From the Marbles - NASCAR

Say this for Richard Childress: the man's not afraid of making a bold statement.

"This year is the year to kick Jimmie [Johnson] off that throne," he said at Tuesday's Media Tour event. "It's going to be RCR. I feel certain."

The man has reason to feel confident. One of his drivers, Kevin Harvick, was in the mix right until the final race of the season last year. Another, Clint Bowyer, would have been the breakout star of the Chase were it not for that little cheating penalty that torpedoed his season. A third, Jeff Burton, is a reliable competitor at every track on the circuit. And new kid Paul Menard? Well ... he won't have to worry about sponsorship, since he's got family money backing him. (All right, all right, and he did run decently enough early in the season.)

The 2010 season was a marked turnaround for Richard Childress Racing, a welcome change for the team after a disastrous 2009 in which no RCR driver made the Chase. Last year, all three of RCR's drivers raced their way into the postseason, and Harvick was the points leader throughout nearly the entire regular season.

RCR hasn't had a Cup champion since Dale Earnhardt in 1994. The team has suffered setbacks ever since Earnhardt's 2001 death, but finally appears poised to make a sustained charge at the top spot. 

"Nothing lasts forever in life, and [Johnson's] time will run out," Childress said. "When it does, RCR will be there with these drivers to win that championship. You get a gut feeling, and I've got that feeling this is the year. We're going to throw everything at it we can, and if we don't win it won’t be because we didn't give everything we got."

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