Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Richard Childress Racing Daytona 500 Preview: All Four Drivers Figured to Be in the Mix

Harvick won two of the four plates races in 2010
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Budweiser Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 343 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This brand new racer was built in-house by the No. 29 team and will make its first competitive laps during this weekend’s prestigious 500-mile event.

Daytona Details … In 19 starts at the historic superspeedway, Harvick has earned two wins (2007 Daytona 500 and July 2010), five top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He has completed 97.9% (3,215 of 3,285) of the contested laps with an average starting position of 15.8 and an average finishing position of 14.8.

Budweiser Shootout Recap … The No. 29 Budweiser team had a strong showing this past Saturday night at the 2011 Budweiser Shootout. Harvick started the night from the 18th position, but didn’t stay there long. He quickly made his way to the front by lap eight, using the two-car draft with fellow RCR stablemate, Jeff Burton. The duo continued to work together during the second half of the 75-lap event until the lap-51 restart when they got separated, leaving Harvick to work with the No. 24 Chevrolet. The Bakersfield, Calif., native held strong in the closing laps of the big dollar race when his engine started hitting the rev limiter chip. The Gil Martin-led team finished seventh in their seventh Bud Shootout appearance.

Black and Red … Harvick will start his 2011 campaign in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 with his new sponsor Budweiser adorning the hood of the black and red No. 29 Chevrolet.

Welcome to the Stage … Budweiser will host a roast in honor of their newest driver on Tuesday, February 15. The event will air on Saturday, February 19 on SPEED at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Harvick will be roasted by popular comedians Jon Reep, Jeremy Hotz, and Earthquake. Roaster’s include NASCAR’s Tony Stewart, Ron Hornaday, Elliot Sadler, Mike Dillon and DeLana Harvick.

Eyes on Harvick …Harvick is scheduled to appear live on ESPN’s Rome is Burning on Wednesday, February 16 at 4:35 p.m. EST before interviewing with FOX and Friends on Thursday, February 19 at 7:45 a.m. EST. The driver of the No. 29 Chevrolet will begin his race day morning with a question-and-answer session on the Chevy stage, located outside of Turn 4, at 9:30 a.m. prior to appearing live on SPEED’s NASCAR Race Day show at 11:50 a.m. EST before suiting up for the 2011 Daytona 500.

Meet the Press … Harvick will entertain questions from the gathered media on Friday, February 18 inside the DIS infield media center from 9:45 – 10 a.m.

Harvick after winning Coke Zero 400
Is the idea for the twin Duel 150 qualifying races to get your (Daytona) 500 car through there safely? You’re a race car driver and you like to win races, so how do you marry those two things?
“Yeah, we’re just going to go for it. If they’re going to write a check and give out a trophy, then we’re going to go as hard as we can. The only way to race at these speedways is to push and shove, and you’re going to have to push and shove, or you’re going to get left behind. You have to go out and do what you have to do. The team has plenty of time to tune up and get everything straightened out, so we’ll race as hard as we can and see what happens.”

Do you think Daytona will be as wild and unpredictable as a Talladega race?
“Oh yeah, absolutely, just because it is Daytona. You, basically, take the same things you do at Talladega and do it on a whole lot narrower race track. That’s why the Budweiser Shootout is an important race. You have to see how the traffic shakes out, whether it is going to have one line, two lines, and if that two-car breakaway is going to be a part of it. I don’t think you’re going to be able to just sit in the back because it’s going to be hard to drive through the middle. I think that will be where the open line is, but there isn’t as much room to navigate that two-car draft from the back. You’re going to be racing for track position to keep it up front.”

Is going three-wide a lot hairier at Daytona than it is at Talladega?
“It’s a lot hairier. It’s a lot easier now with the pavement, and the grip level that you have on the race track. It’s not that big of a deal, but definitely a lot hairier than Talladega.”

How much less room do you feel like you have?
“At Daytona, it feels like it’s half the width of Talladega. It’s just a lot narrower than Talladega is. You definitely feel like you have a lot less room.”

