very long or owner, Richard Childress. RCR was bound to turn it around but I don’t think many thought to this extent. They have positioned themselves as the team to beat this season on a week to week basis.
Their success and turnaround actually began in the second half of the Chase last season. All three teams were running better and earning solid finishes.
Johnson might be the man to beat for the title, but he better not get too comfortable, if RCR camp has their way one of their drivers will be hoisting the trophy come Homestead.
Midseason grade: A-