Michigan: Richard Childress wants more consistency

RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos) NOTE: Childress’ two drivers, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and 1995 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Skinner, had recorded top-10 finishes...

RICHARD CHILDRESS (Car owner RCR Chevrolet Monte Carlos) NOTE: Childress’ two drivers, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt and 1995 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Skinner, had recorded top-10 finishes in the past two races. Earnhardt, who moved to third in the NASCAR Winston Cup Standings (NWCS) after his sixth-place finish at Dover last Sunday, has more top 10s (10) than any other driver this season and has finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven events. Skinner has top 10s in four of the last five point races and is 13th in the (NWCS). Childress talks about his teams entering Sunday’s Kmart 400 at Michigan Speedway.

“Michigan will mark the second year together for Dale Earnhardt and (crew chief) Kevin Hamlin. I think they’ve turned into a pretty good combination. We’ve been working hard and putting everything together that we need to win that eighth championship. I think if the rules stay the same and we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we’ve got a good chance to contend for the title this year. Bobby Labonte and Ward Burton have been very consistent so far, and it’s too early to count anybody out yet. I’d say anybody within 500 points of the lead right now has a chance to win. We came into Charlotte one year more than 200 points out of the lead and we won it. It’s too early to say who you’ve got to beat. Jeff Gordon and his team will get things worked out and they’ll be tough. He’s always good at Michigan, and that’s what we’re really concentrating on right now, the next race. “I think we’re going to have two good cars at Michigan. We’re working on some new stuff for the second half of the season, and hopefully, we’re going to keep getting better. Kevin and Dale have turned into a great combination. Kevin is a laid back crew chief, and that’s what Dale is used to. When Kevin worked with Mike, I could see some of the things in Kevin that Dale needed. Larry McReynolds had many qualities that Mike Skinner needed, so it’s worked out well for both teams. “Kevin has done an excellent job. He’s a laid back kind of guy like Kirk Shelmerdine used to be with Dale. Kevin has a simple approach to racing, and that’s what Earnhardt has been accustomed to over the years. Those two just clicked from the first race. I’m right there on the pit box with Kevin during the races. We talk pit strategy back and forth, and we have a real good working relationship. Bobby Hutchens is the general manager and he floats between the 3 and 31 and stays wherever he’s needed the most. “The 3 team is just 98 points behind (leader Bobby Labonte) right now, but you’re never satisfied when you’re behind. If we were 98 points ahead, we wouldn’t be satisfied. You’re never satisfied until it’s all over and you’ve won it. We lost a lot of points at Bristol (39th place finish). A lot of teams have lost a lot at different tracks this season. If NASCAR doesn’t go messing with the rules, I think we’ll be in good shape for the championship. “The 31 team’s time is coming soon. They’ve led a lot of races and should have won a couple of races this year. They just can’t put the day together all the way. They’ve had some poor luck. “We talk about it every week in our staff meetings. If Kevin or Larry have an idea or suggestion, then we discuss it. I’ll tell them what I’d like to see happen. We know we have some weak areas that we need to work on. Every team has weak areas that need fixing. I think we need to be better on the flat tracks." “We need to be more consistent with our Busch program as well. Kevin Harvick is doing a good job, and Mike Dillon is doing a good job, too. He’s just run into a streak of bad luck, but they’re all working together well. We’ve got good people throughout this company, and I don’t feel like we’ve tackled too much. My door is always open to the whole company, but we’ve got a chain of command to go through. If someone has a problem, they go to a manager or a crew chief at the track. Then they go to Bobby Hutchens and then Bill Patterson and then me. “In 1995, we put together a projection for RCR in the year 2000. Right now, we’re putting together a projection for 2005. It’s almost scary how many things we accomplished that we wanted to accomplish for the year 2000. We wanted to be successful with multi-car teams. We wanted to explore other divisions, get our CMC Department and R&D Department and Engineering Department up and running with several engineers. “We also wanted to contend for the championship in 2000, and we’re doing that, too. We’re not running around like a bunch of has beens. We’re competitive and we’re trying to win races and championships. We’ve set some other goals, too, and a lot of them I can’t talk about. We’re always looking when options come up. Some people have speculated about a three-car Winston Cup team. I’m not saying it may not be in the cards down the road, but I don’t see it this year or next year. We’re researching the magic number for teams. Is it 5 or 4 or 3 or just 2? We don’t know. “We work with Dale’s teams, too. Our RAD program is working good. If we have a mechanical problem at the track or if one of Dale’s teams have a problem, then we help each other. The crew chiefs work well together, too. Dale Jr. has really provided a spark this season, but I think his father had the fire burning before Junior came along. Dale’s healthy now, and that’s a big key. I know he was hurting last year. He’s a new person physically. He used to have a problem getting out of the car after the race. He could get out now and run to the top of the grandstands if he needed to. “I think Junior has helped him, but not for the reason some people might think. They’re having fun now because they’re spending more time together. That father-son relationship is getting stronger. I think Junior is going to be a superstar in the sport. He has a great personality, and he’s super good with the fans. He’s got what it takes. “I guess Dale was 29 or 30 when I first met him, and we’ve been together now for 16 years. I guess that’s sort of a milestone in motorsports. We’re still there fighting for a championship, and with a little luck we’ll get there again.”

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Kirk Shelmerdine