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Friday, August 13, 2010

Childress team: 4-car team won’t bring team down in 2011

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The fourth car won’t ruin our team’s success.

That was the message from Richard Childress and his drivers on Friday at Michigan.

Childress addressed the media along with his newest driver, Paul Menard -- who will come to RCR, along with his family’s Menard’s sponsorship, in 2011, making RCR a four-car team again. Menard’s RCR deal is for three years, running through 2013.

Last season, having four teams didn’t work out so well for RCR, which had a terrible season with Casey Mears driving its fourth car. The team has rebounded tremendously in 2010 as a 3-car operation, especially the #29 car of Kevin Harvick, but it’s not just about the numbers, according to the folks at RCR.

Harvick explained it pretty bluntly: “It wasn’t a four-car team issue last year. It was a slow car issue. As long as the cars run fast, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Sounds simple, but how do you make that happen?
Jeff Burton said the key is not to cannibalize the other teams, stealing away key people, and instead build a brand new team with a whole new group of talented people.

“You have to put a program together that can be successful with 4 teams. You need proper people, funding, organization. Without those things, a fourth team will be a detriment. For me, I’ve been a proponent to expand to four teams,” Burton said. “We can’t take from the 3 teams. You have to build a company that’s stronger, so the fourth team is a benefit.
If you don’t expand engineering, aerodynamics, all the things required to be fast in the sport, you do yourself a disservice. You take what you have and divide by four. You have to expand.”

Burton also said that RCR can learn from the mistakes it made in 2009.
“We learned by having four teams not to do it. We didn’t do four teams right, we did it wrong. I would not support a fourth team if it doesn’t make our company stronger.”

Childress, a lifer in the NASCAR business, is more than aware of the questions people will raise about him going back to 4 teams, considering how bad it went last time. But he said it’s not going to be a repeat of 2009.

“We’re going to do this team completely different. I think the key is Paul, his driving abilities fits right in with our guys. He’s done such a great job on the race track, just improving. He took off early this year and was in the points a pretty good ways up there. We feel that we can take and keep him right up there running for the Chase next year. The end of 2009, we came on real strong and all four teams were running good. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

Menard shares Childress’ enthusiasm, and expects to compete in 2011 and beyond while driving for RCR. In response to the recurring criticism that he only has a ride because of his family’s sponsorship money, Menard brushed off the attacks.

“It’s all talk. It’s all what you make of it and I’ve looked past that and grew past that. People will always be talking about it and there is nothing that you can do about that,” Menard said. “Bottom line is we’re a racing family, we have a racing heritage and that’s what we enjoy doing. It’s kind of our hobby, it’s part of our business, and it’s worked in the past and will work in the future.

Childress said his grandson Austin Dillon, who drives a truck owned by Childress, gets similar criticism, but Dillon and Menard are not just riding their family name to a career … they are backing it up on the track.
“If you watch them on the race tracks, Paul does the job on the race track. It’s something he loves to do and a passion; it’s not just because he’s got the sponsor. The difference is both of these guys really want to go out and win.”

I don’t doubt Childress’ claim that Menard wants to do well on the track. His assertion that Menard gets it done can be questioned, though.

I’m going to be watching this situation with a lot of interest as it unfolds, as I’m curious whether Menard will be able to succeed now that he’s made it to a top-level team. If things are done right, and they don’t destroy the other 3 teams in the process of adding a 4th, this will be Menard’s chance to shine … and in the process prove all the “daddy’s money” haters wrong.

Can he do it? We’ll have to wait and see, but if he fails at RCR he will only fuel his critics’ doubts. The early success in 2010 give me some hope that he can succeed, but I can’t say I’m quite as optimistic as Childress.

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