Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kyle Busch Wins at Richmond, Again; Holds On To Beat Hamlin

Kyle Busch wins his third straight Richmond spring race (Getty)
It was Joe Gibbs Racing with a one, two finish at Richmond International Raceway, as Kyle Busch took the checkered flag (almost 2 seconds) ahead of teammate Denny Hamlin to win the NSCS Crown Royal presents the Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400.

Busch, who led 235 laps of the 400 that were run, received his 2nd series win of the 2011 season, his 21st series career win and his 3rd series win at RIR.

Following Busch (who will celebrate his 26th birthday on Monday) and Hamlin to the drop of the checkered flag were: Kasey Kahne finishing in the third position, David Ragan fourth and Carl Edwards finishing in the fifth position.

Rounding out the top-ten finishers were Clint Bowyer finishing sixth, A.J. Allmendinger seventh, Jimmie Johnson eighth, Tony Stewart ninth and Brian Vickers finished in the tenth position.

Carl Edwards maintains the points lead heading into next weekend’s SHOWTIME Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, as he has a 9 point lead over Jimmie Johnson in second-place.

Average Speed: 95.280 MPH
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 08 Mins, 55 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 1.805 Seconds
Lead Changes: 14 among 10 drivers
Cautions: 8 for 60 laps
Attendance: 90,000

"We were late to the celebration," Busch said after his car was pushed to Victory Lane. "This is pretty awesome. We had a really good car, and we knew that if we could play through traffic a little bit better than the 11 [Hamlin] that we had a shot at the win, and we did that [Saturday night].

"I learned from Denny Hamlin last fall -- and I'm not going to say what I learned, but he might know. We did a good job of doing what we needed to do early in the run, and once we got out [front] and had to go through traffic, the traffic kind of fell our way, so we were able to pick our way through there."

Hamlin acknowledged helping Busch on the short tracks but said it was a fair exchange for what he had learned from Busch about running intermediate speedways.

"Yeah, I opened my mouth -- I never should have told him," Hamlin said, though he, too, declined to reveal the secret he had shared with his teammate. "That's the thing. If I don't tell him the things I know on short tracks, and the crew chiefs don't relay information, then it's not a good team.

"We got paid back on the bigger intermediate tracks. I learned so much from him. Yeah, it might cost me a race here or there because he outruns me, but I think, in the grand scheme of things, it makes me an overall better driver."

After surging to the front of the field during a 107-lap green-flag run to start the race, Busch and Hamlin owned the action -- save for a four-lap foray by Jeff Gordon -- until Martin Truex Jr. took Busch and Hamlin three-wide to the inside after a restart on Lap 245 and surged to the front on Lap 246.

A bump from Jimmie Johnson sent Joey Logano spinning off Turn 2 on Lap 256. That started a spate of cautions that scrambled the field by virtue of divergent pit strategies. All told, Laps 256-301 brought five cautions, the last of which flew because of a wreck on the backstretch involving Bowyer, Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Paul Menard and David Reutimann.

Gordon retired from the race after his Chevrolet slammed hard into the inside wall.

Busch was fourth and Hamlin fifth for a restart on Lap 315, but Busch charged into the lead around the outside and passed Jeff Burton for the top spot on Lap 317, with Hamlin quickly following into the second position. At that point, both drivers were conserving fuel, but they had enough of a lead over Kahne that they could maintain an even pace without fear of losing their positions on the track.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman were involved in a succession of incidents, with Montoya retaliating against Newman on Lap 237. NASCAR warned both drivers.

A late pit stop for fuel cost Dale Earnhardt Jr. a lead-lap finish. He came home 19th, two laps down and fell one position to fourth in points, 34 behind Edwards.

Richmond Crown Royal 400 Results

Richmond Race Notes
• Kyle Busch's 21 wins before turning 26 rank third behind Jeff Gordon (26) and Richard Petty (22).
• Kyle Busch joins Kevin Harvick as only the second repeat winner of 2011.
• Kyle Busch's three wins at Richmond are tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart for the most among active drivers.
• Kyle Busch's three consecutive Richmond spring wins ties Richard Petty for the most consecutive.
• Kyle Busch scored his eighth short-track win; he has won seven of the past 15 short-track races.
• Kyle Busch led 235 of 400 laps, including the final 85; it's only the eighth time he led over 200 laps in a race (he won four of the eight).
• Kyle Busch has led 719 laps in 2011, more than twice as many than any other driver.
• JGR posted its 90th win; it has eight at Richmond, including the past five.
• JGR has Won 12 of the past 15 short-track races.
• JGR has finished 1-2 in the past two Richmond races; it's the 10th time JGR drivers have finish 1-2 in a Cup race.
• Denny Hamlin (second) posted his best finish of the season; it's his first top-five since his win at Texas in Nov. 2010.
• Kasey Kahne (third) scored his first top-five finish of 2011; it's his fourth top-10 finish.
• David Regan (fourth) posted his career-best finish in his 104th start.
• Carl Edwards (fifth) scored his fifth top-five of 2011; he maintains the points lead.
• Clint Bowyer (sixth) posted his fifth consecutive top-10 of 2011; he has gained 17 spots in points in the past five races (currently seventh)
• Jimmie Johnson (eighth) received the free pass on Lap 299 en route to his sixth top-10 of the season; it kept him second in points, nine behind Carl Edwards.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Final Richmond Driver Ratings Following All Practice Sessions

Micah Roberts Top 10 Driver Ratings
Crown Royal 400
Richmond International Raceway
Saturday, April 30, 2011 - 4:46 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver    Odds       Practice 1  Practice 2  Qualified  Phoenix*

1. Kyle Busch 6/1                6th              34th         20th        2nd
Won last two spring races; 10 top-five finishes in 12 RIR starts. Using third-place Martinsville car.
2. Kevin Harvick 12/1       17th              2nd          12th        4th
2006 winner has 11 top-10 finishes in last 12 starts; using winning Martinsville car.
3. Denny Hamlin 5/1         13th             40th          11th       11th
Native Virginian won last two fall races and has 8.0 average finish in 10 career starts.
4. Clint Bowyer 15/1           3rd              5th           3rd         27th
2008 winner with third best average finish of 9.8 in 10 starts. Using Martinsville chassis.
5. Jimmie Johnson 7/1       18th           22nd          30th        3rd
Three-time winner, the last coming in 2008. Finished third last fall. Using Phoenix car.
6. Jeff Gordon 10/1            10th           28th           6th          1st
Two-time winner, the last coming in 2000. Runner-up last spring, eight straight top-12 finishes.
7. Tony Stewart 12/1          21st           10th           31st        7th
Two-time winner and four-time runner-up. Using Phoenix car that led four times for 59 laps.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 18/1  1st            26th           24th       10th
Three-time winner; using Phoenix chassis. In midst of seven straight top-12 finishes in 2011.
9. Ryan Newman 30/1        4th            8th              13th       5th
2003 winner finished in the top-10 of last seven spring races; 11.4 average finish in 18 starts.
10. Carl Edwards 6/1          2nd           3rd              8th        28th
His only top-five finish happened in this race last year; debuts new chassis this week;

* Results from the February 27, 2011 race at Phoenix International raceway, a track that requires a similar set-up to Richmond.

Both practices were a jumble on Friday with different teams trying different things in regards to qualifying at different junctures of each practice. The most valuable tool -- to not distort the the practice times with qualifying trim on -- is to look at the 10 consecutive laps times for each session. Those times are generally exclusively in race trim and are the best indicator to what may happen in the race.
In the final session, all four Hendrick cars made the top-five in that category with Kasey Kahne, an HMS driver for next year, crashing the party. In the early session, Regan Smith led the way with Hamlin, Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Martin Truex Jr filling out the top five fastest averages. Check the practice page for a full list of times.

Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

Starting Lineup

Micah Roberts, a former race and sports Director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to

Montoya Fastest in Richmond Happy Hour; Driver Quotes Following Practice

JPM tops final speed charts at Richmond
Top-5 Speeds from Friday's Final Practice Session:
#42-Montoya 125.360
#29-Harvick 125.354
#99-Edwards 125.145
#78-Smith 124.867
#33-Bowyer 124.378
slowest: #46-Yeley 113.203 & #7-Gordon 120.773
incident: #46-Yeley lost an engine early in the session.(

The teams will return to the track at 5:35 PM (EST) this evening for their scheduled qualifying session, and then won’t return to the track until Saturday for the drop of the green flag at 7:30 PM (EST).



Edwards debuted new car Friday, looking for first Richmond win (Getty)
CARL EDWARDS ON BEING SECOND FASTEST IN THE FIRST PRACTICE SESSION AND LOOKING FOR HIS FIRST WIN AT RICHMOND: “Yeah, a win at Richmond would be huge. We have had a great year so far and it has been a lot of fun. Our car is pretty fast. We are going to go do a solid qualifying practice here in a minute and we will find out how fast we are in qualifying trim compared to everyone else. We did make a qualifying run which is why we were so fast on the board. This is a fun weekend. I think all the drivers like racing here as far as I know. It is going to be a fun race tonight and a good race tomorrow. We are glad to have Scotts on board. I just got a bunch of grass seed from them that we are going to plant here in the next couple of days and find out exactly how well the stuff works. I am excited. They have been a lot of fun this year. We have had some good races and hopefully we can come out of here with the points lead. We are enjoying leading the points. It is fun for everybody on our team.”

