Two years ago, one of the three teams that was going after a championship was one that has long been a dominant team. But since that time, it has been a question of wondering what has occurred, or what changed.
Now, heading into 2013, Richard Childress Racing is in a situation that is very unfamiliar, at least in their experience.
Heading into the new year, the team will field three cars, just like one year ago. Last year, among all the RCR drivers, the organization only saw one victory, a very drastic change from the year prior. Changes in personnel during the year helped, but the connection didn't have the desired effect. Now, as the new year is set to kick off, the commitment level among one driver is already up in the air.
Here's a look at RCR's trio for the Sprint Cup Series in 2013:
Kevin Harvick: No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet SS
It's not very often that entering a new season, the talk is about what is to happen the following year. But in the case of "Happy" Harvick, all the talk has been about 2014, not the new 2013 season. Before the season even began, Harvick and RCR announced that this year would be the final year for Harvick in the No. 29.
Rumors were already out late last year that he may be heading to Stewart-Haas Racing, but nothing was confirmed then, nor now. After taking over the No. 29, which used to be Dale Earnhardt's No. 3, it has been a career of highs and lows. Daytona 500 victories, Rookie of the Year honors, and many other great moments.
Last year, the team had a very off-year. His only win came in the next-to-last race at Phoenix, and he only had five top-fives and 14 top-10's.
As questions of his future continue to pour in, the commitment he will have to going out on a high note for RCR is also up in the air. If Harvick has his way, he'll be like Ray Lewis and leave with a trophy in hand.
Paul Menard: No. 27 Menards Chevrolet SS
In 2011, the driver with sponsorship from his fathers company decided to be one of many shocking drivers in the season. In a year that already saw Trevor Bayne capture the Daytona 500, then Regan Smith winning the Southern 500, it was Menard that saved enough fuel then out-ran Jeff Gordon to capture his first career win at the Brickyard.
One year later, it was not a year that Menard would want to write home about.
Menard would only capture one top-five and nine top-10's to close out the year. Menard is back with RCR for his third year, hoping to continue to build and find success on the track.
Jeff Burton: No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS
For a man that has been nicknamed the "Mayor" of the garage area, Jeff Burton has not been speaking as much. When he does, people listen, but it has been years since Burton has spoke of success in victory lane.
Much like the rest of RCR one year ago, his statistics were not exactly the best to write home about. He went winless, only scored two top-fives and six top-10's to close out the year. Burton has prided himself on being a leader in the garage area, and currently with the knowledge that Harvick is leaving the RCR camp, this is also Burton's opportunity to become the leader of the organization.
His veteran leadership and experience will pay more dividends as the year progresses, keeping the teams together and focused on a common goal at the end of the year.
Watch for the "Mayor" to be making many speeches as the year progresses.
Final Sprint Cup Preview: Stewart-Haas Racing