The No. 3 has figured prominently in the history of Richard Childress Racing. That's hardly news to anyone who has followed the career of the late Dale Earnhardt.
But after winning six Cup championship and 105 races, the race team that debuted with its namesake behind wheel in 1969, never expected “3” would represent the number of years between wins.
I think the people that Eric Warren and Mike Dillon (GM) have gone out and found and been able to bring in is going to make a huge difference in our competition
The last time an RCR driver went to Victory Lane was at Phoenix International Raceway with Kevin Harvick on Nov. 11, 2013. Harvick won four races in his 13th and final season behind the wheel of the No. 29 Chevy. His departure at the end of that season marked the start of a drought that has persisted for three years.
“We have been disappointed with some of our finishes but the things we have worked on the last several months,” Childress said at Phoenix on Friday. “I have seen a real good gain in the speed in our cars. We have been in the right position several times for a win but just couldn’t pull it off.”
Performance since most recent victory
Over the last three years, RCR cars have earned 25 top-five finishes in 341 races. The best result was a second-place finish by Ryan Newman at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2014. The result propelled Newman to a career-best second in the Sprint Cup standings. Newman, who is currently 18th in the standings, didn’t qualify for the Chase for the first time since joining RCR in 2014.
Austin Dillon and Brian Scott combined for four pole positions for RCR since 2014. Dillon, 26, who qualified for his first Chase this season, earned his third-career pole last weekend at Texas. He’s also posted a career-high four top fives and 13 top 10s.
The trio of Dillon, Newman and Paul Menard has led a combined 226 laps in 318 races. Menard has been responsible for 75 of those laps, but is still looking for this first top-five finish in 2016.
After six seasons with RCR, Menard, 36, has the most seniority in the Cup program. He’s also had the toughest season. Since the Cup tour raced at Phoenix in the spring, Menard has not been within the top 20 in the standings.
But RCR is not sitting idle. As Motorsport.com first reported last week, Matt Borland has joined the organization and will oversee Menard’s efforts. His responsibilities will be similar to the role he had at Stewart-Haas Racing when he was a crew chief and worked on engineering projects.
Borland will report to RCR’s director of competition Dr. Eric Warren.
“I think the people that Eric Warren and Mike Dillon (GM) have gone out and found and been able to bring in is going to make a huge difference in our competition,” Childress added. “I think you have seen some of the speed in Austin’s car down there at Texas and I think we will run pretty good here but I am really excited to go to Homestead with that same style car.
“I think we will be in really good shape next year and we have added Matt Borland, and we have added two or three new engineers. I think all of it that we are doing is just going to add to our whole competition department.”
RCR also benefits from its technical alliances with JTG Daugherty Racing, which is expected to add a second team next year, as well as Germain Racing. But it’s clear the organization suffered from the loss of Furniture Row Racing after their move to Toyota. RCR engines powered Truex to his win at Pocono Raceway last year and Allmendinger’s victory at Watkins Glen in 2014.
With the changes coming to the Xfinity Series chassis next year, RCR can use the data transfer between the two tours. RCR will have four Xfinity teams next year with Brendan Gaughan, Brandon Jones, Daniel Hemric and an all-star team with Childress’ grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon running the majority of races.
“We also have stepped it up in our engine program in Cup and now we know we have to work harder in Xfinity, too,” Childress said. “I think we have won five or six last year and three or four this year but we know we are down a little bit in our horsepower in our engines in Xfinity but we will be working on those and making them better in the winter.”