CARL EDWARDS ON WHETHER THE DIFFERENT TIRES FROM WEEK TO WEEK HAS IMPACTED HIM: “I kind of quit asking what tires were on the car or if NASCAR changed them or not because it seems like they change them every time we come to the race track. It is easy to get lost when you focus on stuff like that too much. As a driver I focus on getting my car set up and working the best it can. I know it is a challenge. It makes it challenging when you come back to a track and the tires are different and what you had before isn’t even close. There is a lot that goes into trying to predict how things are going to be with new tires. As a driver I just go drive the thing as fast as it will go and try not to focus to much on that other stuff. I used to pay a little bit more attention and it just didn’t seem to help me. It is important to understand it but if you get mad about it because it doesn’t help.”

CARL EDWARDS ON WHY HE THINKS GOODYEAR IS CHANGING TIRE RECOMMENDATIONS SO FREQUENTLY: “Is this a different kind than we ran last time? Did you ask them that? I really don’t know. You know you can go ask them, they are right outside. It is a good question really but I don’t know what the deal is. It seems like they have had very safe tires lately and that is the most important thing. I don’t know why they are changing them.”

Kenseth's car rapidly improved from first to final practice session (Getty) 
 MATT KENSETH ON WHAT TO MAKE OF ALL THESE TIRE CHANGES? “I have no idea. It is the same for all of us when we show up and I don’t know all the differences all the time. There are some tracks we have been to this year where maybe they missed it a little bit like Bristol where we had a different tire. They are always trying to make it better I think and make the racing better. I believe it is the same tire we ran at Phoenix so I don’t think it is that different. Weekends when you run good you are wishing you could run that tire more and weekends you don’t run well then you won’t want to run that tire.”

MATT KENSETH ON HIS TWO PRACTICES FRIDAY: “The last practice was a little bit better. When you really don’t get on the track again except from qualifying you kind of go off what you felt like after your last practice and we hadn’t practiced very well. This one was a little better and we made some improvements and progress to get a little hope. It was looking grim after the first session. It wasn’t looking very good."

Busch looking for third Richmond win
 KYLE BUSCH ON WHY HE'S BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL AT RICHMOND: "I don’t know. It’s just been a really good race track. Somehow we’ve been able to figure it out in the races. Sometimes we don’t practice great, sometimes we don’t qualify great, but we’ve always been able to come up through there. The qualifying stats aren’t as pretty as the race stats, but you don’t put too much emphasis on that. Certainly you’d like to qualify well and have a good shot at staying up front and staying out of trouble, but we’ve been able to make our way up through there. I think the long green flag runs suit my style pretty well and I like being able to get out there and kind of get strung out and run at your own pace — run at your own agenda.”

KYLE BUSCH ON WHETHER HE FEELS YOUNGER DRIVERS GET PSYCHED OUT BY HIM aFTER RUNNING HAMLIN'S RACE THURSDAY NIGHT: “You’d have to ask them. They might not really admit it. I would say that has a little bit to do with it. I would say they put a little bit of added pressure on themselves going against myself at that particular moment. They may have just screwed up a little bit. If people just concentrate on being consistent and running their own race and not worrying about who’s around them they can sometimes be a lot better off.

Darrell (Wallace Jr.) he ran into me under the caution coming to the green trying to force me higher up to get my right sides in the stuff. I’m like, ‘Kid, what are you doing.’ You know, I’m a little bit smarter than that. I know what’s going on here. And then he about wrecked us both. Luckily, I held on to it. But, apparently he got hit from behind. I don’t know.”

KYLE BUSCH ON IF HE FEESL LIKE A MENTOR: “Well, I can talk to them, as much as they want to talk to me. I think they’re either intimidated by me or they just feel like they don’t need the help. I’ve never talked to Max (Gresham) or to Darrell (Wallace Jr.). I was kind of the same way. I always hated calling a Jeff Gordon or a Jimmie Johnson about stuff like that. You know, those guys have their own agenda and are doing their own deals, so it’s kind of tough sometimes to feel like you’re being bothersome to them. So, I can imagine they’re the same way.”

Strong in Q-trim early
  PAUL MENARD ON WHAT HE WAS WORKING ON IN PRACTICE — RACE OR QUALIFYING: “We were working on race trim the first practice. We started off in qualifying trim. The track was cooler than it will be this next session so we wanted to get a good number and get a late draw. Probably 10 or 15 guys did the same deal. We’ll have a good draw for qualifying I think. I’m not sure anybody’s going to go a whole lot faster in the second practice. Now it’s a short practice and we’ll work on qualifying trim.”

PAUL MENARD ON HOW HIS CAR WAS IN PRACTICE?: “It was okay. Qualifying trim was good. We switched over to race trim and it was pretty good. Made a couple changes and it was not good at all. Really kind of got behind. Basically just went back to how we unloaded, reset it and it was back to being okay. We’ll learn some things here. I don’t think we’ll change a whole lot.

