Richard Childress Racing announced on Wednesday that they are to merge operations in the Nationwide Series with Kevin Harvick, Inc. and that they will run a combined operation from the start of next season.
Under the deal, Elliott Sadler will retain the seat of the #2 car currently fielded by KHI, while a variety of RCR drivers will have outings in the #33 car. It's thought that the merger of RCR and KHI might also allow Childress to run a third Nationwide car for his grandson, current Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Dillon.
RCR stressed that Kevin Harvick and his wife DeLana who co-managed the team "will still be very active" in the Nationwide program, which will be run out of RCR's North Carolina base. Harvick won the Nationwide Series in 2001 for RCR, and Childress has delivered the technical support for KHI since it opened up in 2004. RCR had reduced its participation in Nationwide this season in favour of backing KHI's efforts.
"A few years ago, Richard Childress Racing moved its NASCAR Nationwide Series efforts to Kevin Harvick Inc. to assist KHI in strengthening its overall program," said Childress in a press statement. "When Kevin and DeLana decided they were interested in consolidating operations, it made sense to merge our efforts. RCR is committed to the Nationwide Series as part of our overall team and driver development efforts. This move will continue the close collaborative effort RCR and KHI have enjoyed for the past 10 years."
"DeLana and I are fortunate that Richard has always been supportive of KHI over the last 10 years," said Harvick. “We feel like this merger will benefit our on-track performance as well as provide our sponsors with more opportunity off track," adding that he and his wife were still very "excited about the Nationwide team's new direction."
The announcement puts a huge question mark over the future of KHI's Camping World Truck Series operation, which is not part of the Nationwide merger agreement with RCR.
In response to rumours last week that KHI would pull out of Truck competition, Harvick had simply replied that “The landscape of KHI will not be the same, I can promise you that ... There will definitely be some major changes."
With one shoe having dropped about the Nationwide Series, analysts expect the other show to drop with an announcement in Richmond on Friday - and that the Truck operation may be about to be shuttered.
KHI has won two driver and owner titles in the Truck series with Ron Hornaday since 2006. Hornaday won the last Truck race last week at Atlanta, completing a hattrick of KHI wins in the series with Harvick having won back-to-back victories in the preceding events.