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Richard Childress says he is ‘more involved’ in RCR as team seeks turnaround

CHICAGO — With both his Cup teams in must-win situations to make the playoffs, Hall of Fame car owner Richard Childress tells NBC Sports that he’s taken a more active role in turning around his organization’s fortunes.

“I’m more involved than I have been in several years because I want to get the right people to help me make the right decisions,” Childress told NBC Sports on Saturday. “I don’t want to make all these decisions on my own. I’ve got to have the right people helping make those decisions.”

Kyle Busch enters today’s Chicago Street Race (4:30 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock) in a career-long 40-race winless drought. The two-time Cup champion is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012. He starts 19th in today’s 40-car field.

Teammate Austin Dillon is winless in his last 65 races and could miss the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. He starts 15th.

It’s quite a change from the past two seasons when Richard Childress Racing won nearly 10% of the Cup races in that period.

As RCR struggles, fellow Chevrolet team Hendrick Motorsports has won seven of the season’s first 19 races (36.9%) and Trackhouse Racing has one win — Daniel Suarez’s victory at Atlanta in the closest 1-2-3 finish in Cup history. Busch finished third in that race by .007 seconds.

Busch said the other Chevrolet teams provide a path to better performance.

“Richard and I have had some discussions on some stuff and just trying to get better, trying to push in every area that we possibly can, body shop, chassis shop, assembly, all that stuff,” Busch said. “It’s just the competition side, the engineering side, all of that stuff and be making sure that we’re doing all the best we can and understanding the information we have given to us the best we can as there are other Chevy teams that are being able to do a better job than what we are with all of that.

“If we were the best of the Chevy teams and we were struggling and not winning, then it would be a different problem across the board, but Hendrick seems to be doing just fine, so we’ve got to catch up to at least that.”

Childress said time will be needed to make the changes he foresees.

“You can’t fix it in the middle of the year,” he told NBC Sports. “A lot of it is engineering. I feel that we’re strong in a lot of areas and weak in some of the others. I want to beef up our engineering. We’ve got a lot of stuff that we’re working on and hopefully we can get both of them running better.”

The two drivers are tied for the most Cup wins this season but also have had their share of run-ins.

This year has been especially difficult for the organization. Accidents, pit road woes and other issues have Busch and Dillon each on pace for their worst season in Cup.

Last weekend at Nashville was another painful blow to the organization.

Busch was fourth on an overtime restart when Kyle Larson ran out of fuel in front of him and Busch wrecked. He finished 27th, leaving Nashville with another frustrating result.

“It’s been so dismal and so heartbreaking that I have a hard time dealing with enough stuff in my life that every Sunday to keep adding to it is getting harder and harder to deal with,” Busch said Saturday.

Cup field bottlenecks after Larson runs out of gas
Kyle Larson runs out of fuel coming to the green flag on the third overtime restart at Nashville Superspeedway with Kyle Busch receiving the most damage.

He has finished only one of the last five races. The one he did (Sonoma) he spun on the last lap while running fifth after contact from Ross Chastain. Busch finished 12th.

Among his recent woes:

He was racing Larson for a spot in the top 10 on the final lap of the second stage when they had contact and Busch wrecked, ending his race in 35th. A water pump failed at Iowa and he placed 35th. He was in multiple incidents at New Hampshire, the final one being when he lost traction on wet weather tires under caution and hit the wall, ending his race in 35th. Then came the Nashville overtime woes.

Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota collaborated with NASCAR in this project.

Nashville also was difficult for Dillon.

He was running in the top 15 ahead of eventual winner Joey Logano from laps 255-300 at Nashville until pitting for two tires at Lap 301 in overtime. Dillon was eliminated in a crash on the ensuring restart when Larson got into Ross Chastain at the front of the field.

“We just made a terrible pit call,” Childress told NBC Sports. “(Crew chief) Justin (Alexander), we talked and he feels worse than anybody.”

That was the third time in the last four races that Dillon has been eliminated due to an accident.

He was running 18th two weeks ago at New Hampshire when Noah Gragson slid up the track into Bubba Wallace, whose car hit Dillon’s and sent it into the wall, ending Dillon’s race with a 33rd-place finish.

Multiple cars wreck after Gragson spins at Loudon
Noah Gragson goes for a slide up the racetrack and collects Bubba Wallace, Austin Dillon and a handful of others while on wet weather tires at New Hampshire.

At Sonoma, Dillon restarted 10th at Lap 35 but was collected in a wreck when Josh Berry lost control in Turn 11 and hit a couple of cars in an accident that collected Dillon. His team could not make repairs before the damaged vehicle policy clock expired and he finished 36th.

“The 3 has gotten better,” Childress said. “He can’t keep from wrecking. You look back at all of them, how the wrecks happened, they’ve just not been his fault.”

NASCAR returns to Chicago to race in the streets of the Windy City for the second year in a row.

But both Busch and Dillon have struggled to get to the front. Busch has led 130 laps — nearly half came in the season’s first five races — while Dillon has yet to lead a lap.

Busch has run in the top 15 in 44% of the laps he’s run this season, which ranks 17th in the series. Dillon has run in the top 15 in 11.3% of the laps he’s run, which ranks 34th in the series.

“This is very frustrating,” Childress said of the season. “ … We feel that we’ve got a good shot. We can still turn it around, It’s not over, but we’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to do to turn it around.”