Getting by with a little help from their friends seems to be the theme this season at Richard Childress Racing.
Not only is that evident within the organization, it’s also evident in the technical alliances RCR has with JTG Daugherty Racing (driver: AJ Allmendinger), Germain Racing (Casey Mears) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (Michael McDowell). Tommy Baldwin Racing (Regan Smith) also is aligned with RCR to a lesser degree.
The latter replaced former RCR technical alliance partner Furniture Row Racing, which switched from Chevrolet and RCR to Toyota and an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing for 2016.
The alliances not only help the smaller teams that are on the receiving end of Childress’ equipment and technical expertise, but it also allows RCR to build its operation even larger.
“It’s really important for us to keep alliances with other great organizations that we’ve built over the years, and I’m excited with all the things we’ve got going on,” team owner Richard Childress said recently. “It’s huge for us to bring in more engineering, a lot more technical equipment, parts and people. It’s a big deal and just helps us become a stronger organization.”
Also keeping RCR a stronger organization is Tuesday’s expected announcement of a charter system between NASCAR and the Sprint Cup team owners.
“It’s long-term equity, it’s going to help the whole sport,” Childress said. “You’re going to have better quality race teams. When you do that, it’s just going to get better and better and we’re going to be putting on better shows for the fans.
“It’s got so much up potential for all of the partners – the fans, our sponsors, NASCAR, TV, everyone. The up side for it is tremendous.”
Childress is in his 47th season in NASCAR, first as a driver and then a team owner. His organization’s last Cup championship came in 1994 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his seventh overall title and sixth under the RCR banner.
Childress is especially aware that Feb. 18 will mark the 15th anniversary of Earnhardt being killed in a last lap crash at the 2001 Daytona 500.
“Every time I pull into Daytona, I think about it,” Childress said. “There isn’t a week that doesn’t go by that I don’t think of him. There’s so many memories I have with Dale (but the wreck is) the one I don’t like to remember. I like to remember the great things we did together, the fun, the hunts, the great stories I like to tell. I don’t dwell on the bad times.”
His favorite memory of Earnhardt?
“Probably winning the (1998) Daytona 500 because I know how much it meant to him to win that race,” Childress said. “That was one of my favorites. I have so many, it’s hard to pick them out.
“Fishing, rent-a-cars, hunting, it didn’t matter what it was. He was competitive. If you wanted to get him upset, beat him at something. I shot an elk out from under him and he didn’t speak to me all the way home on the airplane.”
But going 22 years without another championship has Childress motivated even more to make 2016 a memorable season.
“First, you’ve got to make the Chase, and I expect our cars to be in the Chase,” Childress said. “But you have to be prepared, once you get in that final race, to have a shot at winning that championship, that has to be your goal.”
Both Ryan Newman and Paul Menard made the Chase last year, but Austin Dillon — Childress’ grandson — fell short. Pop pop (Childress’ nickname to his grandsons) isn’t going to let that happen this season if he can.
“Our goal is to get all three of them (in the Chase),” Childress said. “There were a lot of things that kept (Dillon) out of an opportunity, no different than it did several other teams. We’re going to work as smart as we can and make this thing work.”
The biggest thing is to win more races. After his entire three-car Sprint Cup team went winless last season, the only place to go is up.
“We’ve got to win,” Childress said. ‘We’ve worked hard at it, we’ve had some good runs, have been close, but just haven’t been able to pull it off. We can win. We will win.”