Childress Releases Skinner

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The shakeup at Richard Childress Racing is nearly complete. All RCR needs now is one more driver.

Mike Skinner is out of Childress’ No. 31 Chevy at the end of the year, the team announced Monday. Robby Gordon, who drove the car in four races this year, has been rumored as a replacement.

Within the last month, Childress has added driver Jeff Green and sponsor to his Winston Cup stable and signed Cingular Wireless as a sponsor for the No. 31 in 2002. Childress has said in the past he wanted to keep Skinner, but the final year of their contract wasn’t enough to keep Skinner.

“This was a very tough decision because Mike and I are friends and he’s been a part of the RCR family for the past seven years,” Childress said in a statement. “Mike is one of the most talented drivers out there but, for some reason, we haven’t been able to win. We’ve had some great runs but this sport is about winning.”

Skinner started driving for RCR in the Craftsman Truck Series, winning the inaugural series title and eight races in 1995 and eight more races in 1996. He moved to Winston Cup in 1997, winning two poles and the Rookie of the Year award.

Skinner finished 10th in the Winston Cup points standings in 1999, winning two more poles and posting five top-five finishes. In 2000, Skinner grabbed his best career finish at Talladega, ending up second to Jeff Gordon. He was strong in several other races, including Atlanta in the spring when his engine blew.

“Mike and I talked back in January and decided that if the program wasn’t going well by mid-season, we would go our separate ways at the end of the year,” Childress said. “I don’t want to hold his career back or this race team’s, so I think it’s best that we make this move now to give Mike as much time as possible to put a deal together with another team.”

This year, Skinner has one top-10 finish, a ninth at Atlanta. He suffered a broken ankle and injured his right knee in a crash at Chicago and missed four races. Skinner returned to qualify 19th and finish 18th.

“We’ve been together for seven years, and for whatever reason haven’t won a Winston Cup points race,” said Skinner. “We’ve won every other kind of race: a truck series championship, two Japan races, all sorts of non-points races – including one of this year’s 125-mile qualifying races at Daytona – rookie of the year and finished in the Top 10 and Top 12 in the points.

“It’s just been a lot of things that have kept us from getting the moon and the stars lined up. But if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.”

Skinner was given word last week he was free to look elsewhere for next season, but his options appear limited

“We’ll move on down the road and turn this into a positive,” Skinner said. “We’re still going to win races. I’m still planning on running up front, and I’m going to make somebody a good race car driver.”

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2001

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