Childress says fourth car will make team more competitive

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Team owner Richard Childress hopes the addition of a fourth team with Casey Mears is the first step in RCR catching NASCAR's elite teams.

But, he reminded, it's only the first step.

Childress said more news will unfold over the next three months that will make Saturday's official announcement that Mears has signed a three-year deal to drive the No. 07 Jack Daniels-sponsored car and Clint Bowyer will move into the No. 33 General Mills-sponsored car make more sense.

He didn't rule out a merger or financial deal with another organization for the owner points of a car guaranteed a spot in the top 35. Those points would then move to the No. 33.

"If you did something you'd just have to merge with somebody," the owner of Richard Childress Racing said before Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. "We've got a plan. Every move we've made has been well thought out."

Sources said RCR discussed whether a deal could be made to purchase the No. 01 car of Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s Regan Smith that is solidly inside the top 35 but without sponsorship for next season. RCR already has an engine program with DEI and recently sent engineer Bobby Hutchins to the company.

DEI's John Story said the company plans to run the No. 01 with Smith next season. He also reminded that NASCAR has taken a stance against teams simply purchasing the points of another.

"That was a mutually agreed on deal," Childress said. "Very mutual. We didn't lose him."

Childress said the points accumulated by Bowyer in the 07 will stay with Mears, meaning Bowyer will have to qualify for the first five races next season unless points are acquired.

General Mills reportedly wasn't comfortable with Mears because of his relationship with rival sponsor Kellogg's on the No. 5 at Hendrick Motorsports and because the company wanted a driver that already has proven he can make the championship Chase.

Mears, 24th in points, has never finished better than 14th in points. Bowyer finished third last season and he's tied for 13th this season.

Childress said more important than what sponsor or number was on the car was getting to four teams.

"You have to have that to compete," Childress said. "It's all about resources, and the fourth team just gives you so many more resources to do it."

Nine of the past 13 Cup titles have been by organizations -- Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing -- with four or five teams. Joe Gibbs Racing with three cars won three and Yates Racing with two cars won the other.

"A lot of this is about making the whole RCR organization more competitive," Childress said.

Mears hopes the move to RCR makes him more competitive. This will be his third organization -- Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick and RCR -- in four years and fifth car in five years.

Mears has one win, last season at Charlotte, in 203 starts prior to Saturday night. He has 12 top fives and 40 top 10s.

"It's been tough when you can't settle in and keep running and running," Childress said. "We've got some really good plans. Hopefully, they'll all work."

Mears said he began talking to Childress within a few weeks of being told Mark Martin would replace him at HMS next season. He said there were a few rough moments in negotiations because of sponsor deals and other details.

"I don't know exactly why things worked out the way they did," Mears said. "I just know it's best for RCR."

Bowyer said he had no qualms about giving up his points.

"Like I told them, it beats beating dents in a body shop," said Bowyer, who was working in a body shop a few years ago. "It's all about teamwork and making RCR bigger and better."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.