NASCAR's Newest Sheriff: The Earnhardt-Childress Engine Package
At the beginning of every racing season, expectations run high not only from teams themselves, but also from the millions of fans who follow this high energy sport throughout the 36 week schedule, which spans the course of 10 months each year.
NASCAR has a commitment to bring their fans the best that the sport has to offer, but none of this is possible unless each one of the teams does its part by putting the best product it has out on the track.
Since speed is the name of the game in NASCAR racing, each team understands that to be successful, it usually means many sleepless nights from the engine department, given that this is where all the horsepower is first developed.
Behind every successful driver lies a very committed engine department that utilizes the latest in modern technology, along with a staff of workers who are just as committed to building some of the most powerful and durable engines, which are needed to compete in today’s world of NASCAR racing.
A lot of planning along with many hours of testing goes into building the fleet of engines that the teams will use throughout the season.
Immediate results are crucial to a team’s success, and it is usually that wave of momentum which can easily carries a team even through the tough times during the season.
Hendrick Motorsports has been at the top of the engine building food chain for the past seven or so seasons, but last season they really lit up the series when three out of their four drivers took the top three spots in the point standings.
HMS stole the headlines behind Jimmie Johnson’s fourth championship in a row that included seven victories, along with the rest of the drivers who picked up the other 11 victories, to give the HMS engine package a total of 18 victories out of a possible 36.
The Roush Yates engine package, which has always been another strong competitor, was never a threat with only two victories, which both came from Matt Kenseth.
Joe Gibbs Racing was second on the list with nine victories, with Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers as the only drivers who represented Toyota during the chase.
The Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines were shut out for the first time in the win column and were only represented by one driver during the 2009 chase.
Chip Ganassi, who had just merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. to begin the 2009 season, brought over his driver Juan Montoya, who was the only driver to make the chase while utilizing the ECR engine.
With the 2009 season behind them and the 2010 season just a couple of months away, Richie Gilmore, who is the Chief Operating Officer for Earnhardt Childress Racing Technologies, knew he had his work cut out for himself along with his staff of engine builders, and it was time to put the teams back in victory lane.
With the signing of Jamie McMurray to the Earnhardt Ganassi stable along with the release of Casey Mears and the No. 07 Chevrolet Impala from RCR, it was apparent that these changes were done in hopes of bringing some of the luster back to the other Chevrolet teams that had just gone winless in 2009.
Kevin Harvick kicked things off for ECR Engines when he drove his Richard Childress Racing’s No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet to its second consecutive victory in the Budweiser Shootout.
Tony Stewart then followed with another victory in the Nationwide series at Daytona International Speedway, while driving the No. 4 Ritz/Oreo sponsored Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet, which also carried the ECR power plant.
McMurray’s Daytona 500 win couldn't have come at a better time, and it proved to be the icing on the cake, even though there is still a lot more racing left.
The bright spot while leaving Daytona was the fact that four other ECR-powered teams finished in the top 11 of the Daytona 500: Clint Bowyer led eight times for 37 laps and finished fourth in RCR’s No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevy; Kevin Harvick led seven times for a race-high 41 laps and finished seventh in RCR’s No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevy; EGR’s Juan Pablo Montoya led twice for two laps and finished 10th in the No. 42 Chevy; and Jeff Burton finished 11th in RCR’s No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy.
“They did a great job and took advantage of the opportunity. I’d also like to congratulate everyone at ECR for a great SpeedWeeks. We’ve started the year strong and look forward to the rest of the season,” said Richard Childress, chief executive officer of Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines.
“We really had a double win. Jamie McMurray and our Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Team No. 1 victory in the Daytona 500 capped off the great success already achieved by Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines during the 2010 SpeedWeeks,” said Teresa Earnhardt, partner with Childress in Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines.
The team didn’t stop there, but instead continued to show its fans along with the rest of the NASCAR world that this season it came to contend for the championship.
It didn’t take either team long to prove their alliance to the other Chevrolet teams, when EGR driver McMurray followed up his Daytona victory with a pole at Auto Club Speedway, along with his teammate Juan Montoya who started on the front row along side him.
RCR driver Clint Bowyer started third, along with Kevin Harvick who rounded out the top 10 with a sixth place start for the Auto Club 500.
By days end it was Harvick who would finish second behind race winner Jimmie Johnson, but more importantly he took over the points lead with his teammate Bowyer right behind him in second, while McMurray dropped to fourth along with Jeff Burton in fifth.
Now with Las Vegas also out of the way and Atlanta coming up this next weekend, Harvick and Bowyer are still holding down the top two spots in the standings along with Burton who is in seventh.
All three RCR drivers are in the top 10, which is a big improvement from where they were last season at this time team-wise.
The Earnhardt-Childress Racing Technologies, which was formed in 2007, is beginning to develop, into a top notch engine manufacturing company which could very well give its counter-part HMS some serious competition by the time the chase rolls around.
It may be too early in the season to predict what the final outcome could be, but at least for now it’s a breath of fresh air, and this just might be the start that ECRT needed to get back into victory lane.
“It was a great week for ECR. To come out of Daytona with all that momentum is a great beginning to the 2010 season,” said a very enthusiastic Richie Gilmore.
Gilmore also added that, “We had five cars finish in the top 11 in the Daytona 500, finished first and third in the Nationwide Series race, and we won the Budweiser Shootout. Momentum is a big thing in this sport.”
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