With the way you ran last season and the way things are going, especially with the power that’s under the hood, could this be the year to win that second Daytona 500?
“Well, last year, I think we led the most laps in the (Daytona) 500. We won the 500, but we lost the 520. With the way that the rules are now, the green-white-checkers at the end are difficult to know exactly where you need to be. I think I know where I need to be with where you want to be coming to the checkers at this particular race. It’s one of those things where we just have to keep working on our cars, nickel and diming them to get every ounce of drag out of them that we can, and the guys in the engine shop will do their part on the power. We just need to keep racing and putting ourselves in the right spot to be in those positions with fast cars. To be able to be competitive, you have to work on them constantly.”

Do you still remember what it felt like to win the Daytona 500?
“There isn’t anything that compares to winning the Daytona 500,
just for the fact of the magnitude and the attention that comes with that particular race. There’s nothing else that even comes close. I remember that day like it was yesterday. There’s no better feeling of winning a race than that one.”

Bowyer is very accomplished in restrictor plate races
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. 336 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this year’s Daytona 500. This is a brand new No. 33 Chevrolet Impala that will turn its first laps on the track at Daytona.

Familiar Faces … Shane Wilson returns for his third season atop the pit box after scoring two wins, seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 2010 with Bowyer at the wheel. Kevin Hamlin, who replaced RCR Vice President of Competition Mike Dillon as Bowyer’s spotter for the final three races of the 2010 NSCS season, will also return for the 2011 season.

Last Week … After qualifying for last weekend’s Budweiser Shootout by making the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Bowyer and the Cheerios/Hamburger Helper team kicked off the 2011 NSCS season with a ninth-place finish.

Career Daytona Stats … The Daytona 500 marks Bowyer’s 182nd NSCS start.
In 10 NSCS starts at the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Bowyer owns two top-five and six top-10 finishes.
He has completed 99.9 percent of the total laps contested at DIS during his career.
The Emporia, Kan., native has led 115 total laps at DIS.
Bowyer owns an average starting position of 20.7 and average finishing position of 12.8.
His best effort at the Florida facility is two fourth-place finishes (2009 and 2010 Daytona 500).

Last Time Around … Bowyer finished fourth in the 2010 Daytona 500 after a last-lap dash to the checkered flag. He also led a race-high eight times for 37 laps.

Meet the Press … Bowyer will field questions from the gathered media inside Daytona International Speedway’s infield media center on Friday, February 18 at 10:15 a.m.

How are you approaching the Duels on Thursday? Are you trying to finish with your 500 car in one piece or are you trying to accomplish something else?
“Just don’t tear your car up. I hate to say that, but you want to have a decent starting spot. More importantly, you don’t want to go to your backup car.”

You’ve been close to winning the Daytona 500. Is it so close you can almost taste it?
“Yeah, I was leading twice last year and the caution came out for debris and for the big hole. I thought they were going to call it one time and we just didn’t end up coming up with a win. We were definitely close. That’s the one of the coolest things I’ve ever been apart of. Truthfully, I thought I was going to win. Anytime you’re thinking you’re going to win it is cool. It just doesn’t happen every day, especially at a place like Daytona. The good thing is that testing went well. Our cars were very fast and our engines are backing up every bit, if not more, performance than they did last year. I’m excited. I think we’re going to have a good package. If I can stay out of trouble and make it to the end, I think we’re going to have a shot at it.”

Does it still feel like a big deal that a dirt-tracker from Kansas takes the green flag at the Daytona 500?
“You know what, it is, but it’s amazing how that role changes. It meant so much to just be able to start the Daytona 500. You know your upbringing and your career path to get to the 500. Now, winning the Daytona 500 is everything.”

Burton led the most laps in the Bud Shootout Saturday night
Jeff Burton
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Jeff Burton will pilot Chassis No. 331 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new No. 31 racer that will be put through its first competitive paces in this weekend’s season opener.

