Childress team struggles

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

All of the NASCAR media eyes these day appear to be on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the woes of the No. 88 Chevrolet team at Hendrick Motorsports.

Latest speculation has it that Earnhardt's cousin and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. will be replaced sometime this week before the start of the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday.

But what isn't being talked about is the near abysmal performance over at the Richard Childress Racing shop. With a full one-third of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season in the record books RCR has only one of its four teams -- the No. 31 Chevrolet of Jeff Burton -- in the Chase.

There is talk that when RCR expanded to four teams for this season with Casey Mears joining Burton, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer it may have stretched their resources too far -- especially at a time when the economy is in the dumpster.

The team's recent showing at the Coca-Cola 600 is a glaring example of the mess it is in: The 31 team is 25th; the 07 team, 33rd; the 33 team, 36th and the 29 team, 41st.

This is a group that had all three of its teams in the Chase just two seasons ago.

If Rick Hendrick is allegedly panicking over what is happening with Earnhardt it's easy to imagine Richard Childress pulling out his well-scpulted hair over his team's efforts so far in 2009.

Danica and Paul

One of the surprising things to come out of last week's Indianapolis 500 was the congeniality between Danica Patrick -- the reigning princess of open wheel racing -- and Paul Tracy -- the longtime ogre of the sport.

Each took friendly digs at one another, with Tracy questioning why Patrick gets so much media attention and Patrick countering that Tracy was old when she was a little girl.

But after the race Patrick went out of her way to say nice things about the Canadian, who finished a respectable ninth in his first race in more than a year.

"He's very good out there, he makes things happen, you know," she said of the Toronto native. "He doesn't wait around for things to happen. He makes them happen.

"He had amazing restarts, and he was passing guys. He was going on the outside around a lot of cars, and he did it to me. And I went into (Turn) 1 side-by-side and side-by-side through (Turn) 2. He was hanging it out there."

Patrick also said she is happy that Tracy will race in the Indy Racing League events in Toronto and Edmonton, although she admitted that she's still a little fearful of the man known as the "Thrill from West Hill".

"I can't get into what's going through his head, that's for sure," she said. "But no, he's very good out there. So a guy like that ... another tough competitor, you're glad he's not around all the time because he's really good."

Tracy will replace Vitor Meira, who broke two vertebrae in his back in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, in Milwaukee this weekend.

Tagliani tops

Alex Tagliani officially was named rookie of the year at the 2009 Indy 500 after he drove his No. 36 Conquest Racing Dallara from 33rd to 11th, also earning the hard charger award.

Tagliani joins some of the greatest names in racing for the rookie award such as Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Rick Mears, Arie Luyendyk, Nigel Mansell and fellow Canadian Jacques Villeneuve.

"It's something that you only get one chance at winning so it's very special to have been chosen," Tagliani said. "It means a lot to me. It's been a month filled with ups and downs and so much emotion and this is the perfect way to close out my first Indy 500.

"Everything I went through, good and not so good, has been memorable and I can't wait to come back next year."

Carpentier gets job

Joliette. Que., native Patrick Carpentier will share the ride in the No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Toyota for the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season with Mike Skinner and Brian Simo. Skinner will drive 17 of the remaining 24 races on the 2009 schedule. Carpentier will drive both Poconos, the June 28 race at New Hampshire, the Sept. 12 race at Richmond and wrap up with the Sept. 27 race at Dover. Simo will drive the two road course events.


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