RCR: The Ohio State Buckeyes of NASCAR

“I get it. January for race fans is like baseball’s spring training. Everyone has a chance.

That’s why every year there are articles like:

  • “Waltrip ready to bounce back
  • “Busch says he’s matured since last year
  • “McMurray set to fulfill potential
  • “Eury and Earnhardt Jr are on the same page

So I wasn’t surprised when I saw, Richard Childress Racing looks ready to contend“. Everyone has a chance.

RCR Reminds Me of Ohio State in College Football

They are a top program, but excluding 2002, are never quite the best team in a given year.

The Buckeyes roll up wins against weaker competition only to be toppled against non-conference foes. RCR is one of the top teams in NASCAR as evidenced by all three drivers making the 2008 Chase. But, they are a step below Hendrick, Roush and Gibbs.

I’m not picking on RCR.

They are a very good team with excellent drivers and personnel. I just don’t think they are an elite Cup team.

All three drivers are incredibly consistent (2 DNF’s total), but that’s also the problem. They aren’t close enough to the front to matter when the championship is at stake. Last year they won three races and scored 21 top 5’s among the three drivers. Carl Edwards had 19 top 5’s himself.

Last year the RCR drivers ranked 9th (Harvick), 10th(Burton) and 13th(Bowyer) in driver rating. These are not the marks of a contender.

“Our team was very consistent through the whole year and ran in the top 10, top five pretty much every week towards the end of the season,” Harvick says. “I think our average finish was like ninth in the Chase, and you go back five years ago and anything better than 12th would have won.”

While Happy did post a nice average finish, he only had one top 5 and led a meager 24 laps during the Chase. Harvick is right. Five years ago that would have been a great average. But, things are different now. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch have all helped to raise the bar. More is required to compete for wins and championships than finishing races on the lead lap and outlasting the mediocre teams.

Compared to Gillett-Evernham or DEI, RCR had a great year.

Compared to the top dogs at Hendrick, Roush and Gibbs, RCR had a good year. And that’s the a significant difference. It’s like patting Ohio State on the back for dominating the Big Ten while ignoring their losses to Florida, LSU, USC and Texas.”