Richard Childress loves racing. He also has a passion for making wine. Good thing the Childress wine empire is doing well, because his racing empire drove many fans to drink this season, enough to be the No. 9 Story of 2010.

What Happened?

Richard Childress Racing had arguably its worst season ever. Its four drivers failed to win a race or pole. Three drivers made the Chase in 2008. None qualified in 2009. Clint Bowyer finished 15th in points and was the only driver to have the same crew chief all year. Jeff Burton finished 17th and tried out a new career. Kevin Harvick was 19th in points and was widely rumored to be angling for a way out of his contract to run a third team with Tony Stewart. Casey Mears finished 21st in points, lost his sponsorship and is dangerously close to riding the Poopcan Express. Good thing Childress makes a nice cabernet.

Where are we now?
To the credit of team Childress, it seemed to rebound the final 12 races of the year when Bowyer, Harvick and Burton were all in the top 12 in points. As for Mears, RCR is looking for a sponsor. And while Childress has kind things to say about Mears, he also told reporters he won’t run a fourth team without a sponsor. Some have argued RCR will be better circling the wagons around three teams. Others believe Mears was picking up momentum at the end of 2009. As for Harvick, he and his sponsor are riding out 2010. But we all know that writers and bloggers look for any excuse to fire up the hot stove and Harvick’s status already has led some to preheat the oven, especially if Whopper Man is serious about expanding to three teams.

Why should you care?

Because you love America. It’s important for a manufacturer to have success with multiple teams. Tony Stewart’s shop is more or less an extension of Hendrick. When RCR and EGR do well, it helps convince Chevy to keep spending money on the sport, which is an impressive feat when you look at GM’s stock price. From a racing standpoint, someone needs to step up and compete with Hendrick. RCR’s drivers aren’t intimidated, but they weren’t fast enough to run up front this season. When more teams are competitive, it makes for better racing. Better racing makes it more enjoyable sit at home and drink beer on Sunday. Sorry Richard, merlot (even yours, which is tasty) just doesn’t work on race day.

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