NASCAR: Teams trade crews
By Jenna Fryer
CHARLOTTE ó Richard Childress Racing will swap the crews for slumping drivers Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears following this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Both teams have underperformed this season, the first in which Richard Childress Racing is fielding four full-time cars. Team owner Childress said he’ll swap the crews to get both teams performing up to their standards.
“The decision to interchange the (teams) was made to make both programs stronger and more successful,” Childress said.
The move comes following RCR’s dismal showing last Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway, where the team has traditionally run very well.
Harvick, a two-time Phoenix winner, was 30th in his worst finish at that track in six seasons. He’s slipped six spots in the standings to 16th over the past two weeks, and has four finishes of 27th or worse this season.
He also takes a 79-race winless streak, dating back to the 2007 Daytona 500, into Sunday’s race at Talladega.
Mears, who received a six-race probation by NASCAR on Wednesday for a skirmish with Dale Earnhardt Jr., is off to a slow a start in his first season with RCR. He’s 22nd in the standings and has yet to notch a top-10 finish this season.
The drivers will swap their entire crews after Sunday’s race, but both will keep their spotters.
“Our main objective has always been to have all four of RCR’s teams qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup,” Childress said. “Neither team has had the success this season that we know they’re capable of, so we decided it was time to make a change to improve the two teams and the overall strength of RCR.”
Todd Berrier and his crew will move from Harvick’s No. 29 team to Mears’ No. 07 next week. Berrier has been with Harvick since the Nationwide Series, and took over the Cup program in 2003. The duo won eight Cup races together, including the 2007 Daytona 500 and the 2003 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Berrier also led Harvick to the Nationwide Series championship in 2001.
Gil Martin will take his crew to Harvick’s car. He has been with the No. 07 team since the 2006 season, and led Clint Bowyer into the Chase the past two seasons.
Martin previously worked with Harvick on the No. 29 car in 2002, leading Harvick to a win that season at Chicago.
“Todd and Gil are proven winners who have strong and successful teams behind them,” Childress said. “Chemistry is an important part of any successful organization and I felt it was time to change the makeup of these two teams. We’ve done this before with positive results.”
RCR is considered one of the top four organizations in NASCAR, but its teams have yet to collect victories at the same pace as Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush-Fenway Racing. All three teams have multiple victories this season, but RCR is so far winless.
Still, Bowyer has been strong driving the expansion No. 33 team, which is comprised of many of the crew members who helped him to last year’s Nationwide title. Bowyer was as high as second in the standings early this season, but has slipped to sixth over the past two weeks.
Jeff Burton, the fourth RCR driver, is 11th in the standings.
RCR placed Bowyer, Harvick and Burton in the Chase the past two years, but only Burton has made a run at the championship.