Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RCR Driver Previews for Phoenix: Only Burton Coming With Race Used Chassis

New chassis for Bowyer this week
Clint Bowyer
No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 340 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new No. 33 Chevrolet Impala that will turn its first laps on the track at Phoenix.

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 22nd after starting 25th.

Last Time Around … Bowyer pulled out a 21st-place finish after running out of gas in the waning laps of the Kobalt Tools 500 last November. He started in the 14th position.

Career Phoenix Stats … The Fresh Fit 500 marks Bowyer’s 183rd NSCS start.
* In 11 NSCS starts at the one-mile oval, Bowyer owns two top-five and four top-10 finishes.
* He has completed 99.7 percent (3,489 of 3,499) of the total laps contested at PIR during his career.
* The Emporia, Kan., native has led 21 total laps at PIR.
* Bowyer owns an average starting position of 19.4 and average finishing position of 15.5.
* His best effort at the Arizona facility is a second-place finish in the April 2008 event.

With all of the hype around the 500, is it hard to get yourself excited for Phoenix because you expend so much energy traveling to Daytona for the 500?
“Well, not really. The way I see it is that it’s the start of the regular season. Our Super Bowl is the start of our season; the playoffs are at the end with no Super Bowl. It is different, but none the less, Phoenix is an important race track. It gives you that first shot at looking where you stack up against the competition. Do you have work to do? Are you behind? Are you looking good compared to the competition? That’s your first look at how you stack up to the competition.”

You’ve ran in the top 10 the last two of three races at Phoenix. Do you feel like you’re getting a little more out of that place now?
“Not really. That’s one of my favorite race tracks. We’ve really put a lot of emphasis on Phoenix this year in the off season because I know our package isn’t right. I don’t know what it is, but that’s one of my best race tracks. It’s where we should run well at. For what ever reason, we can’t, so we’re working hard on Phoenix. Hopefully, we’re going to come up with a better package, so we can go there and run better with it.”

Not the start Harvick wanted at Daytona
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Jimmy John’s Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 332 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 29 racer is a brand new car which will see its first laps on the track during Friday’s practice session.

What a Career … The Fresh Fit 500 marks Harvick’s 360th career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He currently owns 77 top-five and 155-top-10 finishes with 14 wins. Harvick has also led 3,503 laps during his NSCS career.

Phoenix Career Stats ….6 percent (5,041 of 5,062) of the contested laps at PIR and led 316 of those In 16 starts at the one-mile oval, Harvick has earned two wins (back-to-back victories in 2006), three top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He has completed 99 laps.

In the Loop … Harvick owns some impressive loop statistics at PIR: Fifth in most laps led (316), Fifth in fastest driver early in the run, Sixth in laps in the top-15 (2,714), Sixth in fastest driver on restarts, Seventh in fastest laps run (147), Seventh in green flag speed and Eighth in running position (11.906).

With all the hype around Daytona, is Phoenix the real start of the regular season?
“To carry that momentum from Daytona to Phoenix is going to be exciting for all of us. I know that I look forward to going there just for the fact that I grew up racing there, and I enjoy the race track.”

There’s quite a bit of hype difference between the first and second week of our sport unlike other sports.
“Well, when you lead off the season with your biggest race, the Daytona 500, there’s really no other race on the schedule that can match the hype and anticipation of that particular race. It is really the first official week of what it’s going to be like on the weekly grind as we go to Phoenix this year.”

This is no longer a night race. Will the track be different from a night race? Will it be a different kind of race?
“I love racing during the day because I like when the race track gets slick. You have to manage the car, tires and everything that goes with it. That is definitely something you have to do at Phoenix. It really changes the complexion of the race when it’s in the day there. I think it’s the right thing to do – race on Sunday afternoon.”

Burton has been one of the most consistent at Phoenix
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. 323 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s 312-lap affair. Built new for 2010, this Caterpillar Chevrolet was put through its first paces at Kansas Speedway in October where the 18-year veteran finished 18th after starting 23rd.

Phoenix Minutes … In 23 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 PIR.Burton has also been running at the end of every Sprint Cup Series race at PIR and has completed 99.8 percent of laps (7,175 of 7,191) contested.

Good Start, Impressive Finish … Over those same 23 races, Burton boasts a 24.3 starting average bested by an impressive 11.7 average finish. The 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner has finished outside the top 15 only twice (April 2010 and November 2010) in the past 20 races.

Right Mix at Phoenix … Since joining RCR in August 2004, Burton has run 13 races at PIR, garnering an 11.2 average finish with two top-five, seven top-10 and 11 top-15 finishes.

