Can Richard Childress Racing Carry On Dale Earnhardt's Daytona 500 Legacy?

In a wide-open race where it seems like just about anyone can win, finding a favorite can be a tough thing to do.

But if there is one constant in restrictor-plate racing, it's that the cars owned by Richard Childress will almost certainly be toward the front of the field and contending for the win.

Longtime RCR driver Dale Earnhardt won a record 34 races in a variety of cars at Daytona, but mostly for Childress. His legacy stands today as perhaps the greatest restrictor-plate racer ever.

So when you drive for the man who owned Earnhardt's car – and who has won six championships and 100 races – being competitive in the Daytona 500 isn't just the expectation, it's the standard.

On Sunday, that attitude will be on full display as all four of the RCR cars are expected to be challenging for Childress' third victory in the Daytona 500 (Earnhardt and Kevin Harivick have one each).

Carrying the RCR flag Sunday will be Harvick, who took Childress to Victory Lane in this race in 2007 and is coming off consecutive seasons where he finished third in points.

Thus far, Harvick and two of his RCR brethren – Jeff Burton and Elliott Sadler – have had relatively quiet Speedweeks. At times, though, the trio has taken its turn up front, be it in last Saturday's non-points Budweiser Shootout or Thursday's twin qualifying races.

"I think it has been pretty calm," Harvick said Friday. "Obviously the results, we wish could be a little bit better. Our cars have been fast. Got caught up in an accident in the Shootout, and just made a bad decision yesterday (in the Gatorade Duel race).

"All in all, everything has gone well. We'll just keep the wheels, the engines, the fenders and everything on it for awhile on Sunday, and see where we wind up at the end. It should be a fun race."

Having an uneventful Daytona can't be said for the fourth RCR car driven by Paul Menard, who has crashed out of both races he's run and, as a result, will be starting the 500 in a backup car.

If there is a concern for RCR entering into the weekend, it would have to center on reliability – an issue which hampered the team a year ago. It was then that Burton and Harvick came into the 500 as heavy favorites, but neither made it to the halfway point as both were sidelined by engine failures.

It's an issue which might again rear its ugly head on Sunday, unless RCR can find a way to keep its engines cool.

"The temperatures are just way too hot; you can't really race," Harvick said after his Duel race, where he finished in the seventh position. "Everybody is just trying to position themselves for the last lap. The grilles are so tight that, at 240 degrees in the pack, you are just sitting there and you can't really make a move."

Harvick's teammate, Jeff Burton, agreed with that assessment.

"It's hard," he said. "They (engines) are borderline too hot. If you run too long, you get the engines too hot. It's just a real challenge. I think what you saw today is what you are going to see on Sunday. It's just hard to make any ground up. You make a move trying to be aggressive and you lose a spot. It's very much going to be a 'protect your position race' until you get yourself in the last little bit. Then, you are just going to have to go like hell and hope for the best."

In a race where the only thing you can expect is the unexpected, going like hell and hoping for the best sounds like a sound strategy.

It's a strategy which has served RCR well in the past – as it did Earnhardt himself – and should serve the team well again tomorrow.

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