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Next year's driver lineup remains murky for RCR

September 18, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

JOLIET, Ill. -- Childress: Still trying, but if opportunity comes for Bowyer, he needs to take it

In a perfect world, Richard Childress and Clint Bowyer would stay together. The car owner and driver have a good relationship, and Bowyer lives near the Richard Childress Racing shop in Welcome, N.C. But in a sport dependent on sponsorship dollars, nothing stays perfect forever.

"We want him. He wanted to stay. It was a perfect situation," Childress said Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, site of Sunday's opening Chase event. "He lives there, the race shop is there. Everything is perfect for us to stay together, except the dollars. It's a whole different environment."

"If I'm going to spend the money, I'm going to spend it on the family."

--RICHARD CHILDRESS

And as a result, RCR's plans for its fourth car next season seem as unsettled as the weather over the Chicago area on Sunday. Bowyer is talking with Michael Waltrip Racing about a potential ride with that team, RCR is weighing its options for its No. 33 car, and anything could happen from a sponsored ride with a prominent driver, to that program dropping down to the Nationwide Series and RCR fielding only three cars on the Sprint Cup level next season.

Only one thing seems certain -- the odds of Bowyer returning to RCR's No. 33 car next season appear very slim. "Honestly, we're still trying today," Childress said. "But we both agreed that if the opportunity comes for him, he needs to take it. Because he can't sit here and wait for us. But we're still trying to put something together for him this week, and last week. But the day he does something and he tells me, we've put two or three other names in there."

Waltrip and Bowyer each confirmed Friday that the two sides were talking. "It would be a good home, and something that I would be excited about," said Bowyer, in the final year of his contract with RCR. The three-time Chase participant would be a big addition for MRW, which has won two races but has yet to earn a playoff berth with its current lineup of David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr.

At RCR, so much seems in flux. Childress wants to run grandson Ty Dillon next season in the organization's No. 3 Truck Series entry, which is currently sponsored by Bass Pro Shops. He wants to move grandson Austin Dillon, who is currently a championship contender in the No. 3 truck, into a yet-to-be-numbered Nationwide Series entry. Austin is scheduled to make his Sprint Cup debut later this year at Kansas in a car fielded by Mike Curb, but even if the No. 33 were available, Childress doesn't want to push his grandson into a full-time ride on the sport's premier circuit before he's ready.

"If I'm going to spend the money, I'm going to spend it on the family," said Childress, who on Sunday was also named to the 2012 class of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala. "If I did, I'd put Austin in it. But I'm not going to push him. He needs another solid year in Nationwide racing full time."

Dillon won his second Truck Series event of the season Friday night in Chicagoland. His move into the Nationwide tour next year would coincide with the cars from Kevin Harvick Inc. being moved to RCR. Dillon has made four Nationwide starts this season, and finished in the top-10 three times.

"It's very important to have a great ending to the Truck Series this year and move into next year," Dillon said Friday night. "We're going to have to put a lot of work into the offseason. We've expanded a bunch over there. It will be a brand new team, kind of like when we opened up two years ago ... Looking forward to next year and going Nationwide racing."

But Sunday Childress wasn't ruling anything out, including the possibility of dropping that whole No. 33 program down to the Nationwide level with Austin, or having Austin drive a limited number of Sprint Cup events in a car he would share with another driver. But it appears Childress' preference would be to find sponsorship to run that car full-time on the Sprint Cup level. Childress said "several companies" are interested in that prospect, though none for the full 2012 campaign. And he has a list of four or five drivers as possibilities for the seat.

"You can just look at list of drivers that don't have rides next year," he said without elaboration. Brian Vickers and Mark Martin are the most prominent names without a ride secured for next season. Childress said he hopes to have the whole picture clarified in four to five weeks.

"It's hard today to sell complete sponsorship," Childress said. "It's tougher than it's ever been, so we just have to do our best with it."

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