Bowyer looking for a return to Richmond's victory lane
CLINT BOWYER ON HIS TWITTER PARTY AND HIS SURPRISE RICHMOND WIN FROM 2008: “It was. First of all, that win was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in Victory Lane because it was a surprise, you know? We had a fast car all day long and we put ourselves up there and put ourselves in position. That’s what you have to do. But nonetheless, the right circumstances played out and we were able to win the race. There was so much! You couldn’t help but to laugh about it, you know? I could kind of see it coming, and I knew that I needed to put myself in position and then it happened, and it was like, oh my God. I could see it coming. It happened! It was just an incredible feeling and an incredible win for us. To put BB&T in Victory Lane and everybody, I’ll never forget that day. It was a pretty wild and exciting time. I was actually worried about Kyle Busch (laughs). I didn’t know how I was going to get him out of here.

“And the Twitter thing? What a joke! Oh, my. I was involved in a Twitter party. Did I host the Twitter party? I attended a Twitter party. I don’t know why we just didn’t get on the phone and talk to each other (laughter).

Ask him this question and then type this answer and then see what he thinks about this and they said this and type that. It was a mess. I was mad (at his PR representative); and I’m still upset with him that he made me even participate in such a goofy thing. I’d better not say any more.”

Earnhardt Jr. Fastest in First Richmond Practice Session

By Micah Roberts

Junior fastest in first Richmond practice
Dale Earnhardt Jr. laid down the fastest lap of 125.465 mph early in Friday’s first practice session in preparation for Saturday night’s Crown Royal 400 at Richmond. The two-hour practice session was the first of scheduled practices prior to Friday night’s qualifying.

In order to get a jump on several of the other teams for an optimum late start in qualifying, most of the top speeds were set within the first few laps using qualifying trim. The idea for many of the teams was to set their fastest times early when the track was much cooler with less rubber build-up. The final 45 minute session figures to much hotter and have two hours of rubber build up from 44 cars, which won’t have the same grip as it did earlier.

Teams that didn’t go early with their qualifying set-up either ran one later in the first session or will attempt a mock qualifying run in the final practice.

Since their idea proved correct, because the top times stood throughout, they will likely have the top speeds of the day which allows them to qualify later when the track will be cooling down tonight. Qualifying order is based on the top practice speeds of the day. For Earnhardt Jr,, should the times stick through the final session, he will have the chance to run when the track is expected to be at it’s coolest moment.

Friday's First Practice Top-5:
#88-Earnhardt Jr. 125.465
#99-Edwards 125.313
#33-Bowyer 124.994
#27-Menard 124.711
#39-Newman 124.608
slowest: #71-Lally 120.085 & #92-Keselowski 120.930
incident: #11-Hamlin scraped the wall, but no major damage. (

Practice 1 Results

Richmond Preview: Everyone Figures To Be Chasing Kyle Busch

By Micah Roberts

Richmond always provides some of the best action of the season (Getty) 
We get some good old fashioned racing this week, a Saturday Night Special, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series roars into Richmond. For some reason the freaks come out at night on the short tracks and we’re not talking about just the fans. The drivers themselves turn from mild mannered corporate spokesmen into road raging avengers trying to pay back a scrape from a few laps back.

All this plays out nicely for the rowdy fans in attendance and those at home watching on television as rivalries are created and scores are settled right in front of our eyes. Richmond never disappoints.

The driver everyone will likely be chasing this week is Kyle Busch who has won this spring race the last two seasons. In addition to being runner-up on four occasions, Busch has finished outside the top-five only twice in his 12 starts with no finish worse than 20th. Busch will be using his third-place Martinsville chassis this week, a car that led a race high 151-laps before giving way to Dale Earnhardt Jr and eventual winner Kevin Harvick.

Another edge for Busch this week besides the success of his car is the success he had at Phoenix this year, a track that requires a similar set-up to Richmond. Busch gave way to Jeff Gordon late in that race prompting Gordon to be more excited about passing a tough driver like Busch than he was about ending his lengthy winless streak.

Because of Phoenix win, Gordon should be good this week
Gordon led the most laps at Phoenix and should contend for his third Richmond win. He hasn't won there since 2000, but hasn't finished outside 12th in his last eight starts. He was runner-up to Busch in this race last season.

Busch’s teammate could definitely use some Richmond love. Denny Hamlin finished last season as the runner-up in points, but currently sits 17th in points. It’s like he’s had a hangover from blowing the championship that is still lingering which no aspirin can cure. The native Virginian should love the home cooking he’ll get this week because he’s won the last two Richmond fall races. Perhaps the week off for Easter can shake things up for him this week.

