Richard Childress Racing expanding? It seems like just yesterday it contracted from four teams to three, reeling after a disastrous 2009 in which none of its cars finished inside the top 15 in points. But during a renaissance year in which drivers
For months, Childress tried to find a sponsor to support 2009 driver
If the deal does come to fruition, many are prepared to pan the move as getting greedy, considering how much expansion failed the first time for Childress. But Menard's possible hiring isn't as awful as you would think. The fourth-year driver has vastly improved this season for Richard Petty Motorsports, briefly flirting with the top 12 while scoring a career-best three top-10 finishes in 21 starts. That may not seem like much, but Menard's been a 15th-to-20th-place car with the RPM organization in most races, leaving him 23rd in points and with an outside shot to finish inside the top 20 if things go his way. That's exactly where Mears finished in the fourth RCR Chevy, scoring zero top-5s and four top-10s before getting the boot last November.
Both men are sons of famous names. Here's the difference; Mears doesn't have $20 million backing him at every stage of his career. Childress is losing a big money sponsor for Harvick in Shell/Pennzoil this November, and while Budweiser is widely expected to step in as a replacement, it is actually one of the weaker-paying sponsors in the Cup garage. Considering Hendrick could land a blockbuster deal like Wal-Mart for
Menard also wouldn't put a strain on the fab shop. He's got just one DNF for a wreck this season, and is known as a driver who takes care of equipment. A solid performer on intermediate tracks, he would bring a baseline of information that could help shore up Childress' biggest weakness. Men in the Ford camp will quietly tell you Menard -- yes, Menard -- has been an exceptional team player this season, helping turn around their program after a season's worth of struggles.
For me, Menard's potential hiring calls into the question of RPM's future, even after
I know money, not talent, can sure buy you a Sprint Cup ride these days, but if Childress is looking for a fourth driver, he could pick far worse choices. Considering Hendrick or Roush aren't contracting from their multi-car programs anytime soon, and with no NASCAR rules changes, the best way for the rich to compete against the rich is get richer.
Who can fault Childress for that?
-- News broke today that Kentucky Speedway's 2011 Sprint Cup date will come at the expense of Atlanta Motor Speedway, as the track announced it has been cut down to one race, Labor Day weekend, next year. That ends a stretch going back to 1960 where AMS has hosted at least two events a season on the Cup circuit; only Daytona, Martinsville and Richmond had longer streaks. But attendance for the March event had been dwindling for years, leaving owner Speedway Motorsports, Inc. with no choice but to look elsewhere for revenue.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
The Vegas/Loudon/Sonoma answer may not come for a couple of weeks. But no matter what happens, know that the 2011 schedule is shaping up to be dramatically different for NASCAR.
As for Said, he revealed this week what many behind the scenes have known for months: