RCR having trouble handling handling issue

June, 19, 2009
SONOMA, Calif. -- What's wrong with Richard Childress Racing?

It's a question I get on every chat, and in e-mails I receive almost daily. Fans want to know what the heck is going on at RCR.

Of course, if the RCR folks knew the answer to that question, they would fix it. But Jeff Burton gave some detailed insight about the problem Friday.

"The brunt of it is we didn't do a good job this past winter," Burton said. "We didn't prepare well, and now we're behind. We all have different problems, but fundamentally, you look at the speed chart on most Fridays and we're not in the top 10."

Burton said it isn't a horsepower issue.

"On the engine side, we're making enough power," he said. "But we don't go through the corner as well as the competition because we have less handling. That's the problem."

The first step in correcting a problem is understanding what the problem is. So can RCR get it corrected soon?

"There is no magic wand to wave to make it all better," Burton said. "But we are not in panic mode. It's important in this situation not to panic by trying to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Everyone is working hard to get better. You just immediately get on it and address it."

Burton is the only RCR driver in the top 12 (barely) entering the Toyota/SaveMart 350 this weekend. Burton is 12th, only three points ahead of David Reutimann.

Clint Bowyer ranks 16th, and Casey Mears is 21st. But the real shocker is Kevin Harvick in 23rd.

"Kevin is concerned, the same as we all are about where we're at," Burton said. "But Kevin has handled it in a positive manner. Everybody is on pins and needles. Our sponsors know we should be better, and Richard knows we should be better. It's been disappointing."

All three drivers who were at RCR last year are worse off than they were one year ago. Burton ranked second in the standings last June. Harvick was 10th, Bowyer 12th.

Whatever handling issues RCR has had on the ovals this season, it might be a non-factor this weekend on the Sonoma road course. Bowyer finished fourth here last year. Harvick was second in 2007, one spot ahead of Burton.

"It's a little bit of a stressful weekend because it's so easy to make a mistake here," Burton said. "You have a bunch of different agendas out there. Some people here race only a couple of times a year, so they have nothing to lose.

"For us, you have to measure the risk. My strategy is to survive it."

Come to think of it, that's the overall strategy at RCR for the moment.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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