Start Your Engine … The 53rd Daytona 500 will mark Burton’s 584th career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This will also be his 18th consecutive run in the prestigious event.

Unfinished Business … In 17 starts in the Great American Race, the South Boston, Va., native has earned three top-five efforts. His best finish of second came in February 2000.

Former Winner … Although Burton has yet to carve his name on the Harley J. Earl trophy, he is a former winner at the famed Daytona International Speedway. He claimed victory under the lights in the July 2000 Coke Zero 400. In 34 starts at DIS, Burton has posted one win, seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes.

Leading the Field to Green … Burton captured his one and only pole position at the historic speedway for the 2006 Daytona 500.

Top-10 Qualifier … The Cat Racing team was the sixth-fastest car to tour Daytona’s newly-paved race track on Sunday during Daytona 500 qualifying that placed them in the second Duel 150 qualifying race on Thursday. The No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet will line up fourth for the 60-lap event.

Bud Shootout Rewind … Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar team led the most laps and gained valuable information that they’ll transfer over to next weekend’s Daytona 500 despite finishing eighth in the season opening, non-holds barred Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. The South Boston, Va., native was pushed to the lead by RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, completing the initial 25-lap segment of the 75-lap event running 1-2. After a routine four-tire pit stop during the event’s 10-minute break, the 2000 Daytona July race winner returned to competition for the final 50 laps and, in spite of being separated from Harvick at the restart, he hooked up with fellow RCR stablemate Clint Bowyer. The new duo drafted to the lead before competitor tandems would join them, moving Burton to eighth in the closing laps where he remained in that position when the checkered flag fell.

Meet the Driver … On behalf of Coca-Cola, Burton will sign autographs at the Walmart store located at 1101 Beville Road in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Friday, February 18 from 3:30 – 5 p.m.

Meet the Press … Burton will field questions from the gathered media inside the speedway’s infield media center on Wednesday, February 17 at 9:15 a.m.

Jeff Burton Live … Fans can see Burton live Sunday, February 20 at 8:40 a.m. on the Chevy Stage, located in the merchandise area outside Turn 4. Burton will be part of a question-and-answer session hosted by Chevrolet.

You made the Chase last year. What kind of goals do you have this year?
“The Chase started out slow for us last year. The first three races we ran exceptionally well. In all three of those races, we had circumstances that prevented us from winning – fuel mileage and just some weird stuff in two of the three races. We ran really well, but after three races in, we were at a deficit. It wasn’t because of the way we ran, but because of some circumstances. We got in a hole, and we, collectively, as a team said ‘we’re either going to win it, or we’re going to finish dead last.’ We’re going to get real aggressive and bring science experiments to the race track. I’m going to drive harder than I’ve ever driven in my life. We went out and tried to make something happen, and that didn’t work out for us. At the end of the day, it was recorded as a 12th-place finish, and that’s what it was. The effort that went into trying to win that championship from being behind was cool. It didn’t work out for us, but what the heck, we swung for the fences, and it didn’t work out.”

I think a lot of people were surprised that you didn’t win last year. There were a bunch of races that you would have, should have, and could have won last year.
“Yeah, we put ourselves in the position to win a lot of races. Last year was a really rewarding year and a really frustrating year all at the same time. We had bad pit stops at the wrong time. I made a poor decision at the wrong time. We made a poor decision on the chassis set-up at the wrong time. At the end of the day, it’s on us. We had a few circumstances, like Martinsville for instance, where we were sitting there passing Hamlin for the win and cut a right-front tire. At Texas, we were sitting there leading the race with 15 (laps) to go. There was a red flag and we sat there. The tire pressure changes an absorbent amount and we finish 10th. We go from leading to finishing 10th in the last 15 laps. I’m not going to lose sleep over those kinds of things. There’s nothing we can do about them. The things that drove me nuts were the times that we impacted it with poor decisions – Todd and I not making the right decisions on the car, bad pit stops, etc. We tried to get better from that. We tried to learn from it, but we never made them up. Some teams are able to lose one and make two up later, maybe win one they didn’t deserve. That never worked out for us. Hopefully, this year we can execute. This thing has a way of paying you back and, hopefully, this year we can get some we don’t deserve, and the ones we do deserve we can capitalize on.”

