The Clash at The Coliseum Left Little Doubt That RCR Is the Real Deal in 2023

In 2022, Richard Childress Racing enjoyed its best season as an organization since 2013 — Kevin Harvick’s final year with RCR. 

If this past weekend’s Clash at The Coliseum is any indication, the company owned and founded by NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Richard Childress could be even better this year.

That’s not exactly surprising, of course, based on who RCR added to its 2023 NASCAR Cup Series driver lineup.

RCR has set the stage for 2023 success with the hiring of superstar Kyle Busch

When Richard Childress Racing announced in September that Kyle Busch would join the organization this year, it represented the biggest and most shocking free agent signing of the 2022-2023 NASCAR Cup Series “Silly Season.”

It was big because Busch, with 60 career Cup Series wins and over 200 wins among NASCAR’s three national series, is a generational talent and widely considered one of the best to ever sit behind the wheel of a stock car.

It was shocking for two reasons. One is that Busch, who joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 after a three-year stint with Hendrick Motorsports, was expected to finish out his Cup career with JGR — the organization where he’s captured both of his Cup championships and has earned 56 of his 60 Cup victories. But when contract negotiations broke down and JGR was unable to offer Busch a contract extension into 2023 due to lack of sponsorship on his No. 18 Toyota, the 37-year-old Las Vegas native needed a new home and found it in the unlikeliest of places — an organization run by a guy, Richard Childress, who punched him in the face multiple times during a garage area altercation at Kansas Speedway in 2011.

Putting their colorful history behind them, Busch and Childress just so happened to need each other at the same time and formed an unlikely pairing that some skeptics believe won’t pan out to either’s liking.

Whether the Busch-Childress combination ultimately yields the results that both parties want remains to be seen, but the early returns are encouraging — not just for Busch and Childress but for RCR as a whole.

Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon are off to a solid start as teammates

Neither Kyle Busch nor teammate Austin Dillon managed to keep their nose clean in Sunday night’s exhibition race on the makeshift quarter mile at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but who did?

The Clash at The Coliseum featured all manner of beating and banging and spinning and wrecking from start to finish, which is what you’d expect for a non-points event on a short, narrow track that offers minimal room to race.

Despite both Richard Childress Racing drivers having a newsworthy dustup with another driver — Dillon with Bubba Wallace, and Busch with Joey Logano — Dillon and Busch finished second and third, respectively, behind race winner Martin Truex Jr. For RCR to take two of the top three finishing positions was especially impressive considering that Busch was on the receiving end of his run-in with Logano and had to rally from a costly spin.

While it’s hard to make sweeping conclusions from one race about how an organization will perform over the course of a season, Dillon and Busch sent a strong signal that RCR may well be poised to surpass its four-win mark from 2022 when Tyler Reddick went to Victory Lane three times, Dillon prevailed once, and both drivers were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.

Busch, who replaced Reddick this year in RCR’s No. 8 Chevy after Reddick decided to leave for 23XI Racing, might have an ego the size of Texas, but it doesn’t do anything to diminish his talent and will to win. Busch’s comments after the Clash would also suggest that he’s keen on joining Dillon — Childress’ grandson — in the effort to make RCR even better than it was in 2022.

“Austin and I worked hard together today on, A, working together, but, B, all the information to put ourselves in the best possible spot,” Busch said during his post-race media availability. “Good collaboration between the RCR bunch.”

Dillon — who has four Cup Series wins in nine full-time seasons with his grandfather’s organization — concurred with his new teammate.

“I’ll just echo what Kyle said,” said Dillon, who took part in the same post-race media availability as Busch. “It was really fun. Our car was really good. … Felt like if we could just maintain, we could have a shot. 

“Kyle helped me there at the end. He knew we had a fast car, so let me try and got a shot at Martin. That was nice, so, hopefully, I can pay back the favor when we go to Daytona, and we’ll work together well. It’s a great start for all of us.”

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If the Clash at The Coliseum gave the NASCAR world one takeaway, it’s that the RCR boys are going to stick together and not go down without a fight this year — and that can only be bad news for the competition.