MENCS: Richard Childress Racing 2016 Review, 2017 Preview

The Richard Childress Racing stable included three entries all throughout the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. That stable included drivers Austin Dillon, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman when the green flag dropped at Daytona International Speedway in February. The one of the most well-known racing teams in NASCAR entered the season in 2016 looking to rebound on the success.

Austin Dillon, the youngest and newest driver at Richard Childress Racing, had the most success at RCR in 2016. Dillon, running his third full-time season in the premier series, started the year with a ninth-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The finish tied his best in the “Great American Race” as he finished ninth there back in 2014.

Atlanta Motor Speedway would result in a finish just outside the top 10 after starting the event in eighth. The next two races, at Las Vegas and Phoenix, Dillon would take his No. 3 Chevrolet to a pair of top 10 finishes. The next five races the team would find some struggles as they would finish in the top 10 in only one of those.

The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team would find some momentum in race 10 and 11 at Talladega and Kansas. The two events would result in finishes inside the top 10. They would then find struggles again over the next seven races by placing only two more top 10 finishes as the series went into the halfway point. The North Carolina native would be sitting 14th in points going into the second-half of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Dillon started the second-half of the season by qualifying 15th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He would then take his No. 3 Chevrolet to a 13th-place finish in the New Hampshire 301. The very next weekend, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Dillon would score his ninth top 10 finish of the season in the Brickyard 400. He then would finish out the regular season on a slippery slope as he would only capture one top 10 over the next six races.

By being 14th in points following Richmond, Dillon would squeeze himself into the Chase. He would finish 14th, 16th and eighth at Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover to advance into the next ‘Round of 12’. The next weekend at Charlotte, race 30 on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar, Dillon would have his day end short after getting into a crash on lap 260 that involved 12 drivers on the frontstretch. He would not continue and would finish the Bank of America 500 in 32nd. He would finish the final two races of the ‘Round of 12’ inside the top 10 at Kansas and Talladega. However, despite regaining momentum after the crash at Charlotte, Dillon would not advance into the ‘Round of 8’

Dillon’s best finish in the final four races would be a 12th-place finish in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dillon would start on the pole at Texas Motor Speedway but finish 37th because of a crash on lap 257. He and the team would have misfortune the very next week at Phoenix International Raceway after finishing 39th on the board.

The No. 3 racing team would finish the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with four top five and 13 top 10s. They would end the year with an average finish of 15.9 after completing 97.7 percent of the laps. They would have a clean year with only three total DNF’s.

Paul Menard entered the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season looking to regain the momentum that he had lost the year prior. In 2014, Menard totaled five top five and 13 top 10 finishes – marking his best season in the premier series since running full-time.

Menard and the No. 27 Chevrolet racing team did not start out strong when the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season began. Menard took his bright yellow No. 27 Chevrolet to an 18th-place finish in the season opening Daytona 500. Over the next two races, at Atlanta and Las Vegas, Menard would capture an 18th and a 15th-place finish to put him 18th in the standings early on.

The Phoenix International Raceway would throw the team an even more curveball. Menard would get into a single-car crash over in turn three on lap 107 that would end his day. The Wisconsin native started 16th and would take home a disappointing 38th-place run.

The very next week, at Auto Club Speedway, Menard would leave the two-mile oval with a 15th-place finish. The very next weekend at Martinsville Speedway would be their strongest race of the year. Menard started fourth and found himself leading 10 of the 500 laps of the event. When the checkered-flag waved to end the event – Menard sat eighth on the leaderboard. It would end up being his first of three top-10s all season long.

The next four of the five races would all be struggles for the racing team once again. Four of these resulted in finishes outside the top 20 that included a 40th-place at Kansas Speedway where they suffered an engine issue. The race where he finished inside the top 20 was a 15th at Bristol Motor Speedway in April.

The Dover International Speedway would be good fortune for the team as they would qualify 19th and finish the AAA 400 in 11th. Despite having some momentum, it wouldn’t carry over in the next five races as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season went into the halfway point. Menard’s best finish over this five-race stretch would come at Sonoma Raceway with a 16th.  They would also have their night cut short at Daytona International Speedway after being involved in a crash over in turn one that involved 22 cars. Menard would finish the July event at Daytona in the 36th position.

Races 18 and 19, at Kentucky and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Menard would capture a pair of 18th-place finishes in his No. 27 ride. He would start both races from the 24th starting spot. Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be an even better race for the organization as Menard would capture his second top 10 finish of the year at the 2.5-mile historic track.