Jimmie Johnson is a three-time Richmond winner -- the last coming in 2008, but he’s also had some rough times there with six finishes of 25th or worse. After winning at Talladega, Johnson now finds himself sitting in second in points, just five behind Carl Edwards. Based on the results from the similar track of Phoenix in week 2 where Johnson finished third, we should expect something close or better than that. Incidentally, Johnson will be using that same Phoenix car this week.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th at Phoenix and it began a succession on seven straight races where he hasn’t finished worse than 12th, a streak that is still currently alive. Because of that consistency, Junior now finds himself third in points. He’s a three-time winner at Richmond who just might find a way to sneak into the winners circle and end his 101 race winless streak.

Harvick using winning Martinsville car this week (Getty)
The Childress cars should all fare well this week led by Kevin Harvick, who won at Richmond in 2006, and Clint Bowyer, who won in 2008. Bowyer has the third best average finish (9.8) on the track among active drivers just behind Busch (5.3) and Hamlin (8.0). Harvick will be driving his winning Martinsville car this week.

Jeff Burton is a native Virginian like Hamlin, but hasn’t won at Richmond since 1998. However, Burton came close the last two seasons finished third and fourth, respectively, in the last two spring races.

Carl Edwards is listed as one of the favorites by Las Vegas Hilton Super Book even though he hasn‘t won there. In 13 career starts, Edwards has only one top-five finish, a fifth-place last spring. The low odds are more about what Edwards has done at Phoenix in his last two races there. Edwards won at Phoenix last fall and then looked to have the best car this year during practice there before getting in a wreck.

There haven’t been a lot of long shots, or upset winners the last five years, but we did see a little spurt from 2003 to 2005 where three drivers won at odds of 30-to-1 or higher. Joe Nemecheck was 50-to-1 in 2003, Jeremy Mayfield was 40-to-1 in 2004 and Kasey Kahne was 35-to-1 in 2005. The best long shot candidate this week might be Burton at 30-to-1.

Top 5 Finish Prediction:
1) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (7/1)
3) #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)
4) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
5) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (20/1)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Driver Chassis Selections for Crown Royal 400 at Richmond

Please note: Not every team publishes their chassis selections in their press releases.

Edwards using a new car this week at Richmond (Getty)
1. Carl Edwards: Won the pole and led 95 laps en route to a 10th-place finish last September; Finish was fifth top 10 in 13 starts; 16.2 average finish and 112 laps led in the eight races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 756) in the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400.

2. Jimmie Johnson: Three-time winner in the eight races with the COT; Last win came in the 2008 September race; Eighth-best average finish (11.6) with the COT; 10th-best driver rating in the last 12 races; Finished 10th in this event last year; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 590) that he finished third with at Phoenix International Raceway in February.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr: 22.2 average finish in six starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Led 90 laps and finished fourth in the 2008 September race with HMS; Scored three wins and nine top 10s in previous 17 starts with Dale Earnhardt, Inc.; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 542) that he finished 10th with at Phoenix International Raceway in February.

4. Kevin Harvick: Coming off 13th top 10 in 20 starts; Won the 2006 September race; Sixth-best average finish (10.5) in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 332) that he last went to Victory Lane with at Martinsville Speedway earlier this month.

5. Kurt Busch: Finished 18th in both events last year; Four top 10s in 10 starts with Penske Racing; Finished second in the 2009 September race for sixth top 10 in 20 overall starts; Won the 2005 summer race with Roush Racing; 14.5 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 749) in the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400.

Busch is using third-place Martinsville car this week (Getty)
6. Kyle Busch: Recorded second win in 12 starts in this event last year after leading 226 laps; Leads all drivers with a 6.0 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Second-place finish last September was fourth consecutive top five; Will return in the same car that he led 151 laps and finished third with at Martinsville Speedway earlier this month.

7. Ryan Newman: 8.3 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Has finished in the top 10 in the last seven spring races; Seventh-best average finish (11.1) in the eight races with the COT; Eighth-best driver rating in the past 12 races.

8. Matt Kenseth: Nine top-10 finishes in 22 starts; Has finished outside the top 10 in his last seven starts; 20.8 average finish in the eight races with the COT; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 751) in the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400.

9. Juan Pablo Montoya: Finished in the top 10 in both races in 2010; Sixth-place finish in this event is best in eight starts; 21.4 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1109) that he finished 19th with at Phoenix International Raceway in February.

10. Clint Bowyer: Coming off fifth top 10 in 10 starts; Won this event in 2008 from the 31st starting position; Fifth-best average finish (9.5) in the eight races with the COT; Will return in the same car that he led 91 laps and finished ninth with at Martinsville Speedway earlier this month.

11. Paul Menard: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in eight starts; 27.2 average finish; Best finish came in this event in 2007 in 16th; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 342) in the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400; This car was tested at Walt Disney World Speedway in January.

Stewart using Phoenix chassis that led 4 times for 59 laps
12. Tony Stewart: 14.5 average finish in four starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; 14 top 10s, including three wins in previous 20 starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Fourth-best average finish (9.2) in the eight races with the COT; Fifth-best driver rating in past 12 races.

13. Jeff Gordon: 12th-place finish last September snapped streak of seven consecutive top 10s; Second in average finish (6.2) and laps led (648) in the eight races with the COT; Last of two wins came in the 2000 September race.

14. Mark Martin: 13.5 average finish in four starts with Hendrick Motorsports; One win and a 12.2 average finish in 50 starts; 10th-best average finish (12.5) in the eight races with the COT; Ninth-best driver rating in the past 12 races; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 663) in the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400.

15. AJ Allmendinger: Coming off first top 10 in eight starts; 25.8 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 736) that he finished 19th with at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

16. Greg Biffle: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in the eight races with the COT; 16.9 average finish in 17 starts; Last of five top 10s (sixth) came in the September race in 2006; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 708) that he finished fifth with last fall at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hamlin has won the last two fall Richmond races (Getty)
17. Denny Hamlin: Coming off second win in 10 starts; Third in average finish (7.9) and first in laps led (1,112) in the eight races with the COT; Leads all drivers in the driver rating category; Finished 11th in this event last year.

18. Kasey Kahne: 19.0 average finish in 14 starts; Won this event in 2005 with Evernham Motorsports; Making first track start with Team Red Bull.

19. Martin Truex Jr: Finished seventh in this event last year in track debut with Michael Waltrip Racing; 23.5 average finish in 10 starts.

20. David Ragan: 21.9 average finish in eight starts; Only top 10 (third) came in the 2007 September race; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 755) in the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400.

- compiled by Jeff Wackerlin,

Driver Notes & Quotes For Crown Royal 400 at Richmond

Stewart is a 3-time winner at Richmond
TONY STEWART ON WHETHER RICHMOND IS ONE OF HIS FAVORITE TRACKS: “It is my favorite track. It’s not one of them, it’s the favorite track of mine on the circuit. I’ve just always thought it’s the perfect-sized track for a Cup race. The other short tracks we run – Bristol and Martinsville – they’re cool in their own right, but there’s a lot of congestion at those two tracks. But at Richmond, it just seems like that extra quarter-mile, and that three-quarter-mile shape, and how wide the groove gets there, allows for good racing. It seems like we have to race ourselves and race the racetrack versus racing each other a lot of times. You do have to race each other, obviously, but there are a lot of times during the race when you have the flexibility to move around on the racetrack and try to find a spot your car likes better than somewhere else. A lot of times on a short track you don’t have the flexibility. You’re more narrowed down with what groove you’re going to be in.”

STEWART ON THE KEY TO BEING SUCCESSFUL AT RICHMOND: “You want to make sure your car is adjustable. We start the race at the end of the day, when it’s usually pretty hot but, as night comes, the track cools down and it changes quite a bit. Old pavement, new pavement – the same theory applies, and that’s not something you see at most of the races we go to. It’s pretty much isolated to just the night races. You’ve got to have adjustability because you know for a fact that the track isn’t going to stay the same all night long.”

STEWART ON WHAT TRACK RICHMOND IS SIMILAR TO: “It just reminds me of some of the shorter tracks that I’ve run. It has kind of the same feel that three-quarter-mile tracks did with some of the other cars I’ve run with. It was like Phoenix the first time I went there. I hadn’t been to a 1-mile oval but once in my life, but when I got onto Phoenix, I adjusted and adapted to it really quickly. It was a place where I became very comfortable right away. I had that same feeling when I went to Richmond for the first time. I think every driver has a track they go to where they get that same feeling. There are just some places you go to where you adjust, and it really suits your driving style.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 14-587 - This car made its debut in March 2010 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where it qualified fifth and finished 26th. Prior to Martinsville, Chassis No. 14-587 never turned a wheel on the racetrack. With a new body honed in the wind tunnel, it was tested at The Milwaukee Mile June 1 in preparation for its second career start in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. There, Chassis No. 14-587 earned a hard-fought second-place finish, for after starting 25th, it fell to 33rd after a lap 36 pit miscue on the team’s first stop. Two late-race cautions allowed Stewart to regain his lost track position, and with a savvy two-tire pit call, Stewart wheeled Chassis No. 14-587 to pass second-place Kurt Busch on the penultimate lap.

The car returned to New Hampshire for the first event of the 10-race Chase for the Championship, where in its third career start, it qualified third before leading three times for 100 laps. But while leading with less than two laps to go, it ran out of fuel. Stewart coasted around the 1.058-mile oval for the final circuit of the 300-lap race and finished 24th, the last driver on the lead lap. Clint Bowyer, who served as Stewart’s primary competition for much of the race, wound up with the victory.

