Despite being unable to come to contract terms with driver Clint Bowyer, who announced last Friday that he will drive beginning in 2012 for Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress said Thursday that he could not be more pleased with the future direction in which his company appears to be headed.
Speaking after a function where he appeared together with Bowyer to promote an upcoming special paint scheme on the No. 33 Chevrolet Bowyer currently drives for Richard Childress Racing, Childress said he tentatively plans to scale down from four full-time Sprint Cup teams to three full-time teams in 2012. But he did not rule out running a fourth car, Bowyer's vacated No. 33, in at least a handful of races -- possibly with his grandson, Austin Dillon, behind the wheel.
Childress also did not completely rule out fielding the No. 33 car full-time. This season RCR fields not only that car, but also the No. 29 driven by Kevin Harvick, the No. 31 driven by Jeff Burton and the No. 27 driven by Paul Menard.
"Right now we're looking at three Cup cars with an occasional Cup race [in the 33]. Who knows what may come up between now and then?" Childress said. "I've had offers to race people and race drivers, and had another full sponsorship for a driver. I just want to make sure it's the right move when we make it. So we're still as of right now three Cup teams.
"I'm sure if we don't have a [full-time] team, we might stick Austin in the car one or two times. We've got a couple other people who have said they might like to run. If it's the right opportunity, as far as chance to test something or take a look at a driver or something, we may do that. ... I'd rather have three teams that you can be competitive with -- and occasionally pick up a race or two along the way, where if you've got something you want to try, you go and do it."
Asked specifically if the primary order of business at RCR right now is trying to obtain sponsorship for Austin Dillon's 2012 Nationwide ride and Austin's younger brother Ty in the Camping World Truck Series, Childress replied: "We're down the road pretty good with all of that. Like I've said, we feel pretty good about how RCR is positioned for the future with the sponsors we have for the next two or three years. I couldn't be happier with a lot of things in front of RCR as far as sponsorship-wise and employee-wise and just the overall direction of the company."
Earlier last week, it was announced that the General Mills sponsorship that had been on the No. 33 car will be moving to Burton's No. 31 Chevy beginning next season. Childress said he was pleased to be able to keep General Mills associated with RCR, and that he is happy overall with the general state of NASCAR as the 2011 season winds down.
"I think everybody's business model changed a couple of years ago, and we're all still having to adjust to it," Childress said. "But at RCR, we've been fortunate. We've been able to re-sign sponsors, we have a lot of interest from new companies who are looking at it and hopefully in the near future will be making some announcements. So things are looking good for RCR and I think it's looking good for the sport as well. The TV ratings are up, we're getting people back in the stands. I'm really happy with what I'm seeing out of the sport these days."
Even though Childress may be reducing the number of Cup teams he fields next season, he said the recent absorption of Kevin Harvick Inc.'s Nationwide Series program and the fact that the Sprint Cup Series is preparing to move to fuel-injected cars next season mean he's going to look to add employees this off-season, not lay any off.
"We're hoping to add a few more people," Childress said. "We've got a couple other good programs working, and the number we're coming up with now is just a few more employees than we have today."
Childress admitted -- again -- that he would have liked to have re-signed Bowyer. But he said he could not afford to pay Bowyer the salary that the driver was being offered by MWR.
"Well, we all have to adjust to the [new business] model. It's just a matter of if you've got X dollars to race with, you've got to figure out how to make that work," Childress said. "I think NASCAR understands the challenges that are out there today for the teams, and they're going to make their adjustments as well. ... All of us have had to make adjustments to deal with the economic environment.
"We knew what our financial model was, and Clint knew where he needed to be. We just couldn't come together to make it work. We had the car completely sponsored, but it just didn't work out. I'm very sad that it didn't, because I really like Clint and he's going to be a great driver. Never say never. I hope that someday he can be back at RCR."