Menard would place outside the top 20 in four of the six remaining events in the regular season. Despite being 26th in points – Menard would not make the Chase as he did not score a victory in the first 26 events of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

He would finish out the long and grueling season with three top 15 finishes in the final 10 races of the year. The best of those came in the 35th event of the year at Phoenix International Raceway where he finished 10th after starting in 20th. The worst of those came at Charlotte where he finished 34th due to a crash on lap 258.

Menard completed the season with an average finish of 22.0 and completed 92.8 percent of the laps ran in 2016. He had three top 10 finishes and six DNF’s over the course of the year.

Ryan Newman entered his third full-time season with Richard Childress Racing and his 15th full-time season in NASCAR’s premier series in 2016. Newman ended 2015 with five top five and 15 top 10 finishes in his No. 31 Chevrolet. The team certainly entered the 2016 season looking to start right where they left off.

Newman started the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in the 38th position. However, with Daytona being a ginormous facility, it doesn’t matter where a driver starts as they can overcome positions rather quickly. Newman and the team would sit 11th when he crossed the finish line at the end of the ‘Great American Race’.

The next four races would result in finishes outside the top 10. He would start fourth in race two at Atlanta Motor Speedway and finish the day all the way back in 24th. One of those included a 39th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway where Newman would be involved in a single-car crash on lap 53. His best finish through those four races came at Las Vegas with a 13th.

Newman would go into Martinsville Speedway looking to gain a little traction. He would qualify fifth and take his No. 31 Grainger Chevrolet to a 10th-place finish. Newman would capture another top 10 finish two races later at Bristol Motor Speedway with a ninth. Richmond and Talladega would result in finishes outside the top-18.

Kansas Speedway would be another great weekend for Newman that would result in another top-10 run. The Indiana native would start eighth and take his ride to a seventh-place finish. Kansas would be the site of his third top-10 run of the year in the 11th race of the season. He would score a 16th the very next weekend at Dover before going on another stretch of solid finishes.

Over the next five events, as the series heads into the halfway point of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Newman would capture four top 12 finishes in five of those races. The only finish outside the top 12 during that stretch came at Daytona International Speedway with an 18th.

Newman would start the second-half of the season with a 14th-place start. He would then take his No. 31 Chevrolet to a third-place run at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway. The third-place would tie his best finish at the oval since finishing third there back in 2014. This would place Newman 12th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver standings.

With the second-half of the year underway, Newman would back the finish at Kentucky up the very next race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. After starting in 25th, he would take his No. 31 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet to a seventh-place run. This would give the driver momentum as the series went into the fall portion of the schedule.

Over the course of the next three races, Newman would start each of these in the top 10. However, despite the top 10 starts, those starts wouldn’t transfer over to finishes in the top 10. Newman’s day would be cut short at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at lap 166 due to a crash involving three other cars. He would be scored 31st at the end of the Brickyard 400. He would then take home a 12th at Pocono and a 16th at Watkins Glen International over the next two weeks.

The next two events, at Bristol Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway, Newman would find himself upfront and leading at one point during both races. However, when the checkered flag fell, the Indiana native crossed the line in 28th and 17th. This would place him 14th in points going into the Chase cutoff at Richmond International Raceway.

Newman would go into Richmond International Raceway looking to capture a solid finish to secure a spot into the Chase. He would start the Federated Auto Parts 400 in 15th behind the wheel of his No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet. He would take his ride to a 28th-place finish and would not lock himself into the Chase.

Newman would go the rest of the season scoring two top 10 finishes at Charlotte and Texas. In the season finale at Homestead, Newman would have his day cut short after being involved in a crash on lap 259. Despite completing 264 of 268 laps, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran would finish 25th on the leaderboard.

He would finish out the season completing 97.1 percent of the laps in 2017 and would have an average finish of 15.7. Newman finished the year with two top five and 10 top 10 finishes. He had a total of three DNFs all throughout the year.

All three drivers will be returning to the Richard Childress Racing stable in 2017. Austin Dillon will return for his forth full-time season with the team in 2017. Menard will embark on his ninth full-time season in the series. The upcoming year will mark Menard's fifth year at RCR in the No. 27 machine. Newman will pilot the No. 31 Chevrolet for his fourth season under the RCR banner in 2017. It will mark the veteran racer's 16th full-time year in the series. 

Brett Winningham

Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.