Richard Childress Racing will run 9 cars this year across the three series in NASCAR and will run a tenth for at least the first five races, with the news that Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan will share the #33 car in the opening rounds to utilise its guaranteed starting position (the #33 finished in the top 35 last season). Last year the #33 team failed to make the Chase for the second time in three years, and with driver Clint Bowyer moving over to Michael Waltrip Racing and a sponsor drying up, Childress looked certain to revert to just a three car Cup team. However with Sadler, second in the Nationwide Series in 2011, joining the team for the Daytona 500, and Gaughan taking over for the next four events, RCR will now have an even number of cars, which could prove crucial in the closing stages at Daytona as cars link up in two-car tandems.
“Richard called me into his office and told me, and man, I was blown away,” said Sadler, who will continue to run full time in the Nationwide Championship in 2012. “I pretty much stood up and gave him a hug and told him I appreciate the opportunity. Being part of a four-car team, hopefully I can help my teammates as much as I can, with Paul [Menard], Kevin [Harvick] and Jeff [Burton]. To put this together and put together an effort where we can go down and be a part of the Daytona 500 means a lot to me. Man, I love that race.”
Gaughan has not raced full-time in Cup since he drove for Roger Penske back in 2004, and was thrilled to get a second chance.
“That’s the second chance you normally don’t get,” he said of his four-race deal. “I had a great opportunity before, and it didn’t work out for us. But to be able to come back with the caliber of Richard Childress Racing is really an opportunity – I’m kind of pinching myself saying it really came true.
“I’ve waited eight years. I was always kind of stubborn saying it had to be my terms. I wanted it to be the right type of thing, not just go out there and run. Here you go. It took a while, say what you want about it, but I’ve got a chance, and I promise you, I’m not going to let it slip through my fingertips.”
If the team runs well in its first five races, RCR vice president Mike Dillon has not ruled out continuing the gig – but of course, this is dependent upon finding sponsorship.
“Right now we’re focused on the five races we have, the sponsorship we have,” he said. “Obviously if we had more sponsorship come in, would we run the car further? We most definitely would take a look at that and just see what all it could entail. If it was enough to do it, probably. We don’t want to go at it halfway. We want to go at it with a winning effort, and as long as we we’re able to do that, yes, we’d probably add [to] it.”
RCR also announced that veteran road-course specialist Max Papis would join its Nationwide line-up when the series visits Road America, and will also serve as a driver coach for reigning Truck Series champion Austin Dillon, who will compete in the Nationwide Series with the famous no. 3 this season, and his younger brother Ty, who races in the Trucks.
“Max is a great addition to our driver lineup and to RCR overall,” said owner Richard Childress. “He has shown his talents in many different forms of auto racing all over the world and will be able to share that knowledge with our less experienced drivers.
“He's the perfect driver for the #33 Menards Chevrolet when the NASCAR Nationwide Series gets to Road America. Max also has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm wherever he is, at the track or the shop
Italian Papis, who briefly raced in Formula 1 for Footwork in 1995 before competing in Champ Car, raced full time in the Truck Series for Germain Racing last year, finishing eighteenth overall. His best result in NASCAR remains his second place finish at Montreal in the Nationwide Series in 2010, when he famously was overtaken by Boris Said in a drag race to the line coming off the final corner.