Richard Childress Racing appears on comeback trail

After disappointing year, its cars and drivers appear on track to challenge Hendrick Motorsports

February 24, 2010|By Tania Ganguli On auto racing

Did you miss it amid the griping that Jimmie Johnson was back at it?

Did the real change from last season to this one escape you?

There they were, racing right up with Hendrick Motorsports - the three Richard Childress Racing cars that had all but disappeared from the NASCAR scene last season. Kevin Harvick finished second in Sunday's Auto Club 500, Jeff Burton third and Clint Bowyer eighth as Johnson won the race. But two races in, Harvick leads the points standings.

The RCR teams mostly made news last season when something went wrong. Harvick won Budweiser Shootout, finished second in the Daytona 500 and then slid off the charts, starting with a 38th-place finish in California.

None of its teams won a race, and the organization started making changes to try to fix that.

"We felt good about what happened in the fall, over the winter," Burton said.

Doesn't everyone, though? Every team except the four-time champion No. 48 unveiled a new attitude and new commitment to success a month ago.

"Until you start racing, you don't know where you are honestly," Burton said. "(But) you feel good about it. I had quite a bit of confidence coming in."

So far, RCR cars are showing they have the capability for much better outcomes than last season.

Bowyer and Harvick have finished the season's first two races in the top 10. Burton finished 11th in the Daytona 500 before his third-place finish in California.

Because of how different Daytona International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway are, those results tell us two things.

•The RCR cars are good;

•The drivers are, too.

That doesn't mean they'll be good all season.

But they're on the right track.

"We don't need to get behind again," Harvick said. "We need to work to progress forward before everybody else."

For now, they seem to have caught up.

That's the first step to challenging Hendrick Motorsports' dominance.

tganguli@tribune.com

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