What would it mean to you to win the 53rd running of the Daytona 500?
“Well, I have more years behind me than I have ahead of me and the more the years that go behind me the more I appreciate the Daytona 500. I’ve been lucky. I have filled out my list of big races pretty well. However, this one I haven’t. It wouldn’t make my career. This is a marquee race with a tremendous amount of history and being part of this event means a lot to me. But, I can honestly tell you if I don’t ever win the Daytona 500, I’m not going to look back on my career with great disappointment, but it would confirm some things. It would mean some things to me, personally.”

This is race one of 36. Is every race an adventure for you?
“Every lap is an adventure. My view on the world is that I live and make my living one corner at a time, one straightaway at a time. When I approach the Daytona 500, I’m not thinking about 500 miles, I’m thinking about one-quarter mile at a time. So to me, I don’t look at a race as a race, I look at a race as thousands of little races. Every corner is an adventure, every straightaway is an adventure. Every time I get in the car it’s a new beginning. I probably don’t have — I don’t want to say the enthusiasm — but I probably don’t have the excitement level that some of the other drivers have that are new to the Cup Series level, but I don’t have the downs, either. I think that maturity has taught me this isn’t a season-per-season event. I don’t view it like that. I’m racing a career, I’m not racing years. This is a new year, but it’s a continuation from last year.”

Menard can be expected to do well Sunday
Paul Menard
No. 27 PEAK/Menards Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s PEAK/Menards Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 338 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 saw its first laps on the track during preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! … The 53rd Daytona 500 will mark Menard’s 148th career start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This will be his fourth consecutive run in the “Great American Race” and his eighth appearance at the 2.5-mile speedway.

Starting up front at Daytona … Menard earned his one career NSCS pole position at Daytona International Speedway. In 2008, he claimed the pole award for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (July). The following year, he started the Budweiser Shootout from the pole position when he drew the top spot during Budweiser’s annual Shootout Draw Party.

Daytona Tidbits
In seven previous starts at a track that is notorious for the field-reducing ‘Big One,’ Menard has completed an impressive 98.8% of his laps (1,193 of 1,208).
He has an average starting position of 24.3 and an average finishing position of 21.4, with his best finish of 13th coming in the 2010 Daytona 500. He has led for 19 laps.

Familiar Faces on the No. 27 team … Slugger Labbe, a fixture in NASCAR since 1989, made the move to RCR with Menard. Also joining Menard and Labbe in the move were spotter Stevie Reeves, hauler driver Jeff Icenhour, engineers Mike Wolf and Grant Hutchins, tire specialist Chris Sherwood, shock specialist Kris McCabe and mechanic Jesse Sanders. Back at the shop are the familiar faces of Dale Fishlein, Derick Mathis and Joey Fellores.

Meet the Driver … Menard will sign autographs at the Menards/RCR souvenir hauler located in the merchandise area outside Turn 4, on Friday, Feb. 18 from 3:50 – 4:20 p.m. EST.

Paul Menard LIVE for Chevy Q&A … Fans can participate in a question-and-answer session with Menard on Friday, Feb. 18 at 3:35 p.m. EST on the Chevy Stage, located in the merchandise area outside Turn 4.

Tune in to FOX and Friends on Race Day … Menard will join FOX and Friends LIVE from Daytona’s Victory Lane on Sunday, February 20 at 9:30 a.m. EST to discuss Daytona and preview the 2011 season.

