Richard Childress Racing May Face Tumultuous 2013 Sprint Cup Season

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2012

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 17:  Team Owner Richard Childress looks on during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Something has been amiss at Richard Childress Racing in 2012 with the lack of performance. The lame duck status of their marquis driver during 2013 may only add to the problems faced within the organization.

Richard Childress was the dominant owner in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing with his driver Dale Earnhardt who won seven series titles, six of which were at RCR. The last Cup title for the organization was in 1994.

Kevin Harvick was quickly moved from the Nationwide series to the seat of the No. 3 Chevrolet that was driven by Earnhardt until his tragic death at Daytona in 2001. The car then became No. 29.

Harvick would have preferred a more gradual transition to the top series of NASCAR. He would have also preferred less pressure than driving in the shadow of the "Intimidator."

Three weeks later, Harvick took the No. 29 to Victory Lane in the first of his 19 career wins in the Cup series with RCR.

Harvick made the Chase this year, but scored only one win. He was eighth in the point standings, with his teammates Jeff Burton 19th in the standings and Paul Menard at 16th.

RCR took a hit at the end of the 2011 season when driver Clint Bowyer headed to Michael Waltrip Racing along with the highly respected head of competition, Scott Miller.

This season Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon, the latter being Childress's grandson, battled with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the NASCAR Nationwide championship. Stenhouse captured the title with Sadler second in points.

At Phoenix, Sadler and his team made costly mistakes that saw the car badly damaged and title chances pretty much ended. Sadler will not be returning to RCR in 2013, but to Joe Gibbs Racing.

Childress is hanging the future of RCR on his grandsons. The oldest of the Dillon brothers will assume duties with a part-time schedule behind the wheel of a Cup car starting at Daytona in the No. 33.

Younger brother Ty Dillon won the 2011 ARCA Racing Series championship. During the 2012 season he raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finishing fourth as Rookie of the Year.

Some may believe Childress has invested far too much in the future of his grandsons rather than concentrating on the teams of Harvick, Burton and Menard.

There is little doubt that the grandson who pilots the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Nationwide series for RCR will drive a renumbered Chevrolet full time in the Cup series for 2014. It too will likely be a black No. 3.

The apparent departure of Harvick from RCR after the 2013 season was reported by Marty Smith of It is said he has already signed a contract with Stewart Haas Racing.

The leak of this news from unnamed sources seems to have come at an odd time with neither Childress or Tony Stewart confirming the news when it broke.

News of moves with the top drivers in the sport often become ongoing hot topics within the NASCAR community

Should performance be down for Harvick's team at RCR next season it would not be unusual to see him make an early departure for Stewart Haas Racing.

It is also reported that Harvick will take his sponsors, Budweiser and Jimmy John's, along with him to SHR.

David Newton of reported on Childress' lack of joy about Harvick at the unveiling of the Chevrolet SS during Champions Week in Las Vegas.

Childress stated, "People are not going to be buying a lot of the (No.) 29 souvenirs for sure. It'll make for a difficult year. It's there. We've got to live with it and move forward."

Childress added, "Again, the timing wasn't great on the leak. But were going to go race."

With the older Dillon already set to drive the No. 33 Cup car in 2013, it would be an easy move to put him in Harvick's ride.

The 2013 season could be the last one for Burton at RCR, and perhaps his stay in the Caterpillar car has been a bit too long as is. He needs to really up his game if he plans to continue into 2014 there.

It would hardly be a stretch to say that Kurt Busch could be taking over Burton's ride at RCR in 2014. Busch is currently driving the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, and will continue to do so in 2013.

With the 2012 season history, Richard Childress Racing looks to be facing a tumultuous season in 2013, despite Harvick finishing eighth in points and finally getting a win in the next to the last race.

Harvick plans to go for the 2013 Cup title, but we shall see how that plays out, and it just may not be as planned.

 Opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer.