Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RCR Phoenix Preview: Burton, Harvick and Bowyer looking to Recreate Past Phoenix Success

Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet Impala

Race Notes and Quotes
This Week’s Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway …Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 322 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for 2010, this Chevrolet made its debut at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September, where Harvick finished fifth. Additionally, Harvick piloted this chassis at Martinsville three weeks ago, where he led six times for 97 laps and scored his career-first Martinsville top five and finished third.

Career Phoenix Stats … The Kobalt Tools 500 marks Harvick’s 357th career start in the NSCS.

  • In 15 NSCS starts at the one-mile oval, Harvick owns two wins, three top-five and six top-10 finishes.
  • He has completed 99.6 percent (4,729 of 4,750) of the total laps contested at PIR, and led a total of 316 laps.
  • He owns an average start of 18.7 and an average finish of 15.0 at PIR.
  • In 2006 Harvick swept both NSCS races at PIR.

Last Time Around … Harvick and the No. 29 team are looking to improve upon their result at PIR in April, when the Bakersfield, Calif., native finished 13th. Harvick started 24th and maneuvered his way inside the top five at the race’s halfway point, only to succumb to an extremely tight-handling car in the closing stages.

Texas Recap … Harvick and the No. 29 overcame two separate incidents with debris on their Chevrolet’s nose and a late scrape with the turn four wall to finish sixth and remain in the middle of the championship hunt. The effort was the team’s seventh top-10 finish in the eight Chase races to date.

Mr. Consistent … The RCR driver leads all NSCS drivers in top-10 finishes with 24, and is tied for the lead in top-five finishes with 15. For the season, Harvick owns three points-paying wins (Talladega, Daytona in July and Michigan in August), a second straight Budweiser Shootout victory at Daytona in February, and 30 top-15 finishes in the season’s 34 races.

In the Loop … Harvick owns some very impressive loop data statistics over the season’s first 34 races.

  • First in average finish (8.9).
  • Second in Closer category, total positions improved during the last 10 percent of each race.
  • Third in fastest drivers late in a run.
  • Third in fastest speed in traffic.
  • Third in green flag speed.
  • Fourth in Driver Rating, a formula combining the following categories: wins, finishes, top-15 finishes, average running position while on lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, led most laps, and lead lap finish.
  • Fifth in percentage of laps run on lead lap.
  • Fifth in fastest drivers early in a run.
  • Fifth in average running position.

Chevrolet Allows Fans to Celebrate Like a Champion in Las Vegas … Kevin Harvick fans can enter the “Team Chevy Celebrate Like a Champion” Sweepstakes for their chance to win a grand prize package that includes a meet and greet with Team Chevy driver Kevin Harvick during Champions’ Week in Las Vegas. The grand prize winner will also win two Chevrolet Cruze LTZs, a trip for four to Las Vegas-Including four tickets to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony and $2,000 spending cash-and the chance to meet both Kevin Harvick and Miss Sprint Cup. Fans can enter the “Team Chevy Celebrate Like a Champion” sweepstakes at the Win Your Chevy Sweepstakes page now through Nov. 15, 2010. No purchase is necessary. See official rules for details at

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your…Grocery Carts? The No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil crew will be participating in a Grocery Bagging Challenge at the Fry’s Food Store located at 160 W. Yuma Road in Goodyear, Ariz., on Thursday, November 11 from 5-7 p.m. MST. The competition will pit the crew against fans to see who can bag groceries the fastest. Fans who fill their bags faster than the crew will win a $25 Shell Gift Card. Additionally, the Fry’s logo will run on the TV panel and rocker panels of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet during the November 14 race at Phoenix International Raceway.


You finished 13th last time around at Phoenix, but you have run well at PIR. What will it take to improve on that 13th-place finish? “Jeff (Burton) ran really well there at the beginning of the year, so we should have good solid notes, and see why we were a little off. If we just go back there and do things like we’ve done in the past, we’ll be in good shape. That’s the nice thing about having cars that run well. When one of us is having a bad day, usually all three of us aren’t having a bad day. I feel good about it. Phoenix has obviously been a good track for us in the past with winning races and running well. Flat tracks have been good for us at Richmond, Loudon and Martinsville, so, hopefully we can build on that.”

Can you be perfect with your set-up for Phoenix? When you won your races there, were you giving up something in some places to make things better in other places? “I don’t think so. You can be good on both ends. I guess it’s all relative to how well everyone else is doing in certain spots. I don’t think we’re ever satisfied. It’s a unique race track because you have turns three and four with a long sweeping corner that you lose a lot of grip and the cars become really loose coming up off the corner. You have to be able to have your car turn in the middle of the corner on both ends.”

Looking at how the Chase is going, you look at how Jimmie (Johnson) and Denny (Hamlin) have done at Phoenix, this could be a real dogfight because you all have been successful there. “Yeah, you look back at Martinsville and we spent half the race racing each other. I don’t think top-10 finishes are going to cut it. I think it’s going to come down to putting yourself in victory lane and capitalizing on the most bonus points in the next two weeks.”

Is the sun a little bit of an issue at Phoenix this time of year? “The sun is definitely an issue when we come down the front straightaway. You have to make sure you’re prepared, whether that be a tinted shield or tape on the windshield, or whatever the case may be. The last resort is your hand.”

Have you had to use your hand before? “Oh yeah, absolutely, you use your hand going down the front straightaway to get some sort of visual to see where you’re going into turn one. Usually, what happens is, you pick a mark on the wall and you go in there blind and just turn down the race track.”

So when you’re using your hand no driver thinks you’re saluting or anything? “No, you’re just using your left hand as a shield.”

Clint Bowyer
No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet

Event Preview Fact Sheet
This Week’s Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 327 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix. Built new in 2010, this Chevrolet made its debut last month at Martinsville Speedway where Bowyer finished 37th after being involved in an accident on lap 194.

The Price is Right … Bowyer and RCR’s Camping World Truck Series driver Austin Dillon speed into the Price is Right for a special NASCAR-themed episode, Monday, Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. ET on the CBS Television Network. Bowyer and Dillon will present two NASCAR-themed showcases, featuring a trip North Carolina to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a trip to Miami to see the season-ending races in all three National Series next weekend in Homestead, Fla., and a Chevy Impala LS.

Where It All Began … Bowyer returns to the “Desert Jewel” where he made his Sprint Cup Series debut in 2005. Running a No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress, Bowyer finished in 22nd after starting 25th.

Career Phoenix Stats … The Kobalt Tools 500 marks Bowyer’s 180th start in the NSCS.

  • In nine NSCS starts at the one-mile oval, Bowyer owns two top-five and four top-10 finishes
  • That includes two top-10 finishes in the last two events at PIR
  • He has completed 99.7 percent (3,178 of 3,187) of the total laps contested at PIR during his career
  • Bowyer owns an average starting position of 19.9 and average finishing position of 14.9 at PIR
  • Bowyer also owns one win and one pole at PIR in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition

Last Time Around … After qualifying 25th, the No.33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team made quick pit stops and smart adjustments to the ever-changing track conditions which contributed to Bowyer’s ninth-place finish in the Subway Fresh Fit 600 earlier this spring at the Avondale facility.

Last Week in the Lone Star State … Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team backed up their Talladega win with a strong top-10 effort by finishing seventh in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Bowyer, who gained two spots in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup point standings, now trailing ninth-place Greg Biffle by a mere 25 points and new points leader Denny Hamlin by 397 markers with only two races remaining in the 2010 NSCS season. The effort was the team’s fourth top-10 finish during this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the third straight top-10 effort in the last three fall races at TMS.

2010 Season Recap … Over the season’s first 34 events, Bowyer has earned two wins, seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes. In addition to an average starting position of 14.9, he boasts a 14.3 average finishing position and has led 400 laps of competition. Bowyer now has four career wins to go along with his two poles, 27 top-five and 79 top-10 finishes.

Back in a Truck … Bowyer will make his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start since 2007, piloting the No. 2 Kroger Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Harvick Inc. Bowyer has run four NCWTS races with KHI in the past, posting a best finish of fifth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2007.


You have two top-five and four top-10 finishes at Phoenix. It seems to be a pretty good track for you, right? “It has been a great race track for me. It’s one of my favorites, actually. I had my first Cup start at Phoenix in 2005 and we always seem to run good out there. It is one of those tracks where one of these days, we are going to get a win. We really want to build off our ninth-place finish in the spring.”

The track is so different from one end to another and there is so much concentration on the chassis, but do you have to give up anything to be good there? “Not really. You just need a good balance on the race car. You can’t be too tight and you can’t be too loose. It’s so much different than any other track because you have to be quick in turns one and two where it is tight, but also need to keep the car underneath you in the flat sweeping turns of three and four.”

