Richard Childress Racing seems to be on a talent search. With regards to driver development, Austin Dillon and his brother Ty Dillon have both done well, with Austin certainly being a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series-level driver.
In the Camping World Truck Series, Childress has improving driver Joey Coulter, and although he has improved his consistency, his ceiling doesn’t appear to be at the Sprint Cup level yet. With the current situation unfolding, the No. 33 car seems to become a proving ground of sorts with regards to finding who team owner Richard Chidress will make his next development driver.
Ryan Gifford will be the eighth driver to step foot in the No. 33 this year. So far, the car has seen a mix of Sprint Cup Series talent such as Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, as well as other development options as Dakoda Armstrong and ThorSport driver Matt Crafton.
Gifford comes from Revolution Racing’s Drive for Diversity program, but due to his 24-year-old age, his window is closing while his ceiling is certainly not at the Sprint Cup Series level. But, this year has seen significant improvement in the NASCAR K&N East Series, including Gifford’s first victory in the series.
At Iowa Speedway, where Gifford will be debuting this Saturday, Gifford has an absolutely awful record for the level of equipment he has. Despite qualifying in the top 10 four out of five races, Gifford has finished on the lead lap only once, a fourth place run in 2011.
The comparisons to Darrell Wallace Jr. are impeccable because of the Drive for Diversity origins, and the fact that they will be making their Nationwide Series debuts at Iowa Speedway. But until Saturday night, the comparisons stop there. Wallace finished ninth in his debut, and it will certainly surprise a lot of people if Gifford does the same.
Ryan Gifford has never had an opportunity like this before, and depending on his performance Saturday, may never have another one like it again. Gifford’s driving style has never been frenetic or exciting frankly, for better or worse. But on Saturday, even just an average performance will not send teams clamoring for Ryan Gifford. With the combined expectations of the Drive for Diversity and due to his close relationship with Richard Childress, Ryan Gifford has plenty of critics including myself, which he will look to prove wrong Saturday in Iowa.
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