Richard Childress, who oversaw a resurgence of Richard Childress Motorsports, is the Sporting News owner of the year, the magazine announced Wednesday.

 Denny Hamlin is the 2010 Dale Earnhardt Tough Driver. The top driver and crew chief will be announced Thursday. All four awards were voted on by Sprint Cup drivers, crew chiefs and owners.

 RCR made a remarkable turnaround in 2010. After all four of Childress' drivers missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2009, the organization consolidated to three teams this year with drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. All three qualified for the Chase, and Harvick was in contention for the Cup championship until the final lap at Homestead. Bowyer won two of the 10 Chase races, at New Hampshire and California.

 "It was all about the people," Childress said.

 Childress traced his team's woes and subsequent rebound back to the 2007 season, when the team made changes that led to all three RCR cars making the 2008 Chase.

 "At the end of 2008, the cars were really running good, and we started the [2009] season out with it, and it just wasn't working for everybody. We didn't get behind; we went down the wrong path [with the engineering of the cars], and it took us until the last eight or nine races of 2009 to turn it around."

 Hamlin's peers pointed to his come back from knee surgery. A day after winning at Martinsville in March, Hamlin had surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee, which he had injured playing basketball in the offseason. Hamlin didn't miss a race after the operation. Instead, he drove through the pain and completed the next race on the schedule at Phoenix. The following week, he won at Texas and launched a title drive that fell just short. He won a season-high eight races and finished second to Jimmie Johnson in the standings.

 Hamlin's grittiness and commitment left an impression on the owner of his team, Joe Gibbs, who has seen toughness in NASCAR and the NFL, where he coached the Washington Redskins to three Super Bowl titles.

 "He refused to get out of the car [at Phoenix] and stayed in there knowing we weren't going to have a good day," Gibbs said. "And I think that said a lot to his team and all the guys around him. And I think from that point on is kind of where -- I think that had a lot to do with our year.

 "And yes, athletes -- I've coached some, to be quite truthful, that you could have two injuries almost exactly the same, one guy can play and one can't, and that comes down to mental toughness.

 "These drivers are athletes. They're in those cars, they're measured in different ways over here. Rarely is it the injury, but it is being in there and being able to think for 500 grueling laps and go 200 mph six inches from somebody."