From Heroes to Zeros: The Downslide of Richard Childress Racing

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IJune 13, 2009

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 17:  Clint Bowyer (L), driver of the #33 Cheerios/ Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, talks with team owner Richard Childress during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on April 17, 2009 in Avondale, AZ.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

In one year the Miami Dolphins went from being the NFL's worst team, with a record of 1-15 in 2007, to a playoff team the following season.

In one year Michael Phelps went from being just a great Olympic athlete, to an American hero in 2008 with his Beijing domination. 

In one year Dale Earnhardt Jr. went from being a 19th place championship finisher, in 2007, to a championship contender in 2008.

Anything can happen in one year.

Richard Childress Racing may be seeing first hand what can happen in just 12 months, or in their case, just six.

And not in a good way as the others above enjoyed. 

In 2008 RCR was a true powerhouse organization and all three of their cars, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer, were championship contenders.

Harvick went winless, however, he still made the Chase and was the best of the RCR cars by the end of the season. He finished fourth in points.

Harvick had a year that was close, but no cigar. 

Teammate Clint Bowyer finished behind Harvick, fifth in points and found victory lane in Richmond on the night that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch became tied together forever.

For those of you who only remember that controversial incident, a driver did win that race and it was Clint Boywer.

And then bringing up the Childress caboose was Jeff Burton who finished the year with two wins, Bristol in March and Charlotte in October, to wind up sixth in points.

Richard Childress Racing had their organization together and showed they had elite drivers.

So, in August the decision was made to expand to four cars, adding Casey Mears who would take over Bowyer's No. 07 car with Bowyer moving over to the newly formed 33 machine.

Bowyer was not at all happy that his team and relationship with crew chief Gil Martin was going to be broken up.

Mears was thrilled that he would be joining another team that was proven winners and championship contenders. 

Everyone in the RCR organization entered the 2009 season with something to prove.

Things started out promising when Harvick went to victory lane in the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona and then finished second in the Daytona 500.

Bowyer started the year with four top 10s in the first six races.

Headlines screamed: "Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Richard Childress Racing team 'mean business'" and "Change is good for Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer."

Week after week the story was about Bowyer's burning start.

Teammates Burton and Mears got off to mediocre starts and now, six months into the season, the headlines scream about how burning bad the Richard Childress Racing organization has become.

Harvick has been way off the pace in 2009 and verbally fought with team owner Richard Childress on the radio during the Phoenix race.

The 29 team only has two top 10s in 14 races with an average finish of 22.0 and they sit 26th in points.

Mears has virtually the same numbers.

Sitting 21st in points with two top 10s and an average finish of 21.0, the 07 team has not impressed anyone.

In early May, Childress swapped the entire teams of the 29 and the 07, but massive improvement hasn't arrived yet.

Clint Bowyer, one of the early season Cinderella stories, has been going the wrong way in points and performance.

The 33 Cheerio's Chevy is 16th in points and hasn't had a top 10 finish since late March in Martinsville.

Bowyer's team went from almost breaking into victory lane in the early season, to breaking down.

However, Jeff Burton is the lone hope for RCR. 

Burton is the only RCR driver currently locked into the Chase, sitting 10th, with six top tens and an average finish of 14.0.

But my, oh my how things have changed for the Richard Childress organization.

Going from showing they can be a powerhouse to cleaning house. 

Expanding to four cars, crew changes and driver moves have hurt more than they have helped.

It seems the company has to work as much on their teams as they do on their cars during the race weekends.

Victory lane hasn't been occupied by an RCR car since Harvick won the non-points event in Daytona.

Friday at Michigan saw more of the same with Clint Bowyer qualifying ninth, Harvick 12th, Burton 22nd and Mears 37th.

NASCAR's long, hot summer stretch has begun.

Will the Richard Childress Racing organization sizzle into complete destruction?

Or will they somehow manage to regain their 2008 form? 


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