With three races remaining in the 2017 XFINITY Series season, Richard Childress Racing is still looking for its first victory. This situation is unique for an organization that is used to picking up at least one checkered flag during the course of the season.
Childress started a full-time XFINITY Series organization in 2000, with Mike Dillon and Kevin Harvick as his drivers. Harvick, then a babyfaced, California kid, recorded three victories en route to a third-place effort in the championship standings. In 2001, he won five races and the title, while also replacing Dale Earnhardt in the Cup Series.
In 2002, both Jeff Green and Johnny Sauter went to Victory Lane for RCR. Harvick then reemerged, winning races in seven consecutive seasons, including a career-high nine in 2006. Getting the gist of this?
RCR has won a lot in the XFINITY Series, in fact, 78 times, but the clock is ticking on the 2017 season. Last season, Austin Dillon won a pair of events, one at Auto Club Speedway in thrilling fashion, and another at Bristol Motor Speedway in August. The following week, Michael McDowell picked up his first career victory, winning at Road America. That’s the last time the organization has been to the Winner’s Circle – 40 races ago.
Coming into this season, Childress decided to run five full-time teams, as the organization signed Daniel Hemric, where he joined Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones as the two other XFINITY Series regulars. The Nos. 2 and 3 cars have seen a handful of different drivers, primarily with the Dillon brothers, Austin and Ty, behind the wheel. JR Motorsports is the only other company to run more than three full-time teams, with four, and all of which made the playoffs.
In 150 starts between the five teams this season, they have combined to pick up 22 top-five finishes, while placing inside the top 10, 58 times. The older Dillon brother has led 141 laps, which is almost half the team’s laps led at 334. Speed and bad luck have been contributing factors to the lack of race wins.
“We’ve actually been faster this year than we were last year,” Gaughan told Frontstretch over the summer. “We have a better average running position than last year. We have fast racecars. We have just had some self-inflicted wounds that have hurt us and a lot of non-self-inflicted wounds that have crushed us.”
Two of RCR’s three full-time XFINITY teams made the 2017 playoffs. Gaughan was eliminated by one point at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and with two races remaining until Homestead, while Hemric sits seventh in the championship standings, six points behind Brennan Poole for the coveted fourth position.
How difficult has it been to manage the five teams, three of which are XFINITY regulars?
It’s helped because of all the information,” Hemric said at Watkins Glen International. “In a one-car or even a two-car team, it’s tough to get a handle on our racecars from week-to-week with the new aero package and all that stuff. It’s been good to have all those resources to bounce each other off.
“That’s why I go back to having that many cars can be a burden. You get that many people with input, it can be a bit confusing. It’s knowing how to process what somebody is giving you and knowing how to take it. Sometimes, it’s funny how we can all have the same racecars, but have two totally different explanations of what’s happening.”
In his rookie campaign, Hemric has led the charge. The 26-year-old has six top-five finishes and 15 top 10s. His two other full-time teammates have combined to record two top fives and eight top 10s.
Hemric also won his first career pole at Richmond Raceway in April, which was a week after the No. 21 won the second stage of the race at Bristol, en route to a fifth-place finish.
Jones, on the other hand, has had all the bad luck in the world. After a promising rookie season in 2016. The No. 33 kicked off the season with a bang by surprising the field and winning his first career pole at Daytona. However, an early exit from the race was a tale of what was to come throughout the season.
In four of the 30 events this year, Jones has failed to make it to lap 30. At Kentucky Speedway in July, the No. 33 car was wrecked out before it even crossed the finish line to take the green flag. Jones sits 17th in points, 19 markers behind Dakoda Armstrong, who has missed the last three races with JGL Racing.
This season has been a struggle for RCR for sure, Childress would probably admit. However, going into the final three events of the season, it’s all about preparing for 2018 and hopefully picking up a victory.
The team announced in early October that Hemric will be back in the No. 21 machine for 2018, while Matt Tifft will make the jump from Joe Gibbs Racing to pilot the No. 2 car.
In 20 years of running a full-time XFINITY Series operation, RCR has won a race in every season it has completed the whole schedule. In 2011, the team went winless, competing in only three events with Tim George Jr. This season, both Menard and Hemric have runner-up finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
- Coming off a wild finish at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago, the JRM trio of Justin Allgaier, William Byron and Elliott Sadler sit comfortably in position to make Homestead with two races to go. Brennan Poole currently holds onto the fourth position, five points ahead of Matt Tifft, six ahead of Ryan Reed and Daniel Hemric with Cole Custer eight markers behind.
- Cup Series Regulars Austin and Ty Dillon are on the entry list for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas, as well as Reed Sorenson, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson.
- Larson is the defending winner of the event, narrowly edging out Brad Keselowski to the checkered flag. In the spring race, it was Jones who was the victor, leading 112 circuits after starting second.
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