Do you feel that the Duel 150 qualifying race is a good learning tool for the Daytona 500? What is your mind-set as you prepare for the 150-mile race versus the 500?
“For sure. The only thing better would be the Shootout, which I’m confident we’ll be in next year! With the Shootout, you can be as aggressive as you want because, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. The Duels, even though they’re non-points races, it’s still your (Daytona) 500 car and can mean a lot as far as starting position – not just for the race, but to get the season started well.”

Daytona International Speedway is rich with history. What would it mean to you to win the Daytona 500?
“It would be huge. The only other race I want to win more would be the Brickyard 400, but I’d definitely take the 500!”

The Daytona 500 is race number one of 36. How do you approach the first race of the season compared to those in July? Do you feel the same intensity each week?
“It’s really the same as any other week, aside from the duration of time that we’ll be in Daytona, along with the media coverage. Ultimately, I don’t approach this race any different. The guys spend more time on the (Daytona) 500 car than they will on any other car, so, obviously, it puts a little bounce in your step.“

This is your fifth season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. What is an example of how experience has changed how you prepare for a race?
“The biggest eye opener is how much preparation goes on behind the scenes. Once you’re strapped into the race car, I get the same mentality that I’ve had since I was 8, and it’s just focus on what’s at hand. Off track, the training and conditioning is something I’ve really stepped up the past couple years, as well as getting to know these cars better. That’s something that Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) has really helped me with.“

As you prepare to start your first season with RCR, what is it that drew you to the organization? What are your goals for the year?
“RCR and Richard’s track record speaks for itself. It’s an awesome group of people up there in Welcome (N.C.). They build beautiful race cars and, most importantly, they’re fast.“

Richard Childress Racing Notes

RCR Rocks Daytona … Dating back to 1986, RCR has won seven poles and owns 29 total victories at the most storied race track on the circuit. RCR owns two Daytona 500 wins (Dale Earnhardt – 1998, Kevin Harvick – 2007), three Coke Zero 400 trophies (Earnhardt – 1990, 1993 and Harvick – 2010) and 13 qualifying races, including 10 straight victories with Earnhardt (1990 – 1999). Most recently, Harvick became the fourth driver to win back-to-back Budweiser Shootout titles (2009 and 2010) and it marked the seventh win in the exhibition race for RCR, more than any other organization. In addition to Harvick’s victories, Earnhardt won the event five times (1986, ’88, ’91, ’93, and ’95). Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Feb. 2002 and the July 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Daytona, driving cars fielded by RCR. Harvick drove to Victory Lane in the 2007 NNS opener in the No. 21 Chevrolet and Clint Bowyer won the July 2009 NNS race at the “World Center of Racing.”

RCR Sprint Cup Stats … In 121 points-paying Sprint Cup Series races at the historic 2.5-mile Daytona Beach race course, RCR has five wins, 10 poles, 30 top-five and 52 top-10 finishes and has led 1,578 laps. Richard Childress, a former driver in NASCAR’s premier division, earned two of those top 10s between February 1976 and July 1980.

RCR to Duel it Out … As a result of Sunday’s Daytona 500 single car qualifying session, that saw RCR drivers record the fourth (Paul Menard), fifth ( Bowyer), sixth (Jeff Burton) and 14th (Harvick) fastest speeds, two RCR entries will be slated into each of the Duel 150 qualifying races on Thursday, Feb. 17. Menard and Harvick will compete in the first Duel 150 event, rolling off the starting grid second and ninth, respectively, while Bowyer and Burton will race in the ensuing Duel 150, starting third and fourth, respectively.

Remembering Dale … RCR and Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines will pay tribute to the life and legacy of the legendary Dale Earnhardt throughout 2011 Speedweeks at Daytona. Commemorative No. 3 decals will adorn all eight of RCR’s race cars, transporters and pit boxes. ECR employees will wear special ECR/No. 3 hats at the track throughout Speedweeks while RCR employees will wear special RCR/No. 3 hats February 18.

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. This week, follow the RCR NSCS team Twitter accounts for Daytona 500 ticket give-a-ways courtesy of Chevrolet.

- Richard Childress Racing, Press Releases

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