Richard Childress Racing to Face Split Results in 2018
Richard Childress Racing has a new ally this year: Richard Petty Motorsports. RCR is looking to tear it up in 2018, driving Chevrolet’s new Camaro this season, and they have shed Paul Menard’s No. 27 car and picked up the No. 43, now driven by Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., as an ally. Expectations are high for the RCR group, which picked up a win with each of its drivers that remain: Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 and Ryan Newman won the spring race at Phoenix. The wins were the first Cup wins for the organization since Kevin Harvick collected four wins in 2013, his final season with the team. This was the longest winless drought since the team collected its first win in 1983, a total of 359 starts for the team, between its three full-time cars and various part-time ones, or over 12% of the teams 2,846 total starts. The organization hopes to continue 2017’s success into 2018.
Austin Dillon enters his fifth full-time season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2018, and his first as a Cup Series winner, after collecting his first victory in May of 2017. The new Camaros give Dillon reason to be optimistic, but his results don’t. While Dillon held his own in 2016, knocking off 13 top ten finishes, an average finish of 15.9, and 26 lead lap finishes, each of these numbers got worse in 2017. Despite the win, Dillon only collected four top ten finishes, finished an average of 18.6, and finished on the lead lap only 21 times.
Equipment is not to blame for his woes, considering Ryan Newman, Dillon’s RCR teammate, far outperformed Dillon in 2016. Along with his win, Newman knocked off seven top five finishes and 13 top ten finishes. Newman’s worst average finish at RCR is better than Dillon’s best. 15.8 was Newman’s average finish in 2017, while 15.9 was Dillon’s average finish in 2016. Newman’s average finish since joining RCR in 2014 is 14.425, while Dillon’s since he started full-time in the same year is 18.25, nearly four positions worse than Newman.
Newman will find victory lane next year, maybe more than once, but Dillon is unlikely to, considering his lackluster performance recently. RCR, though, will still be second fiddle at Chevrolet to Hendrick Motorsports. Both teams will be stronger in 2018 than in 2017, but Newman will be the only RCR driver to make the playoffs. Dillon will miss out, barring a fuel mileage win like last season. RCR is sticking with Dillon, though. Apparently family ties trump all.