Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Richard Childress Racing teams fighting for Chase spots and to end winless drought

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts - Practice

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts - Practice

Todd Warshaw

His organization nearly won the Sprint Cup championship last year, yet it is on a winless drought that stretches more than a season.

His cars have combined to score as many top-10 finishes as at this point last season, but, on average, his drivers are worse in the points than than they were a year ago.

The best car in his organization’s alliance is with another team and there’s no guarantee that team will remain with the group next season.

This is what car owner Richard Childress faces heading into tonight’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. With nine races left, including tonight’s event, until the Chase for the Sprint Cup field is set, the pressure builds on RCR.

Winning is something Richard Childress Racing has not done in Cup since Nov. 2013 when Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix. The organization has a 54-race winless drought, tying its longest streak in a decade. Richard Childress Racing went 54 races without a win from 2003-05.

“We will be back, we will be winning,’’ Childress said. “You’ve got to push hard. I only want people with me that want it as bad as I want it.’’

Childress’ teams have gone through change since late last season.

Childress replaced crew chief Gil Martin with Richard Labbe for Austin Dillon’s team, saying he felt the personalities of Dillon and Labbe meshed better. Crew chief Luke Lambert returned last weekend at Daytona after serving a six-race suspension when the team was penalized for manipulating tires at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year. Paul Menard is in his first full season with Justin Alexander as his crew chief. Alexander took over that role last October.

Menard ranks 13th in the points with Newman 14th and Dillon 21st. A year ago, Menard was 11th, Newman was eighth and Dillon was 18th.

With six Chase for the Sprint Cup spots available to non-winners at this point, Menard ranks fourth in points among non-winners and Newman is fifth. Three non-winners made last year’s Chase.

The challenge for RCR’s cars is leading laps. Newman (17 laps led), Dillon (13) and Menard (one) have combined to lead 31 of 4,890 laps run this year.

Newman, who finished second in the points last year, does have more top-five finishes (four) and more top-10 results (10) than he had at this point a year ago. Newman has back-to-back top-10 finishes heading into tonight’s race. That might be the formula he’ll need to again make the Chase.

With four of the remaining nine races featuring different aero packages - Kentucky and Darlington have a low-downforce package and Indianapolis and Michigan will have a high-drag package - it presents another challenge for teams trying to make the Chase.

“We’ve all got budgets to work in for aero and you always keep a cushion for when something comes up unexpected,’’ Childress said. “We always put a little bit in there for that. We’ve got to work and work harder and whoever can outwork the other groups may have a better chance of winning.’’

Childress’ teams have help. Their alliance includes Furniture Row Racing, which has outrun Childress’ teams this season. Martin Truex Jr. is fifth in the points and has a win.

“I think we’re going to get there,’’ Childress said, citing the changes with crew chiefs since last year.

Will Furniture Row Racing be a part of the alliance beyond this year? Team owner Barney Visser has said he’s looking at manufacturers other than Chevrolet.

“Just like I tell all my people, we’ll find new revenue,’’ Childress said. “In business, you look for revenue. It’s a great alliance. Barney has a been a great customer, is a great customer. We’d like to see it go on, if for whatever reason he wants to go to Toyota or Ford or another Chevrolet manufacturer … then we’ll find other revenues somewhere else.’’

For now, they’ll look for wins or strong finishes to improve their standing for a Chase spot.

Follow @dustinlong