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RCR riding wave of optimism into Richmond

As Richard Childress Racing began piling up top-10 finishes last fall and into the spring, it became clear RCR again could be competitive with the big boys.

As Richard Childress Racing began piling up top-10 finishes last fall and into the spring, it became clear RCR again could be competitive with the big boys.

But after going one Sprint Cup season and 13 races without a single victory for a Childress driver, RCR needed a bit more affirmation before it could issue a collective shout of, "We're back. We're really, really back."

Well, the shouting started last Sunday at Talladega, where Kevin Harvick got a victory. And, even better for RCR, chances are super solid the shouting will grow louder this weekend in Saturday night's Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

All three RCR drivers -- Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Harvick -- have won races at Richmond. And Childress is tied for fourth with iconic Bud Moore for owner victories with seven.

"I think it's really good for us because Richmond, if it's not our best racetrack, then it is definitely in the top three tracks for us," said Harvick, who won the fall Richmond race in 2006. "Even when we ran badly last year, we still ran strongly at Richmond."

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RCR drivers have been running strongly about everywhere in recent months. All three drivers are in the top 12 in points. All have top-10 finishes this year and all had almost won races when they arrived at Talladega a week ago.

But one of them, any of them, needed to stand up and get rid of that "almost won" thing.

"We've missed out on opportunities," Bowyer said. "We've had 'em. Seems like at the end of these races, it's a crapshoot on whether to take two, no tires, four tires, what's goi ng to win the race. We just haven't been able to find that right combination."

Harvick did the honors at Talladega and did it with the flair of a move on the front stretch on the final lap.

But it was everybody at RCR who exhaled and then celebrated.

"That," Childress said late Sunday afternoon, "is about as sweet as it gets."

Things remained sweet this week at the team's headquarters.

"You know," Bowyer said earlier this week, "I think everybody at RCR is riding high right now. Everybody is excited. Everybody has a pep in their step. Our cars are running good. We got a reason to."

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Bowyer would like to add more pep to his personal step. A Chase driver in 2007 and 2008, he fell backward -- along with the rest of the RCR drivers -- last year. He finished 15th in points and failed to win a race.

His last visit to victory lane came in the spring 2008 at Richmond, where Bowyer has an average finish of 10th in Cup cars.

"The best thing about it is we're running in the top five, running up front," Bowyer said. "If you continue doing that, you're going to get you a win. That's what we need right now with our team in particular. We need to get a win and get that confidence, get that monkey off our back and prove to ourselves that we can do this."

Bowyer will start the race 11th in points -- narrowly inside the Chase cutoff point--and is focused on moving up, even this early in the season.

"You know," he said, "we need to be a lot more solid in the Chase than just 11th. I'm not comfortable at all where we're at right now. I feel the way our cars are running, you know, the direction I feel like we're headed with RCR, I think all three of our teams are going to be in the Chase. It's up to us to make that happen."

Fast facts

What: Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 400

Where: Richmond International Raceway

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When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

TV: Fox, 6 p.m.

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: .75-mile

Race distance: 400 laps/300 miles

Estimated pit window: 85-95 laps

Qualifying: Friday, 5:40 p.m. ET

2009 winner: Kyle Busch

2009 polesitter: Brian Vickers

Points leaders

1. Jimmie Johnson, 1,323; 2. Kevin Harv ick, 1,297; 3. Greg Biffle, 1,237; 4. Matt Kenseth, 1,224; 5. Kyle Busch, 1,163; 6. Mark Martin, 1,154; 7. Kurt Busch, 1,146; 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 1,142; 9. Denny Hamlin, 1,138; 10. Jeff Gordon, 1,130; 11. Clint Bowyer, 1,086; 12. Jeff Burton 1,082; 13. Carl Edwards, 1,067; 14. Tony Stewart, 1,061; 15. Martin Truex Jr., 1,045; 16. Joey Logano, 1,001; 17. Jamie McMurray, 998; 18. Ryan Newman, 995; 19. Paul Menard, 962; 20. Juan Pablo Montoya, 959

2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Results

Feb. 6 -- x-Budweiser Shootout (Kevin Harvick)

Feb. 11 -- x-Gatorade Duel 1 (Jimmie Johnson)

Feb. 11 -- x-Gatorade Duel 2 (Kasey Kahne)

Feb. 14 -- Daytona 500 (Jamie McMurray)

Feb. 21 -- Auto Club 500 (Johnson)

Feb. 28 -- Shelby American, Las Vegas (Johnson)

March 7 -- Kobalt Tools 500 (Kurt Busch)

March 21 -- Food City 500, Bristol, Tenn. (Johnson)

March 28 -- Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500, Martinsville, Va. (Denny Hamlin)

April 10 -- Subway Fresh Fit 600, Avondale, Ariz. (Ryan Newman)

April 18 -- Samsung Mobile 500, Fort Worth, Texas (Hamlin)

April 25 -- Aaron's 499, Talladega, Ala. (Harvick)

May 1 -- Heath Calhoun 400, Richmond, Va.

May 8 -- Southern 500, Darlington, S.C.

May 16 -- Autism Speaks 400, Dover, Del.

May 22 -- x-Sprint Showdown, Concord, N.C.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
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