2017 NASCAR Team Recap: Richard Childress Racing

Nigel Kinrade/NKP

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

For the final five days of 2017, Kickin’ the Tires will recap each of the top 10 teams in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, laying out their year in statistics and storylines. 


The Breakdown

Wins: Two

Playoff Berths: Two

Highest Points Finisher: 11th

Driver Results:

  • Austin Dillon (11th in Points – One win, Three top fives, Four top 10s, 12 laps led, Five DNFs)
  • Ryan Newman (16th in Points – One win, Seven top fives, 13 top 10s, 46 laps led, Four DNFs)
  • Paul Menard (23rd in Points – Zero Wins, Two top fives, Three top 10s, Five laps led, Three DNFs)

It was far from a banner year for Richard Childress Racing (RCR), but two trips to victory lane and a close call with the top 10 in points inspire hope for the organization heading into 2018.

Make no mistake – a statistical look at the year for any of the team’s trio of drivers in Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard shows that RCR made little improvement overall after 2016.

Dillon ended the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with one fewer top five (3), nine fewer top 10s (4) and a 2.7-position drop in average finish (18.6). Newman returned to form with five more top fives (7) and three more top 10s (13) than in 2016, but struggled with inconsistency as his average finish actually dropped one tenth of a position to 15.8.

Menard managed the most notable step up of the group – with two top fives after failing to tally a single one in 2016 – but his subpar 19.6 average finish and 23rd-place result in the points meant that few noticed the improvement.

The 2017 season wasn’t RCR’s best. But the year was salvaged by its highs, with both Dillon and Newman making their way into the postseason with victories.

The first triumph came for Newman. After struggling in the first three races of the year, the Hoosier methodically rose into the top 10 with a strong car at Phoenix Raceway.

Newman was given a chance at victory later that day when his No. 31 team elected to make a strategy play late and leave Newman on-track with the lead on old tires for NASCAR Overtime.

When the green flag flew Newman shot off into the lead. He then benefitted from contact between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson behind him to claim his first victory since July 2013 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ending a winless streak that had stretched to 127 races.

In similarly surprising fashion, Dillon stretched fuel to claim his first Cup Series win in one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races – the Coca-Cola 600.

Driving a special patriotic No. 3 Chevrolet, Dillon found himself trailing seven-time MENCS champion Jimmie Johnson with the laps winding down. When Johnson ran out of fuel, that left just Dillon to try to hold on to the finish for a pivotal win.

Running on fumes, Dillon streaked across Charlotte Motor Speedway’s start-finish line on Lap 400 ahead of a pursuing Kyle Busch to score a marquee victory in NASCAR’s longest race.

Menard came close to matching his teammates with a victory, finishing fifth and third in two tries at Daytona International Speedway, but in the end the Wisconsinite was unable to score a win. That left Dillon and Newman to lead the way for RCR in the postseason.

Unfortunately for the duo, they were both eliminated from the playoffs quickly.

After entering the postseason fresh off of four top 10s in the final quartet of regular season races, Newman’s playoff pursuit was quickly undone by a 23rd-place run in the Round of 16 opener at Chicagoland Speedway. Try as he might, Newman would prove unable to overcome the early hole he was left in by the Chicago result.

Dillon entered the postseason quietly, but for a time it appeared he might survive to the Round of 12. The Welcome, N.C. native entered the final race of the Round of 16 sitting 12th in points, but his 16th-place run in the third playoff race wasn’t enough for him to maintain his position.

When the checkered flag flew at Dover International Speedway, both Dillon and Newman had been beaten out for the final spot in the Round of 12 by Stenhouse. They were both eliminated from contention.

From that moment on, RCR faded into the background. Newman delivered a strong second-place run for the team at Talladega Superspeedway, but outside of that the team’s trio managed just one top 10, when the 40-year-old Newman ended the season with a 10th-place run at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Even with his two great runs, Newman was left last on the playoff grid in 16th after results of 40th and 33rd at Charlotte and Kansas Speedway, respectively. Dillon wasn’t able to crack the top 10, but a slew of top 15s helped the fourth-year driver end the year 11th in the standings.

Menard wrapped up another dreadful season in 23rd, shortly before taking off for a new opportunity with the Wood Brothers Racing and Ford in 2018.

With Menard gone, Dillon and Newman are currently the only ones left to carry the torch for RCR in the upcoming season. The team’s No. 27 Chevrolet is still theoretically open, but it appears the necessary funding would be needed for any driver to secure the ride. Thus far nothing has been announced for RCR’s third machine in 2018.

Should the ride stay unmanned, then RCR will look to match the improvements of fellow former power Roush Fenway Racing, who have improved statistically in each of the past two seasons after trimming down to two teams in 2016.

 

Team Recaps: 

Germain Racing (Dec. 27)

Roush Fenway Racing (Dec. 27)

Richard Childress Racing (Dec. 28)

Wood Brothers Racing (Dec. 28)

Chip Ganassi Racing (Dec. 29)

Hendrick Motorsports (Dec. 29)

Team Penske (Dec. 30)

Stewart-Haas Racing (Dec. 30)

Joe Gibbs Racing (Dec. 31)

Furniture Row Racing (Dec. 31)

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