Jeff Burton
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala

Race Notes and Quotes
This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Jeff Burton will pilot Chassis No. 319 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new for 2010, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was put through its first paces at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September where the 17-year veteran was credited with a 15th-place result after running out of fuel with two laps remaining in the 300 miler and coasting to the finish.

Phoenix Minutes … In 22 starts at PIR, Burton boasts back-to-back wins in 2000 and 2001, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. Additionally, the South Boston, Va., native captured the checkered flag in the 2000 NASCAR Nationwide Series event at the desert facility. He has also been running at the end of every Sprint Cup Series race at PIR, led 215 laps of competition and completed 99.8 percent of laps (6,863 of 6,879) contested.

Two Timer … Burton‘s two Sprint Cup Series wins at the desert oval tie him with Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and RCR teammate Kevin Harvick for second for most wins at Phoenix. Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with the most wins at four.

Burton in the Loop at PIR
Burton leads all active drivers with green-flag passes at PIR over the past 11 events. The South Boston, Va., native made 541 passes under green-flag conditions with 286 of them (52.9 percent) being made while running in the top 15.

Movin’ on Up … Since the inception of Loop Data statistics in 2005, Burton has gained 17 positions over the final 10 percent of laps in each race. The 43-year-old driver is tied with Jeff Gordon for the fourth-best series Closer with an average of 1.5 positions gained in each of the last nine events at the Avondale venue.

Keep on Running … Of the 3,499 laps contested over the last 11 Sprint Cup Series events at PIR, Burton spent 2,175 of those laps (62.2 percent) running in the top 15 and holds a 10.5 finishing average.

How This All Stacks Up … Burton holds the 12th-best Driver Rating at Phoenix with 86.2. The Driver Rating is a formula that combines the following categories: wins, top-15 finishes, average running position while on the lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finishes. The maximum points a driver can earn in each race is 150 points. The Driver Rating number is used pre-race as a prediction tool and post-race as a performance evaluator.

Right Mix at Phoenix … Since joining RCR in August 2004, Burton has run 12 races at PIR, garnering a 10.6 average finish on the strength of two top-five, seven top-10 and 11 top-15 finishes and has finished outside of the top 15 only once.

Last Time Around … After running much of the 375-lap race in and around the top 15 when the circuit last visited the one-mile oval in April, a penalty for pitting outside the pit box just past the halfway mark halted the Cat Racing team’s forward progress and was the determining factor in their 25th-place finish when the Todd Berrier-led crew spent the second half of the race trying to return to the lead lap.

From the Cockpit … Burton will be ESPN’s In-Race Reporter for Sunday’s 312-lap affair, taking time under caution periods to answer questions from the broadcasters about the race from the cockpit of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet.


You scored a runner-up finish in this race last year. What does the No. 31 team need to do to better themselves by one spot? “Phoenix has been a really good race track for me. I felt that if we had qualified better and been up front earlier, we would have been hard to beat in that race. We were really fast and got by a lot of cars early but never had good track position until later in the race. It’s been a while since I’ve won there and we’re going back to finish where we left off in the fall. The key for us to do that is to go back better than we were and rebound after we finished 25th in the spring. Our result didn’t reflect how well the Caterpillar Chevrolet ran. We got a penalty for pitting outside the box that placed us out of contention, and the long green-flag runs hurt us because we weren’t able to get our lap back. We have some unfinished business at Phoenix, and we’re going to give it everything we have on Sunday.”

Describe racing at Phoenix. “It’s a really cool race track. Both ends of the race track are completely different. It’s not really a short track. It’s like a small superspeedway. The straightaways are long and restarts are really aggressive. The front straightaway is down hill, which leads to a really sharp turn one corner. The exit of turn two is like nowhere else I’ve ever been. Turns three and four are big, long, sweeping corners. Some people can run the top and some can run below the apron, which gives the drivers different options. It’s a challenge because it’s so different on both ends of the race track.”

What is the Cat Racing team working on over these final two races of the season? “It’s been a fun year and it’s been a really discouraging year all at the same time. For us, we need to execute in these last couple of races. We’ve run well, we’re fifth or sixth in laps led and we are in that same area in number of races led. Our performance has been good – not been great, but it’s been good. Our average running position is much better than our average finishing position. That’s why we’re in the spot that we’re in. I want to see us continue to run well. We had a really fast car at Phoenix earlier this season and we led a lot at Homestead last year. These last two races are tracks that we performed well at the last time we raced there. I want to see us be able to do that, but I want to see us get the finishes that we weren’t able to get. That’s what the final two races are about.”

- Richard Childress Racing, Press Release

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