RCR storming out of the gate

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Fontana, CA (Sports Network) - After a dismal 2009 season, Richard Childress Racing is on the rebound in a big way so far this year.

All three of RCR's drivers -- Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton -- have finished no worse than 11th in the first two races of 2010. Team owner Richard Childress couldn't be more pleased about the start of a season, with Harvick leading in points, Bowyer in second (-19) and Burton fifth (-31).

Harvick easily could have begun the year at 2-0. He held the lead for the final restart in the Daytona 500, but eventual race winner Jamie McMurray got a friendly bump from Greg Biffle to move in front with less than two laps to go. Then at California, Harvick lost a spirited battle with Jimmie Johnson for the win after brushing the wall in the final laps.

"It's just what we're supposed to do," said Harvick. "That's what we get paid to do. We get paid to go out and drive the car as hard as we can, and we're supposed to run up front. That's what everybody pays to be on our cars and what we work for.

"With the three of us running good, it pushes us to fine-tune our stuff and really get the best out of our cars week-in and week-out."

RCR's road to recovery actually began at the tail end of last season when at least one of its then-four drivers finished fifth or better in the final four races.

Kevin Harvick is leading the season in points.
"I am as optimistic about this season as I have ever been," said Bowyer, whose 15th-place finish in points was the best among RCR drivers last year. "I feel like we have corrected the problems we had at RCR throughout last season. Unfortunately, it took a season to do that, but by four or five races from the end of the season, I thought we were a force to be reckoned with. I feel like we are going to be this year."

Casey Mears drove the No.07 car for Childress in '09, but Mears moved over to start-up team Keyed-Up Motorsports after Childress could not find sponsorship for him this year.

Childress formed his team in 1972 and has since won six Cup owner championships with driver Dale Earnhardt. But last year was one that Childress would just as soon forget. There were no trips to Victory Lane and no cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

During the off-season, Childress said his organization made significant changes last summer, but signs of a turnaround didn't materialize until several months later.

"It took that long for it to start showing up," Childress said. "We didn't have a typical RCR year. We didn't have a car in the Chase or running up front. This year, I feel really good with the changes that we made."

With the first two races of the 2010 season in the books, it appears that RCR has not lost its momentum.

"We felt good about what happened in the fall and over the winter," Burton said. "Until you start racing, you don't know where you are honestly. You feel good about it. I had quite a bit of confidence coming in. But until everybody gets out here and they're going to give somebody a trophy, you don't really know where you stand. I expected to run well.

Burton is the last RCR driver to win a Cup race, which occurred in October 2008 at Charlotte.

Despite back-to-back wins in the pre-season Budweiser Shootout at Daytona and a victory in the 2007 All-Star Race at Charlotte, Harvick has not won a points- paying race since three years ago in the Daytona 500. But that career-long streak could be coming to an end soon, based on his early season performances.

After learning he had taken the points lead with his second-place finish at California, Harvick jokingly said, "Oh great, only 34 [races] more to go."

Actually, it might be the best of times to come for Harvick and the rest of the RCR gang.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.
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