During the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY season, nine drivers made a total of 132 starts for Richard Childress Racing (RCR). While Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones each ran the full schedule of 33 races, six other drivers rotated shifts in the No. 2 Chevrolet throughout the year.
Dillon began the season sitting on the pole for the Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway. He went on to lead two laps and finish the day 13th on the board. Although the No. 3 Chevrolet driver never visited Victory Lane, he picked up second-place finishes at the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond, American Ethanol E15 250 and US Cellular 250 in Iowa, Drive Sober 200 at Dover, and Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead.
The XFINITY series made history in 2016 as it was the first year that the Chase format was implemented. Although he led 47 in the first race of the ‘Round of 12’, the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 in Kentucky, Dillon’s championship hopes dampened after a late-race crash.
At the conclusion of the ‘Round of 12’ at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October, Dillon was eliminated. While he may not have made it all the way to Homestead in title contention, he still ended the season with nine top-five finishes as well as 17 top 10’s and led a total of 212 laps.
Gaughan was the second of two other drivers in the RCR stable to make the new NXS Chase. Like Dillon, the No. 62 South Point Chevrolet driver made the ‘Round of 12’ without any race wins. His best finish was at Road America in Wisconsin during the Road America 180 where finished in the runner-up position but led two laps.
Once he entered the Chase, Gaughan never finished lower than 13th in the ‘Round of 12’ which propelled him to the ‘Round of Eight’ where he would struggle. After a late-race incident at Kansas, he finished 31st. He went on to pick up a 15th-place finish at Texas but a crash at Phoenix would end title hopes for the Las Vegas, Nev. racer.
Despite being eliminated, Gaughan still enjoyed his Chase campaign. “It has been fun to be in the XFINITY Series Chase this year,” he said after Phoenix’s Ticket Galaxy 200 in an RCR post-race report. “I wish we would have had a better second round, but we will come back next year and try to do what we did in the first round through all three rounds.”
Gaughan ended the season with four top five’s, 16 top 10’s and 36 total laps led.
Rookie contender Brandon Jones rounded out the RCR’s Chase field. The No. 33 Chevrolet driver made it as far as the ‘Round of 12’. Jones had 12 top-10 finishes and like Gaughan, he led 36 laps throughout the season. His best finish of sixth place came at the Boyd Gaming 300 in Las Vegas back in March.
Once the playoffs began, Jones finished 26th at Kentucky, 17th at the Drive Sober 200 in Dover and 16th at Charlotte. “My expectation for this Chase was to make it as far as I possibly could,” Jones said in a post-race report after the Charlotte event. “I didn’t really set an expectation for where I wanted to end up. If you took away the poor finishes at Kentucky and Dover we would have been OK. I hate that we did not advance but it’s just part of the game. We’ll come back strong next year and go for it again.”
Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr., Ben Kennedy, Michael McDowell, Paul Menard and Regan Smith were among the six who strapped into the No. 2 Chevrolet, sponsored by Rheem, Ruud and Menard’s. The ride was responsible for earning three wins for RCR.
Dillon made a total of 19 NXS starts in the No. 2 Chevrolet. He was also scheduled to run the Drive Sober 200 at Dover. However, inclement weather postponed the race and made it a double header with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Due to Dillon’s commitments on the Cup side, Regan Smith stepped into the No. 2 machine and finished 13th. It would be the only start Smith would make for RCR.
After two fifth-place finishes at Daytona and Las Vegas and a seventh at Phoenix, Dillon got his first victory of the year in the No. 2 at the Treatmyclot.com 300 by Janssen in Fontana back in March. His next win came during the Bristol Motor Speedway’s August event, the Food City 300. In both these races, Dillon led very few laps. He led only the final cycle at Fontana and four laps at Bristol.
Although Hornish Jr. won Iowa’s American Ethanol E15 250 in June, it was not under the RCR banner. Piloting the Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 ‘Let’s Go Places’ Toyota, frequently occupied by Kyle Busch, he led a total of 183 laps.
Hornish Jr. made three RCR starts. In the few trips he took around the track, he never finished outside the top 10. His return visit to Iowa netted him a sixth-place finish in the No. 2 Chevrolet. At the Mid-Ohio Challenged, he sat on the pole, led eight laps and finished second. Hornish Jr’s final start of the season came in Kentucky where he finished fourth in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.
Ben Kennedy and Michael McDowell made only one RCR start but both drivers made the most of it. Kennedy finished 10th in the American Ethanol E15 250 while McDowell edged Gaughan at Road America to earn the Mid-Ohio Challenge race win, leading 24 laps in the process.
Paul Menard made eight starts in the No. 2 Chevrolet. He grabbed pole position for Darlington Raceway’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 where he led six laps but finished 20th. His best run was a second-place finish at Watkins Glen during the Zippo 200 at Glen. Menard also picked up top three’s at the Menard’s 250 at Michigan and the Lily Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis.
In addition to six laps at Michigan, Menard also was credited with leading one lap at Darlington. In very few starts, he earned four top five’s and six top 10’s.
Just before the Christmas holiday, Richard Childress Racing announced that they will field five rides in the team's 2017 XFINITY program. While Austin Dillon and Menard will both pilot the No. 2 Chevrolet, additional drivers will be announced at a later date.
Ty Dillon, Jones and Gaughan will continue their duties in the No’s 3, 33 and 62 and will again contend for the NXS championship. Daniel Hemric is moving up from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to join the fleet as a XFINITY rookie contender in the No. 21. machine.