Chassis No. 14-587 revisited Martinsville for round six of the Chase, where it qualified sixth and rallied back from two pit-road miscues during the race, but a flat right-front tire with less than 10 laps remaining relegated it to a 24th-place finish.

With another new body, this car made its first start of 2011 and fifth overall at Phoenix International Raceway in February. It started 18th and led four times for 59 laps before an ill-timed caution period late in the race jettisoned solid pit strategy and left it with a seventh-place finish. Chassis No. 14-587’s second start of 2011 comes this weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

REGAN SMITH ON RICHMOND: “I really like the Richmond track even though we haven’t had much success there,” said Smith. “We’ve been through an awful period of bad luck and hopefully Talladega’s finish is the start of good things for our Furniture Row Chevrolet. Deep down I know we can perform with the leaders — our qualifying efforts have proven that. But if we can’t avoid trouble we’re never going to get there. I am not looking for good luck, I just don’t want any bad luck. It’s our job to make the good luck. It’s time that we live up to some of those preseason expectations."

RYAN NEWMAN ON THE TEAM PERFORMANCE OVER THE LAST THREE RACES WHERE HIS BEST FINISH WAS 14TH AT TEXAS: “On paper it looks like we’ve been slipping, but in reality we haven’t,” stated Newman, who has led 437 career laps at Richmond. “I felt we had a car that could have won both Martinsville and Talladega this season, but instead we finished 20th and 25th. We also had a car that could have won the Daytona 500. We were leading or close to leading when our car got shoved into the wall with three or four laps remaining. We ended up 22nd. I am both happy and proud about our performance this year. We’ve been a contender week in and week out and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be just as strong in Saturday night’s race.”

Junior is a 3-time winner at Richmond (Getty)
DALE EARNHARDT JR. ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “I used to race at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) which is real similar to Richmond. The line there and the track are kind of similar. It reminds me a lot of Myrtle Beach, so I was pretty comfortable as soon as I got there, as soon as I started running laps there. Just rolling the center (is what it takes to be fast at RIR). The last couple times I’ve been there we’ve struggled turning in the middle. The car has to turn and cut in the center of the corner and have good drive off, especially in Turn 4. You can spin your tires real bad coming off of (Turn) 4 if you aren’t careful.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA ON RICHMOND: “Up until last year I never had much luck at Richmond. It was a tough track for me to get use to because the schedule was so different. You practice and qualify all in the same day with track temperatures that will differ from the race Saturday night. Come race time you need a fast car, good pit stall selection and good track position. There’s one line everyone prefers at Richmond so it makes it tough to pass. This is a track you never want to fall behind on."

MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: For the second time this year crew chief Brian Pattie will bring chassis #1109. This chassis was last used in February at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) where Montoya started 22nd and brought home a 19th-place finish

JAMIE MCMURRAY ON RICHMOND: “Richmond is an exciting place to race. It is always fun to race under the lights on a Saturday night, especially with a track like this. Richmond is short-track racing that allows you to still race side-by-side, however the lower groove is the preferred line around the track. Having a fast car and trying to stay on the lead lap all night are going to be the keys to success for our McDonald’s Chevrolet."

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion has elected to bring chassis #1008 to RIR this weekend. This chassis was last used by Bono and gang in February at Phoenix International Raceway where McMurray started eighth and finished 35th. This chassis visited last year’s spring (started 13th, finished 24th) and fall race (started fifth, finished 10th) in Phoenix. Chassis #1008 also ran both races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2010. McMurray started the June Loudon race in the 27th spot and finished in the 18th position. He started the September Loudon race in the fourth position and finished third.

MARTIN TRUEX JR'S CREW CHIEF PAT TRYSON ON WHAT THEIR DID DID TO PREPARE FOR RICHMOND: “The NAPA team tested in Orlando, Fla., at Walt Disney World Speedway on April 12-13. We wanted to try some different stuff with the rear bar and some front suspension packages to dial in the short tracks like Richmond. Last year we finished seventh in the first Richmond race, but struggled at the second after crashing our primary NAPA Toyota in practice, so we focused on what seemed to work and retooled it a bit. We are always looking for ways to find more grip and drive off as that’s what we’ve been battling. We’re pretty pleased with how the test went and Martin was happy with what we’ve come up with so I hope it translates to a fast NAPA Ultimate Tune-Up Toyota when we unload Friday.”

