By Thomas Chemris
Richard Childress driver Mike Skinner has been the source of many silly season rumors throughout the Winston Cup garage area.
Each week there is unsubstantiated talk of who will be taking the ride, and when.
The California native, and former Craftsman Truck series champion has been with the team since 1996, and has achieved many successes, including an exhibition win in Japan, and being named series rookie of the year, but has yet to score that illusive first win.
The team has been distracted in the past years by off track wrangling, that have varied from the potential loss of sponsorship to the near departure, and eventual departure of Crew Chief Larry McReynolds.
The team has always seemed to fall below expectations, and recent focus has been directed at the driver.
"It is very distracting. There is a lot of uncertainty every week when you go to work and that is what you got to hear. It is not only hard on me, but it is hard on the race team, it's hard on everybody.
My goal in the next thirty to sixty days is to be able to sit down with Richard and say, OK, is Mike Skinner the driver for the 31 or one of your race cars, or will I need to look for a job. I think that Richards's goal is for me to be the driver.
We have turned the corner with the program, hopefully everyone will see what the combination needs to be to get this thing turned around", notes Skinner.
Richard Childress Racing currently fields Kevin Harvick in the twenty-nine, Skinner in the thirty-one, and a part time effort by Jeff Green in the thirty-one. as well as two BGN teams. Including the two of Harvick, and the twenty-one, which has had numerous drivers this season including Skinner.
Much of the Silly Season talk revolves around Sinner and his role as the vetren team member, a role he inherited with the untimely death of Dale Earnhardt
The responsibility of being the veteran team driver increases the pressure placed on Skinner, and only further fuels the rumor mill.
Silly Season is the speculation of what drivers will be changing teams, whether by choice or necessity.
Of what is becoming a weekly denial, Roush drivers Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth have been constantly linked to moving to RCR.
The official position from the drivers is that there is no truth to it, and RCR representatives have only commented than no decision has been made regarding the team.
"We thought this was going to be our year where we had a solid situation, but we have struggled", reflects the driver.
Skinners team currently is twenty first in the overall point standing, and although they had a good run at Pocono, finishing twelfth, they have only been able to achieve one finish in the top ten all season.