Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Three of Four Current Childress Drivers Have Won at Richmond

Bowyer won at Richmond in 2008 (Getty)
Clint Bowyer
No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s BB&T Chevrolet at Richmond International Raceway…Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 340 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 33 Chevrolet Impala has made two appearances at the race track this season. The first was at Phoenix International Raceway in February, where Bowyer finished 27th after being collected in a multi-car accident on lap 68. Bowyer also drove this chassis earlier this month at Martinsville Speedway, leading 91 laps en route to a ninth-place finish.

Career Richmond Stats … The Crown Royal 400 marks Bowyer’s 190th NSCS start.
* In 10 NSCS starts at Richmond, Bowyer owns one win (May 2008), one top-five and five top-10 finishes.
* He has completed 100% of the laps (4,010 of 4,010) contested at RIR during his career.
* The Emporia, Kan., native has led 57 laps at the 3/4-mile facility.
* Bowyer owns a 16.3 average starting position and a top-10 average finishing position of 9.8.

Winner, Winner … Bowyer has two victories at the “Action Track,” one win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in May 2007 and another in NASCAR’s senior series in May 2008.

Last Time in Richmond … After starting fourth, Bowyer and the No. 33 team clinched a spot in the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by finishing sixth in the Air Guard 400.

Points Racing … After his fourth top-10 finish in as many weeks, Bowyer jumped two more positions, to 10th, in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings

You didn’t have a good spring race in Richmond last year, but the fall race went well. “Well, that’s a good thing. You usually lean on that fall race to have a good run. Richmond is a neat track. I’ve won there in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. That track has always been good to me and we always seem to run well there. I’m looking forward to going back there. It’s one of my favorites.”

You led 33 laps and finished sixth in the fall. At any point during that race, did you think you had a car to win? “Yeah, a few times, that’s the tricky thing. Richmond is one of those tracks that you can be good and then people catch up to you. You have to continue to get better throughout the race. If you can’t, you’re going to end up falling back. I think that was pretty much the case. We beat everyone to the punch. We were really good early in the race, but by the end, they caught up to us. We struggled to find a better setup.”

A lot of people call Bristol Motor Speedway the “perfect short track.” There’s a little bit of speedway and a little bit of short track. How do you feel Richmond compares? “I think Richmond is the perfect-sized race track. As a fan of this sport, you get to see everything. You get the sensation of speed. You get to see all of us beating and banging on each other on the track. It’s just a perfect-sized race track. I wish we had about three or four more of them on the schedule.”

You get going down the straightaway at Richmond and sometimes you can go three or four wide. Is it spooky going into turn one? Are you thinking “I don’t want to give it up, but I think I have to”? "Yeah, and these double file restarts really make entering turn one pretty wild. It’s three or four wide and if someone doesn’t give, they’re going to wreck at least one car or several of them. That’s what’s neat about it — you can make a pass, get under someone and they’re going to drive down hard on the outside of you. They might get you loose or you might lock up your brakes and get into them. You just have to be careful on those restarts, especially, with these double files.

Personal bests each week with RCR
Paul Menard
No. 27 Menards Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Libman/Menards Chevrolet at Richmond International Raceway … Paul Menard will pilot chassis No. 342 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and is making its competitive debut this weekend at the 0.75-mile Virginia facility. Menard tested this car at Walt Disney World Speedway (Orlando, Fla.) in January.

Menard at Richmond … In eight starts at RIR, Menard has finished each of his contested races and completed 99.3 percent of his laps (3,187 of 3,210), leading for one circuit. He has a 31st-place average starting position and an average finishing position of 27.2 with his best finish of 16th coming in the May 2007 event. His best start at the 0.75-mile oval came in his last visit (September 2010) when he took the green flag in the seventh position. He has also recorded two top-five and four top-10 finishes and led for 160 laps at RIR in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.

It’s Been a Very Good Year … Menard has recorded career-best performances at nearly every track the NSCS has traveled to this season. He heads to Richmond 11th in the driver championship point standings, a mere three points out of 10th.

You have qualified well at Richmond but have struggled with finishes. Do you think that this is one of those tracks that being at RCR will help? “Yes, I do. I’ve always run really well there in the Nationwide Series cars, but the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup cars are a different animal. We’ve really struggled on short tracks over the last two years. RCR has one of the best short track programs, and Slugger and I are learning a lot from what the other guys have done in the past. At Phoenix (International Raceway), we hit on a couple of things that I think will definitely help us this weekend in Richmond. We had some damage early that hurt us in the race so we didn’t have the finish in Phoenix that we were looking for. However, we definitely learned some things that will translate over to Richmond.”

Last year, only six cautions for 37 laps. How surprising was that? “Really? I didn’t even know that. Normally, Richmond, being a short track, there’s a lot of beating and banging which leads to tire blowouts and damage. If I had to guess, only having six cautions was a rare occurrence and I think we’ll see more of them this time around.”

How hard is it to make a green-flag pit stop on a short track like Richmond? “On a big track, you can definitely make up more time when pitting under the green. You have less of a chance of going a lap down. At a short track, it’s a lot harder to make up time; you can go two plus laps down. Short pitting usually isn’t an option when you go to short tracks, either. Sometimes it is, but generally it’s not. There is pressure on the crew chief to make the right calls at the right times and on the driver to manage his tires as best as possible.”

Is it easier to get a speeding penalty on pit road at a short track? “No, not really. It’s the same everywhere. You can get caught speeding just as easy at Richmond or Daytona (International Speedway). It’s just a matter of looking at your tach (tachometer) and matching numbers to assure you don’t speed.

