Richard Childress Racing staring at uncertain future

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The loss of Kevin Harvick and Budweiser has created a state of flux at Richard Childress Racing. An analysis of where the organization goes from here.

The news of Kevin Harvick moving to Stewart-Haas Racing next season and taking his Budweiser sponsorship with him was not a surprise. Neither was SHR's decision to jettison Ryan Newman to clear a seat for Harvick due to a lack of resources.

Both of these transactions were expected and all we were waiting on was the official confirmation.

But the next piece to the puzzle that is known as silly season is more convoluted. As it involves a lot of moving parts and pertains to what happens at Richard Childress Racing in the aftermath of Harvick's departure.

With an available seat to a car that has won two races this season and again will make the Chase for a fourth consecutive year, RCR provides an immediate opportunity for a driver to join a championship-caliber organization. And of the rides available for 2014, the No. 29 is the only team you can say this about.

All of which means team owner Richard Childress will have no shortage of drivers to pick from.

The two leading candidates to replace Harvick are Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.

While thinly masking his frustration with how the events played out at SHR, Newman laid out exactly what he is seeking in a new employer on Friday.

"I can't say I'm happy with how everything unfolded," Newman said at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "...I want to be wanted for my ability. ...I want to be competitive. I'm not going to go out there and just find a ride. I want to find a ride with somebody that has the same goals and perspectives as I do."

Of the teams with openings, potential or otherwise, RCR best fits the description of what Newman wants. And the feeling is mutual, as Childress told Fox Sports Newman was at the top of his list.

As for Busch, he has rejuvenated his career at Furniture Row Racing and has the single-car team on the cusp of an unprecedented Chase bid.

But the 2004 Cup champion wants to win races and contend for another title, and while the results this season have far exceeded expectations, Busch still hasn't won a race since September 2011 when he was driving for Penske Racing.

"We have these eight weeks to focus on getting into the Chase, but then it's not going to change anything if we're in the Chase because I want to run for the championship," Busch said. "Also contract negotiations and things are in discussion, but you try not to let that weigh any of what's going on right now. Right now is the most important thing.

"That's some of the things going on behind the scenes too. There are a lot of irons in the fire."

Busch's temperament would mesh nicely with Childress, an owner who has shown a knack for getting the most out of aggressive, emotional drivers. But there is doubt whether Busch wants to leave the pressure-free confines of Furniture Row.

More so, there is reservation whether RCR can find a sponsor willing to back a driver whose history of public outbursts is still fresh in the minds of many.

The wild card in all this is Austin Dillon, the grandson of Childress.

It's all but a given Dillon will move up to Cup next season and the team will reintroduce the stylized white No. 3, which hasn't been used since the death of Dale Earnhardt. And with Paul Menard and Jeff Burton under contract for 2014 -- and fully sponsored -- the addition of Dillon along with either Busch or Newman would require RCR to expand to four cars.

The team has the infrastructure in place to support such a move, but what it doesn't have is enough funding. And with Budweiser leaving, RCR is in need of a primary sponsor for 20 races on the No. 29 car.

Bringing in Dillon, who has a loyal following, in addition to bringing back the No. 3 should be an enticing proposition for a potential sponsor as the media coverage will be significant. But finding additional sponsorship to support Busch or Newman is going to be a challenge in an economic climate where sponsors are still leery of investing in NASCAR.

So as the pieces begin to fit, speculation will continue on what will transpire next. But the next domino to fall in the Sprint Cup Series will indeed involve the happenings at RCR. And as of now, that future is clouded in a haze of uncertainty.

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