Dear Richard Childress: An Open Letter Of Apology To NASCAR Team Owner

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 31: Paul Menard (R), driver of the #27 NIBCO/Menards Chevrolet, and team owner Richard Childress (L) pose with the trophy in front of the pagoda after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 31, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dear Richard,

Wow. How about that Brickyard 400 on Sunday, eh? A Richard Childress Racing driver won the damn thing, and it wasn't Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer or Jeff Burton.

It was Paul Menard. You and Paul and the whole team knelt down at the Yard of Bricks and kissed those things like it was prom night. Afterward, you came into the media center and made a comment that brought back some memories for me.

"I caught a lot of flak back early last year when we decided to go with four teams," you said.

Flak? Oh, right. Like when your critics suggested you were simply signing Menard as a money grab for his family's sponsorship dollars and not because really you thought he was a capable driver.

I was among the people who doubted you. In fact, I wrote a not-so-nice commentary titled "What?! Richard Childress Says Paul Menard 'Has Got What It Takes To Win'" and said it was "insulting" for you to try and convince us your decision was about competition and not finances.

At the time, you said, "If you look back at some of the races I've watched over the last few years, he's got what it takes to win. It takes the right place and the right equipment."

I was openly skeptical about that claim and basically laughed in your face – in print. Not only was that rude, of course, but I was very, very wrong.

Whoops. My bad!

To be frank, this is the second year in a row that I've felt like an idiot after the Brickyard 400. Jamie McMurray won last year's race – powered by one of your ECR engines, of course – and I realized I had been wrong to call him a mediocre driver.

Anyone who wins the Brickyard – I don't care how it happens – is a good driver. Period. Winning a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is never a fluke.

So about the part of last year's commentary where I speculated Menard didn't have the talent to win Sprint Cup Series races? My bad on that, too.

I'll be honest: At the time, much of my skepticism of your hiring decision stemmed from the John Wes Townley fiasco.

When you hired Townley, it seemed like the driver fans referred to as "John Wrecks Townley" was one of the least-talented racers in the sport. So I was certain that you were just interested in the Zaxby's sponsorship money that Townley brought with him – a theory that only grew stronger when you took Townley out of the car after just a few races.

Thinking back on it now, though, maybe you honestly felt you could turn Townley into a decent driver when you hired him. And when you discovered he was really that bad, you couldn't keep putting him out there every week and have him tear up your vehicles.

It makes a little more sense now. But certainly, Menard is no Townley anyway. As you pointed out, Menard takes care of his equipment, keeps a cool head and has a Nationwide Series victory on his resume.

And now he's a Brickyard 400 champion, too.

So, Richard – er, Mr. Childress – I owe you a public apology today. I'm sorry that I doubted you. You were right about Paul Menard, and I was wrong about both Menard and your motives.

I would literally eat crow if I had some, but I don't. However, I know you're an avid hunter, so if you shoot a crow on your next outdoors trip and get one of your chefs at RCR to cook it up for me, I'd be glad to give it a try over dinner.

I'd only ask one thing of you: Since I've apologized now, please keep your watch on for the entire meal.


Jeff Gluck

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