Richard Childress Racing has been making a quiet charge to the front of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. All three drivers currently sit in the top 10, and their quiet charge turned into a roar at Bristol Motor Speedway where they placed first, second and third. Through the first five races of 2008, the three drivers have racked up one win, five top-fives and nine top-10s. The three driver's combined average finish is 10.4 after five races. Needless to say, it has been a very effective start to the '08 campaign for the RCR cars.
The team has substantially improved their program with the new car. Having not been a dominant team with the new design in 2007, the group has turned their fortunes around. Clint Bowyer earned the team's only win with the new chassis in New Hampshire last season on a short and fairly flat oval, which has a tendency to equalize machinery. This season, the team has expanded on that success to run competitively at every type of track visited thus far.
Having finished 10th in the 2007 Sprint Cup standings, Harvick has come out swinging in 2008. He didn't repeat as winner of the Daytona 500, but he has been solid since. His lowest finish in the first five races of the season was 14th, which came at Daytona International Speedway. Every other finish, however, has been in the top 10 including two top-fives. Harvick has struggled in one category and that is laps led. Outside of leading one lap in the Auto Club 500 Harvick has only led 32 laps, which all came during the Food City 500, March 16. Harvick has been the model of the RCR method so far, quiet and strong.
Currently sitting third in Cup points isn't quite where Harvick would like to be, but it is a solid start. This year, he had a top-10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, was racing to win at Bristol and had another top-five at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Harvick has done well on every type of track so far and should continue to have similar results through the remainder of the season. The team has learned how to work the new car and should use that knowledge to stay at or near the front of the pack at every race.
Like Harvick, Burton has had a quick start to his 2008 season. He finished eighth in the 2007 Sprint Cup standings and that form has followed him into '08. He started with two slightly mediocre finishes in the Daytona 500 (13th) and Auto Club 500 (12th). The other three races this season haven't seen him finish outside of the top 10 and include a win along with two top-fives. Burton has completed every lap in points paying races this season and now sits fourth in the point standings. While his qualifying has been hit or miss, his finishes have not. His average finish over the first five races is a remarkable 8.2.
Burton has quickly established himself as a dark horse for the Cup championship in '08. By continuing to finish inside the top 20 while picking up top-10s and top-fives wherever possible, he may just make himself the favorite by the end of the year. The new car doesn't seem to be giving Burton any major troubles, and he has been a factor in most races because of that. Fantasy owners have to be pleased with Burton's success and should expect for those results to continue.
Bowyer didn't start his 2008 campaign like his teammates did. The highest placing RCR driver in the 2007 standings stumbled out of the blocks. He finished 24th in Daytona but managed to lead four laps. He almost rebounded at the Auto Club 500 where he started third but ended up finishing 19th. He also struggled the following week at Las Vegas where he finished 28th. The past two races, however, have been great for Bowyer. He finished sixth in the Kobalt Tools 500 and rounded out the RCR sweep at Bristol, finishing third.
Bowyer has started in the top 10 three times in the first five races and has turned those starts into two top-10 finishes. When he qualifies well, he has tended to finish well. With an average finish of 16th, Bowyer has some ground to make up. He is in the top 10 in Cup points and has turned in solid back to back performances. Fantasy owners should feel confident using Bowyer at most tracks, especially at the faster flat tracks like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway. Bowyer looks very likely to earn his second career Sprint Cup win, and possibly more, before the season is over.
While every expert was pointing to Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing or Roush Fenway Racing to succeed, Childress Racing has quietly made a case for themselves. They finished a solid 2007 with each of their drivers in the Chase, and they've been able to parlay those results into a consistent beginning to the '08 season. An RCR driver has been challenging for a win in each of the five races this season, and the trio does not look as though they will be letting up anytime soon. Part of their success should be attributed to the new engineers owner Richard Childress has brought to his teams. They have found ways to make the new car work at all types of tracks while also finding effective ways of adjusting the car through a race to help enhance its performance. The team has found ways to challenge the dominators of years past and could continue to chip away at some of their better known rivals.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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