Nothings Wrong With RCR
July 15, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Check the results from Sunday’s Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Kevin Harvick, who drives the No. 29 for RCR, won the race. Robby Gordon, in the No. 31 RCR Chevrolet, finished eighth. And Jeff Green, who drives the final RCR car – the No. 31 – finished 12th.
Not bad, huh? And it’s sure not as bad as some people made the race team out to be this year.
“I think there’s a lot of people that thought they had us beat down and kicked up and buried in our grave and looking for somewhere to fill the hole at RCR,” Harvick said. “Like I said (in Daytona), we’ve been sitting back for a couple of months just watching and writing and remembering – just putting our heads down and letting our race car do the talking. That’s been our main focus, to go out and work on our race cars and really not get in the middle of any turmoil and just go out and what difference does it make.
“If we can make it through last year at RCR, we can make it through anything. This is a little speed bump going through the parking lot at 15 miles an hour. We’ve got a lot of confidence in each other, and we’re very, very excited to be together as a race team and as an organization. It doesn’t matter what they say. We’re here, and the only people that I care what they say are in these black and silver shirts or on the America Online or Cingular car.”
It has been a difficult 2002 for RCR, but the turmoil has been on the track. Last year, of course, the team had to suffer through the loss of Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500. Still, Harvick performed admirably in the spotlight, winning two races and the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award. Oh, yeah, he was the Busch Series champion, too.
This season, though, the performance has been off, way off. The addition of Green’s team to the RCR shop put a burden on the entire organization, and results suffered. The low point of the season was in April at Martinsville, where Harvick was kicked out for rough driving the previous day’s Craftsman Truck Series event.
Gordon finished 34th at Martinsville and slipped to 31st in the points standings. Green had been as low as 29th in the points, and was 27th after finished 22nd at Martinsville.
The struggles forced Childress to go so far as to switch Gordon’s and Harvick’s teams, giving each driver the other driver’s crew chief, cars, etc.
Slowly, though, momentum was building. And for the first time in months, the momentum was positive. Gordon was eighth at Dover. Green was fifth at Sears Point. Then Harvick won the pole at Daytona, and finally Sunday’s triumphant day came.
And to top things off, Harvick’s victory completed a sweep of the weekend, with Johnny Sauter winning Saturday’s Busch race at Chicagoland.
“It’s great. It shows the strength of our organization,” Childress said. “We were down. When you’re down, people try to kick you as hard as they can. No one ever gave up. We knew that there was a peak up there and we could get there. And Kevin and (crew chief) Gil (Martin) and everybody in our organization never gave up.”
Harvick admitted he was beginning to wonder. His name cropped up in the rumor mill, and many wondered whether he’d be around next season.
“Richard will tell you: I was right on the verge of being in the doubt category,” Harvick said. “He took me down by the river and said, ‘Look, everything is good.’ He said, ‘Just trust me, and I’ll trust you,’ and all of a sudden everything just kind of clicked in my head, and I said, ‘You know, everything is good. We’ll just roll along with this thing, and he’s been through this before and I’m just here to learn and try and listen to what he’s got to say.’
“I was there and he pulled me up and kept me from drowning. We’re just fortunate to have him on our side and him keeping us going in the right line and really making us pay attention to the things that we need to pay attention to.”
But Harvick wasn’t the only one to shine Sunday. Gordon matched his season-best finish, and Green posted his third top-12 effort.
“The last set of tires we had on weren’t worth a darn and just made the car really tight, and being in traffic made it worse,” Green said. “It was a good day for us, and we came home with a decent finish. We need to be in that Top 10 or the Top 5 like we ran all day. It’s kind of disappointing, because we’d run there all day. When you don’t finish it’s kind of disappointing, but we’re glad for Kevin and those guys. RCR needed this, and maybe we can build off that.”
Gordon, too, said his car was better than the finish indicated.
“We had a car to win the thing, and (Steve) Park got inside of us and tore the whole right side up to the fender,” Gordon said. “We had the pull the front fender forward and lost a lot of downforce on the front. It’s a big disappointment. We had a really fast car in the middle of the race. We were able to pull away from Tony (Stewart). We had a really good car; the guys made some great, great calls. Congratulations to Kevin Harvick for his run. We should have easily had a Top 5.”
That would have been something: three RCR cars in the Top 5. Quite a change from earlier in the year, isn’t it? Why the change?
“Just a great organization behind us, you know,” Childress said. “At RCR it takes a lot of people. Like I say – we’ve still got a lot of hurdles to cross. I wish I could say that everything was uphill from here, but we got a lot to do. Our goal is to win a championship and have Kevin Harvick on the stage in New York. It’s going to take a lot of work to get us there, and (we’re) excited about a lot of things in the future that we’re working on.”
Want a glimpse of the future?
“We got two more race teams to get into victory lane before the end of the year, too,” Harvick said.
Staff Writer Lee Montgomery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org