Richard Childress Racing Struggles Before Chase Come At Worst Possible Time

Richard Childress Racing started the month of August full of steam and momentum, looking like an organization ready to battle for the championship. 

Paul Menard had just scored the dramatic win at Indianapolis and entered the Chase wild card discussion, Kevin Harvick was among the favorites to knock off Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer was nipping at the heels of a Chase spot. 

Yet as the the month of August comes to an end and with the Chase just two races away, RCR appears to be coming apart at the worst possible time.

Granted, there is no "good time" for a team to struggle, but an organization never wants to find itself scrambling for answers while others are preparing for the championship battle. 

While things have been backsliding for weeks, the wheels seemed to fall off this weekend at Bristol. Throughout much of the race, none of the four RCR teams were on the lead lap. 

Menard has essentially been eliminated from the wild card discussion, since finishing outside the top 25 in the last three races has dropped him to 20th in the standings, Jeff Burton's dismal season has yet to improve, Bowyer seems more distracted by contract negotiations and Harvick has lost that early season form that led to three victories. 

The ongoing contract situation with Clint Bowyer, and the attention that has brought, appears to have caused tension within the team, with multiple reports saying team owner Richard Childress has given Bowyer the go-ahead to shop around to other teams.

Bowyer remains steadfast in saying he is focused on making this year's Chase, but his performance Saturday night showed there is still a lot of work to do. Starting 16th, Bowyer fell to the back of the pack from the drop of the green flag and was multiple laps down to the race leaders throughout the night.

"To come out and be this far off was the last thing we needed right now," he said. "We had the opportunity to gain major ground on the other Chase contenders and we blew it."With things continuing to unravel behind the scenes for Bowyer, making the Chase my be more difficult than ever.

While Bowyer may have blew a chance to make up ground on his Chase competitors, it was Harvick that nearly blew his gasket.

Also struggling for the majority of Saturday night's race, Harvick warned of a "meltdown" if things did not improve. Things have not been going as planned for the 29 team as of late, recording only one top-10 in the last seven races. Changes were made at the pit crew coach position, and Harvick was optimistic about the progress made at the shop last week, but the struggles continued.

Harvick said Friday in Bristol he felt RCR was "in good shape" for the Chase, but the organization's performance at Bristol seemed to prove otherwise.

Two races remain before the Chase field is set, and then the focus for Harvick needs to be on winning the title. Harvick has dealt with struggles and overcome them in the past, the question remains: Can they be overcome in time to be a threat for the championship?

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