Loopy in the Grand Canyon State … According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics, which was initiated in 2004, Burton is the sport’s best Green-Flag Passer. Over the past 12 races at the desert oval, he has completed 590 passes under green-flag conditions. Additionally, the 18-year Sprint Cup Series driver is the sport’s fifth-best Qualify Passer. Of the 590 passes made, Burton has completed 305 of them while running in the top 15 under green-flag conditions.

Jeff Burton Quotes:
With all of the hype and energy that surrounded Daytona, is it hard to get excited for Phoenix?
“No, I think you’re establishing a rhythm. You’re establishing the flow. You’re establishing the tempo of your team this time of year. I know that’s hard to explain. The work that goes on from the when the race ends until the next one is very important, including the communication and things you need to do to make sure you’re prepared to go to the next race. This starts to get you into that rhythm. I think one of the smartest things NASCAR has done in a long time is to put Phoenix as the second race of the year. I’ve always thought that going to Daytona, with all of the action and excitement of the Daytona 500, and then going to California was always the wrong thing to do. Nothing against California, but Phoenix is a heck of a more exciting race than California. To be able to go to Phoenix next is, I think, a great move by NASCAR. I think it keeps momentum and excitement. It’s a short track. When we leave Daytona, you’re going to have people mad at each other, you’re going to have a Daytona 500 winner, you’re going to have people that lost, and then you’re going to go to a short track. I think that’s what racing is all about.”

Clint (Bowyer, RCR teammate) said it’s kind of weird that your Super Bowl is at the beginning of the season, then you go through the regular season and have playoffs at the end. Phoenix becomes the start of the actual regular season. What are your thoughts on that?
“I think it’s the start of understanding where you really are. Someone can go to Daytona and win the race, then go to Phoenix and run 30th. The two races are just so different. If there’s somewhere you want to run well and you pick the first three races – Daytona, Phoenix and Vegas – and you run well at two of them, you pick Vegas and Phoenix because that means you have a handle on your down force program. By far, the majority of the tracks that we run on are down force tracks. It’s important to be able to go to Phoenix and Vegas and run well.”

What challenges do drivers face 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 real 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.”

Menard brings new RCR chassis
Paul Menard
No. 27 Vertis/Menards Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Vertis/Menards Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 342 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet, and will see its first laps on the track at PIR.

Phoenix is said to be a “driver’s track.” What is your approach to this challenging one-mile raceway?
“PIR is a great track and is a lot of fun to drive. It’s a short track, but in a lot of ways it drives like an intermediate-style track. Brakes will be important, but mostly we’ll work to keep the car turning without giving up the drive off. The last few times I’ve been there, keeping the rear tires from spinning has been the key.”

You and the No. 27 team had a solid Speedweeks at Daytona. What did you learn and what will you take with you to Phoenix?
“Slugger has assembled a great race team. I was very proud of the way my guys worked together and with our team cars. Unfortunately, Daytona and Phoenix are completely different style tracks, so there won’t be any translation there, but it gives me the confidence that we’ll have another fast Chevrolet and have the ability to make it better throughout the weekend.”

Richard Childress Racing Phoenix Notes

RCR at PIR … Team owner Richard Childress has three victories, tying him with Robert Yates for third on the all-time car owner victories list at the Avondale facility. In 68 races at Phoenix, RCR has earned three wins, including Kevin Harvick’s sweep of both races at PIR in 2006. Prior to that, Dale Earnhardt won the Checker 500 on Nov. 4, 1990. Additionally, the Welcome, N.C.-based organization boasts 12 top-five and 28 top-10 finishes.

RCR Daytona 500 Rewind … In last Sunday’s Daytona 500, RCR drivers led a total of 19 times for a combined 52 laps, more than any other organization, despite posting finishes that don’t reflect how they ran all day. Jeff Burton and Harvick exited the Great American Race early for engine failures that resulted in 36th- and 42nd-place finish while Clint Bowyer was collected in a multi-car incident, while running in the front pack, with just four laps remaining. He went on to finish 17th while Paul Menard brought home a ninth-place effort.

Get to the Points … RCR’s four Sprint Cup Series drivers rank eighth (Menard), 16th (Bowyer), 32nd (Burton) and 37th (Harvick) leading into this weekend’s race at Phoenix.

RCR on Twitter … To keep up-to-date with the latest news and information and to view exclusive content, visit RCR’s Twitter page – @RCRracing – along with the RCR Sprint Cup Series team Twitter pages – @RCR27PMenard, @RCR29KHarvick, @RCR31JeffBurton and @RCR33CBowyer.

- Richard Childress Racing Press Releases

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