Team Preview: Richard Childress Racing

RCR

RCR will downsize from four to three Sprint Cup entries in 2012 with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard the trio of drivers hoping to bring team owner Childress this year’s crown. (Photo: Getty Images)

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MotorRacingNetwork.com counts down to the start of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway with a series of team previews. Next up is a look at Richard Childress Racing.

Richard Childress Racing is set to embark on a very busy season with programs across all three of NASCAR’s top divisions.

RCR will downsize from four to three Sprint Cup entries in 2012 with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard the trio of drivers hoping to bring team owner Childress this year’s crown.

Kevin HarvickHarvick returns to the No. 29 Chevrolet but with a new crew chief as Shane Wilson comes on to replace Gil Martin. Despite winning four races last season, Harvick came up short in his bid for a first Cup crown and is looking to the team’s personnel change as a catalyst for better results in 2012.

“We have a good personal relationship,” Harvick said of working with Wilson in the Nationwide Series. “I like the way that he goes about the leadership and the way he lets his guys do their jobs.”

Harvick, who will become a first-time father later this year, divested his KHI Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series team and believes his refocus will be beneficial in making the Sprint Cup effort even stronger.

“The only thing that I want to do that we have not been able to accomplish in my career is win a Sprint Cup championship,” Harvick said. “That’s the big box left open without the check in it that Richard and our whole organization want to put a check in hopefully as quickly as possible.”

Burton also has a new crew chief in Drew Blickensderfer, who worked with David Ragan last year at Roush Fenway Racing. After suffering through yet another disappointing season, Burton is also optimistic that the changes made to his race team will lead to improved performance this year.

Jeff BurtonBurton is ready to do his part.

“Part of my role as a driver is to do the things I need to do to make sure that car is fast enough,” Burton said. “Last year obviously I didn’t do a good job. I don’t think I did a bad job in my driving. I think I did a bad job of being integrated, being forceful enough at times; I could have done a better job to help move us in a direction.”

Menard joined the ranks of Sprint Cup winners last season with his first career victory at NASCAR’s highest level coming in the Brickyard 400.

He nearly made the Chase as a wild card but despite missing the playoffs, believes the foundation of last year’s success will keep the No. 27 team headed in the right direction in 2012.

“I feel like I’ve been welcomed into the whole group a little bit more so than in the past,” said Menard, who will again pair with crew chief Slugger Labbe. “Richard is a guy that’s at the shop basically every day. I see him a lot. I talk to him on the phone. It’s a family atmosphere.

“There’s a lot of people that have been with Richard for a long time. We’ve got some good, hard-working young guys coming into the fold, too. That is kind of the future of the company so it’s a pretty exciting place.”

RCR will field a fourth Sprint Cup entry for at least the first five races of the season. Elliott Sadler, who will run full-time for the team’s Nationwide Series program, will take the wheel of the No. 33 for the season-opening Daytona 500.

“It’s just a great opportunity Richard has given me,” said Sadler, who finished second in last year’s Nationwide Series title fight. “I can’t wait to run the 500 and be with this team for another Nationwide season.”

Brendan Gaughan, who will run in a select number of Nationwide and truck races for RCR, gets the call to take the Sprint Cup ride for the next four races after Daytona.

“Second chances don’t come along often,” said Gaughan. “Especially the caliber of Richard Childress Racing. It’s the second dream come true. I just have to do it right, do the right things and let the Childress machine do its stuff.”

Sadler and Gaughan will have defending truck series champion Austin Dillon in their Nationwide stable this year as the young driver continues his ascension up the NASCAR ranks.

Dillon, who will pilot a No. 3 Chevrolet for RCR in NASCAR’s number two division, brings a great deal of confidence to the new season after his successful truck series effort.

“I’m really excited to be running for a championship next year, the same opportunity with great cars and a great team,” Dillon said. “It’s so much fun to run a NASCAR series and run for a championship, it’s just awesome to do that.”

Ty DillonDillon’s championship-winning truck ride will see his younger brother Ty fill the seat. After an impressive ARCA campaign in 2011, the youngest brother has high hopes for his move to the competitive truck series.

“I've got the trucks that won a championship last year, so I have all the resources and the ability to do it," Dillon said. "I have confidence in myself and my guys that we can go out there and get it done. It's just going to be overcoming our bad days and making them good."

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