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Shell sponsorship may be the key to Richard Childress' driver swap


Richard Childress (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Richard Childress, facing the reality that his four teams simply aren't performing up to snuff, compared to the Rick Hendrick men and Jack Roush men, is shaking up two of his four, and what might happen next is up for debate.
    Kevin Harvick will be taking his Shell uniform and decals over to Gil Martin's team, and leaving crew chief Todd Berrier after 10 years together.
   In turn, newcomer Casey Mears will be leaving Martin after just eight races and moving to Berrier's team, which will be rebadged with Jack Daniel's sponsorship colors.
   The clear point: Harvick and Berrier aren't getting things done to Childress' satisfaction….and probably not to sponsor Shell's satisfaction either.
   The bottom line: this is Childress' third season with Shell -- one of the world's biggest companies, with a market cap of $140 billion – and it is apparently the renewal season for Childress and Shell….and if Childress wants to keep a better performing NASCAR rival, like Jack Roush, from taking that sponsorship away in 2010, he needs to step things up.
   For example, Roush's Matt Kenseth, with wins already in the Daytona 500 and California 500, is looking for a new sponsor for next season, if DeWalt decides not to renew.
    And this is a cutthroat business -- Childress himself acquired two of his current sponsors, Caterpillar and General Mills, from other NASCAR teams.

Richard Childress (C) with Kevin Harvick (R) and wife Delana (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Harvick's last win was in the 2007 Daytona.
   So the pressure on Harvick is heavy.
   It's too early to say much about how Mears might fare, though he has had detractors during his one-win run in the Cup series over his six-plus seasons.
   Childress' last win as team owner was with Jeff Burton last fall at Charlotte. Teammate Clint Bowyer's last win for Childress was at Richmond last spring.
    How much of this driver-swap is related to sponsorship issues?   
   "I think it's the whole sport itself," Childress says.
   "In today's environment you can't wait sometime halfway through the season.
    "With the point structure like it is, you've got to make changes to make the chase."
   The top-12 after the fall Richmond race make the championship playoffs. At the moment Bowyer sits sixth in the standings, Burton 11th, Harvick 16th, and Mears 22nd.
   "We only have so many races before the chase," Childress went on.
   "I originally started looking at Bristol where we were at with our race teams: Four of our best tracks are Bristol, Texas, Martinsville and Phoenix (which were the tour's last four stops)."
   At Bristol Burton ran 8th, Bowyer 13th, Mears 24th, Harvick 30th.
   At Texas Burton ran 9th, Mears ran 21st , Bowyer ran 22nd, Harvick ran 27th.
   At Martinsville Bowyer ran fifth, Harvick ran 11th, Burton ran 15th, Mears ran 21st.
   And at Phoenix Burton ran 15th, Mears ran 20th, Bowyer ran 26th, and Harvick ran 30th.
   "Martinsville, I wasn't happy with the performance there," Childress said. "Then I walked out of the track at Texas, after our performance there, and knew I was going to make the change. I just needed to know what change I was going to make.
   "When I went to Montana (where Childress has a home), I made up my mind out there, that right after Texas I was coming back and making the changes. And we started it in motion.
   "Mike Dillon and Will Lind (general managers) worked through this with me, and we made a decision. It will probably take two or three races to get this thing really working…and you can't afford to lose 50, 75, 100 points each race.
   "We owe it to our sponsors and our fans to run better. And I felt these were the two teams right now that were the weakest.
    "They're great race teams. Gil Martin and those guys have finished in the top-five two years in a row in the points (with Bowyer at the wheel). Kevin finished fourth last year with his team in the points.
    "Sometimes a little chemistry, a little change, makes a big difference.
    "I'm not only doing it for these two race teams, we're doing it to help RCR as a whole.
    "We need to fix all our teams, and this is the first step. I'm not above making more changes if that's what it takes.
    "I'm going to be looking hard at everything.
     "We don't have a choice -- We have to be competitive.
     "You just can’t sit here and accept running like we've ran in the last four races."
     But will a driver swap solve the problems? Or is there much more involved?
     "It's like a divorce," Childress says. "When a man and woman are getting a divorce, and they think they're both giving 100 percent, the first thing she wants to do is get in the tanning bed and lose 30 pounds. He goes and gets rid of his gut and a sports car.
    "The change has always worked for us in the past, and hopefully this will make it work."
    The most famous of Childress' driver swaps was in 1998, when Dale Earnhardt and crew chief Larry McReynolds, just a few months after winning the Daytona 500 together (Earnhardt's first), were split.
     However not all such swaps work. Roush's decision to split up Carl Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne a few years ago was one such example.
    "But this sport isn't different than football or baseball: When things aren't working, tough decisions sometimes have to come from the coach," Childress said. "If you let things stay still too long, it will hurt your whole organization."

Casey Mears (L) and Richard Childress (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Bad news for Todd Berrier.

Bad news for Todd Berrier. He gets Casey Mears after having Harvick. Ughhhhh. That's not going to make his team any better. Mears has driven for two of the best 4 owners in NASCAR, and has yet to do anything worthy of having been given those rides. Childress should have picked somebody else instead of Mears, but I guess if somebody brings a big paying sponsor with them they can drive for anyone.

Hey, why is everyone so down

Hey, why is everyone so down on Casey. The guy is sharp, good personality, decent driver.....he just needs to lead more laps. For the season so far, Mears and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have about the same numbers....Jr. averaging a 20th place run, Casey averaging a 21st. Jr. is 19th in the standings, 52 points ahead of Mears, who sits 22nd. Remember, at the moment there are only five 'great' drivers in this sport. (RC actually wanted to put Casey in the Cheerios car, but that Kelloggs deal at Hendrick's was apparently a stumbling block.) If I were Todd, I'd start gambling on getting out-of-sync on pit stops, give Casey some clean air, and see what he can do. Same if I were Gil Martin, with Kevin Harvick. (But then why should this sport be about 'clean air' anyway?)

How did Mears bring a sponsor

How did Mears bring a sponsor with him, He got the car and team that Childress already had with Bowyer driving last year. Mears and Jr are about the same level driver, The only reason either of them have rides is because of thier last names

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