A deal that looked as if it was on the verge of not happening has been ironed out and driver Kevin Harvick and team owner Richard Childress could not be happier. Leading the current series standings and with better equipment on a whole coming out of Richard Childress Racing, the two inked a multi-year contract that will keep Harvick the driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet for years to come.
“We’re very excited to have Kevin back,” Childress said. “He’s written a lot of history for us at RCR. He stepped in the car when we lost Dale [Earnhardt Sr.] in 2001 and I don’t know any driver that could have stepped in there under the pressure and handled it the way he did. We’ll always be grateful and to have him come back and resign again, we’re happy about it.”
Childress immediately turned his attention to the fact the No. 29 car has yet to secure a sponsor for the 2011 season.
“We have three of four companies we’re dealing with right now and hopefully in the very near future we’ll have something to announce there,” Childress added.
With the announcement that Shell/Pennzoil will leave for Penske Racing at the end of the season, many figured resigning Harvick without solid funding would be difficult. Yet, Harvick explained the pieces began falling in place before the start of the season – long before Shell/Pennzoil’s departure.
Among the companies being linked to the No. 29 team are Budweiser and UPS, but Childress explained they have also reached out to companies not currently in the sport and have a lot of interest coming their way.
As far as resigning without a sponsor locked up for the future, Harvick says that – nor the departure of Shell/Pennzoil – ever caused hesitation in his decision to resign with the organization. In fact, he pointed out, Shell/Pennzoil were the ones who “got the ball rolling” on the entire deal.
Now that this deal is completed and behind them, Childress and his marketing partners have new ammunition in the hunt for a solid sponsor for next season. Having Harvick inked to a deal, Childress can now go to sponsors with a proven winner locked up for years to come and a lot of leverage in the negotiations.
In addition, with Scott Miller moving to the role of Director of Competition, the performance of RCR on a whole has improved greatly compared to last season. After all three teams missed the Chase in 2009, RCR currently sits first, eighth (Jeff Burton) and 15th (Clint Bowyer). That improvement began taking shape at the end of last year and that helped convince a once hostile Harvick to realize the potential being built within the organization.
“Everybody knows we struggled through the middle of last year,” Harvick said. “As we got to the end of the year last year, things had really, really turned around. You had the whole winter to think about things too. We went into the year, everybody came in with a great attitude – I hope including myself. We had talked about a lot of things we wanted to do and the pieces started to fall into place before we even got started at Daytona.”
Moving forward from this agreement, both Childress and Harvick are focused on keeping this team atop the series standings and at the top of their game. When Harvick took over the late Earnhardt’s ride in 2001, the team was poised to make a run for the title. Now in his 11th year with the organization, the No. 29 team is once again in championship form.
“We want to contend for a championship,” Childress said confidently. “You don’t put a team together and contend for a championship overnight. It takes time to build, to build the people and the personalities together, and that’s what Kevin is doing with this race team right now.”