[media-credit name=”Simon Scoggins” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]The headlines were going crazy last season when Kevin Harvick Incorporated (KHI) announced that it was closing its doors at the conclusion of 2011. The result of that closure saw KHI’s Nationwide Series program be put under Richard Childress Racing.
The merger was met with some questions, however, they have been quickly answered this far into the season. After the second race of the season, Elliott Sadler leads the point standings, 10 points over rookie teammate Austin Dillon. Sadler won the last race at Phoenix International Speedway while Dillon and Kevin Harvick finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
The win marked a special win for Sadler as he hadn’t been to victory lane in one of NASCAR’s top three divisions since 2010 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The win also marked a bit of revenge for last year as despite finishing second in points, the season was considered disappointing due to no victories.
One of the first moves that was made when Sadler made the shift from KHI to RCR was a change in his crew chief. Richard Childress partnered Sadler with Luke Lambert, who was the crew chief for Clint Bowyer last year in the Sprint Cup Series. Childress felt the partnership was perfect based on what he saw Sadler needed in a crew chief and how Lambert could benefit from a couple seasons spent in Nationwide.
Sadler now hopes to carry the momentum from the win into Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“Momentum is huge in this sport,” he said. “Our team is so strong and so focused that I know the win last week at Phoenix will just add to our drive. We have one goal, and that is to win the championship, and I think this week we will continue to go along with our game plan. It was such a great feeling to be in Victory Lane, and I am so proud of our team and excited to home a win for OneMain Financial and Richard Childress Richard Childress.”
The win marked some reassurance for Sadler as he was at first concerned when Harvick told him of the switch.
“When Kevin first came to me and said, ‘Look, I’m going to sell my team to Richard. We’re going to run the team out of his shop’. I said, ‘Where is that going to leave me?’,” Sadler explained. “He said, ‘Elliott, the last time I ran for RCR, we won 13 races. You’re going to be okay.’
“When you’re affiliated with the Cup teams and the simulation programs that they have and when you’re on the same campus, you feed off of it. We race against the Cup affiliated teams all the time – Roush and Gibbs – so it just puts us on an even playing field.”
In the past couple of years, the Nationwide Series has been dominated by Roush Racing, Penske Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing – all three teams having a cup affiliation.
“I think Kevin and Delana did a great job with the Nationwide,” Childress commented after Phoenix. “But running against what Jack, Gibbs, Penske have, they weren’t quite there and that was the difference. I think Kevin once he saw that, wanted to come back. I think the difference is having a cup affiliation. I had the Cup crew chiefs scanning the three radios telling me what was going on. Now that we’re back in Nationwide, I think it helps back to the Cup due to the cars being so similar except for the motor.”
The success now puts pressure on the team to keep it going, as stated by Brendan Gaughan, who will run his first Nationwide race of the season.
“I’m really excited to race for such a great organization,” he said in the team preview. “The only downside, if there is one, is that now it’s my turn to keep the hot streak going that RCR has started off the season with.”
As the season continues, there’s no question there will be a continued battle between Joe Gibbs Racing, Jack Roush, Roger Penske and Richard Childress for the championships. It’ll all be about who can put the best package together, and right now, Childress looks to have the upper hand. It’s also known that this isn’t his first rodeo as he has won five championships in the Nationwide Series.