Native Virginian looking for 2nd Richmond win 
Jeff Burton
No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

Last Time Around … Burton made his home state fans proud by piloting the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet to a fourth-place result in last season’s Crown Royal 400. He rolled off the starting grid from the 17th position and was running with the frontrunners just prior to the halfway mark despite piloting a loose-handling Chevrolet. The South Boston, Va., native took the lead on lap 230 and held it for the next 20 circuits before a long-green flag run ensued. Three caution periods plagued the closing 33 laps where restarts and a hard-charging and eventual winner Kyle Busch moved Burton to fourth by the time the checkered flag waved.

Richmond Report … In 33 Sprint Cup Series starts at RIR, Burton boasts one pole, one win, nine top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. Additionally, the 43-year-old holds a 14.5 starting average coupled with a 14.4 finishing average and has led 930 laps of competition. His lone victory at the “Action Track” came in September 1998.

Carry Me Back to Old Virginia … Three members of the Cat Racing team hail from the Old Dominion State. Caterpillar driver Jeff Burton was born and raised in South Boston. Gear specialist Greg Meredith was born, and still resides, in Fancy Gap while tire specialist Tracey Ramsey hails from Fredericksburg.

Is Richmond the most competitive short track NASCAR competes on? “I wouldn’t say it’s the most competitive. I think it’s the best mixture of banking, shape and size for a race track. For the size of cars we race and the power that it exemplifies, I think the three-quarter mile, 14-degree banking oval and grip level works really well. As a race fan, I like watching races at Richmond because there is always something going on. From a competitor standpoint, it’s a fun race track to drive because you have options on where to run your car – you don’t have to run one lane. There are different ways you can enter the corner and accelerate. Options make it difficult but it makes it challenging, too.”

What makes Richmond a hard track to figure out and why have some drivers been able to figure it out and others have not? “It takes a lot of different stuff to run well on a short track. I think things get magnified on a short track. Being off a little bit makes you off a lot more on those tracks. I don’t think it’s unlike Martinsville, Phoenix or New Hampshire. There seems to be some teams that do a better job of being ready and some drivers that do a better job of being ready for that type of racing because it is different than what we’re doing at intermediate tracks. You drive the cars different and you set them up differently. So, there are a lot of factors that go into it. Having cars that drive well and having a driver that does well on those race tracks are very important. You can’t deny that some drivers do a better job at that type of race track than others. Kevin (Harvick) is a good example. He always runs well at those race tracks and you can’t deny that it has something to do with his driving.”

What are the key factors to getting a good finish at Richmond? “Richmond is one of the places where handling means everything. The key factors in running well are getting through the center of the corners and throttling up without losing rear grip. It sounds simple to do, but the one that wins did it the best.”

Richmond is one of your favorite tracks. Why? “I just think for the teams, for the fans and for everybody that it takes to make this sport work, it’s the best all-around track. Richmond has good racing action. It’s big enough where it’s not wreck after wreck, but small enough where it’s close side-by-side action since you have multiple grooves. To me, it’s a really hard race track to beat, competition-wise.

Using winning Martinsville car this week
Kevin Harvick
No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala
Race Notes and Quotes

This Week’s Budweiser Chevrolet at Richmond International Raceway … Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 332 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team has utilized this car twice so far this year. Earlier this month, Harvick drove this No. 29 racer to Victory Lane at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and, in February, he finished fourth in the same car at Phoenix International Raceway.

Last Time Around … Harvick and RCR’s No. 29 team started seventh in the spring race at Richmond, led one lap and took home a third-place finish.

Richmond Notes … In 20 starts at Richmond International Raceway, Harvick has earned one pole award (September 2005), one win (September 2006), five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. He’s completed 98.6 percent (7,887 of 8,003) total laps and has led 727 laps at the 0.75-mile track. Harvick has an 18th-place average starting position to go along with an even better 12th-place average finishing position at Richmond.

Impressive Stat … Harvick has scored top-10 finishes in 11 of the last 12 races at Richmond International Raceway. His average finish in that span is 8.6.

In the Loop … Harvick owns a number of notable loop data statistics at Richmond International Raceway as he enters this weekend’s race: first in laps run in the top 15 (4,425 – 92 percent), first inquality passes (379), second in average running position (7.3), second in laps led (680), third in drivers rating (112.1), third in fastest laps run (358), third in average green-flag speed (116.834 mph) and fifth in drivers fastest late in a run.

There have been seven different winners in the first eight races. Talk about what that says about the level of competition at the Sprint Cup level? “I think it’s a great sign for the health of the sport to see all the different organizations competitive. Really, since the Chase has started, it’s been so competitive trying to get into those top-10 or 12 spots for the Chase. It seems like from race one to 26, you do everything you can in order to get into one of those spots. Everyone is digging from lap one to get everything they can for their teams and sponsors to make it happen.”

Richmond has been a good track for you and your team. “Richmond has probably been our best track on paper in both divisions. We’ve been fortunate to win some races there. We look at that place as if we’re having a bad start, that at least when we go to Richmond, we expect a top 10 out of the car. If everything is running well, you expect to be competitive and run up front.”

Talk about why you think you’ve performed so well at Richmond. “When I was growing up, we spent a lot of time racing at Phoenix and really from day one we’ve always been successful on the flatter type race tracks through the years. Richmond has been a very good race track for us. I think it’s just kind of how I was brought up. We just adapted well right off the bat to those types of race tracks.”

- Richard Childress Racing, Press Release

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