Everyone is currently in Edwards rear view mirror (Getty)
CARL EDWARDS ON RICHMOND: “We’re going to Richmond leading the points and we’ve been having a great season. We ran really well at Phoenix and our team is hoping that will translate into a good run at Richmond. I think our team has shown that it can run well on short tracks this season. Matt Kenseth ran really well at Martinsville, we ran really well at Phoenix and I could not be going to a better track this weekend. Going in with the point lead is great. There’s no pressure, just go and have a good time and just race.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 team will be bringing chassis RK-756 to Richmond this weekend. This is a brand new chassis with the Scotts EZ Seed paint scheme

BOBBY LABONTE ON RICHMOND: “It’s a fun track for me and a fan favorite too. We should have a couple more tracks on the schedule like Richmond because it’s neat for fans to be able to see their drivers up close on the track. On top of that, it’s always a great night race. I love Richmond and I’ve ran good there. You can race two and three wide and can pass. All around, it’s a good competitive track to race at.”

Phoenix success should translate well at Richmond (Getty)
JEFF GORDON ON RICHMOND: “I love Richmond, and I don’t know of another driver that doesn’t like this track. But it is a very challenging short track. One of the keys to going fast here is getting the DuPont Chevrolet to turn the middle of the corner. But it’s tough to get the car to turn the middle without getting the car too loose in and too loose off. It’s tough trying to guess what the track is going to do from day to night. The track will change a lot from the start of the race to the end, so we’ll need to keep up with those changes. Good communication throughout the race is needed to keep up with – or stay ahead of – those changing conditions. I feel our short track program is pretty solid, so that’s another reason for us to look forward to this weekend’s race. But to win here takes the same thing it takes to win anywhere else. You need a fast race car, to be in the right place at the right time, good pit stops, good strategy, good communication and tuning the car to keep up with the changing conditions of the track. If you do all those things, you hopefully will be in contention with the checkered flag in sight.”

MARK MARTIN ON RICHMOND: “I love racing at Richmond. There aren’t too many drivers out there who won’t say that. It’s a great little short track. It’s small, but it has a lot of racing room out there. There’s multiple grooves, and it really lends itself to some great side-by-side racing and awesome finishes. Racing at night is always good, too. I think it throws in a little extra excitement."

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “I feel really good about our Penske Racing program on the short-track side. I think our cars have shown some speed. We haven’t gotten the finishes that we’d like in our Miller Lite Dodge, but we’re doing the right things. We were strong at Bristol and got caught up early in a wreck. We were strong at Martinsville and just didn’t quite put the whole race together. I feel like if we put an entire race together not only can we run well, we’ll have an opportunity to win at Richmond.

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will use chassis PRS-736 during Saturday’s Crown Royal presents the Mathew and Daniel Hansen 400 at Richmond International Raceway (RIR). Keselowski last drove this chassis to a 15th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway in February.

Kenseth is bringing a brand new chassis this week (Getty)
MATT KENSETH ON RICHMOND: “I do really enjoy racing at Richmond and I think most drivers like it. It’s been a good track for us in the past, although it’s been a struggle since we went to the COT car, but it seems like we keep getting a little bit better. I’m really looking forward to going there this weekend though, probably the most I’ve looked forward to it since they introduced the new car. We’ve been getting better on the flatter short tracks. At Martinsville, we had a really good car. I messed up and got a penalty on the first lap but battled back from that all day and ended up getting a decent finish. Carl (Edwards) has been extremely fast at Phoenix the last couple races and I feel like we really improved our program a lot so our cars should be better at those tracks. I’m looking forward to getting there and seeing how the improvement we think we made translates to the racetrack.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE EXPLAINED BY CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG: “We have a brand new car we’re bringing this weekend to Richmond. I feel like our short track program has really improved, and although we’ve put together some great runs so far this season, we still need to focus on consistency and making sure that we’re doing the best we can every week. The biggest challenge at Richmond is getting off the corner straight and not spinning the rear tires. We’re always working on rear grip without losing the front end in the middle of the turns.”

GREG BIFFLE ON RICHMOND: “Richmond is definitely a driver’s track. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons I have always liked it. It allows for really good racing and the night race this weekend will be exciting for the fans no matter what. We struggled there a little the last couple of years but I know the guys have been working hard to make sure we don’t have the same problems again.“

A.J. ALLMENDINGER ON RACING AT RICHMOND: “I enjoy it there. We have had our ups and down there for sure. Last year in the second race there we were really good. It is a really tough place because it gets really slick and you tend to start to get some long runs in there and if you are just a little bit off with these cars lately you can get one or two guys that get dialed in and they can lap the field real quick. You really have to have a good qualifying run and then you really have to be good from the start. From there on it is just the track getting slick and when you get in the long runs you have to conserve your rear tires. It is a tough race track. It is one of those places where we have been good and faded and last year we were pretty good all race. We finished eighth and we were even better than that. It is a tough place but a fun place to drive for sure. I am looking forward to it because I feel like our short track program has really improved and we have a chance to be really good there. It is definitely a tough race, especially when it is hot out. As the sun goes down it makes for a cool Saturday night short track race. I am really looking forward to it.”

Logano brings a new car this week.
JOEY LOGANO ON RICHMOND: “The last few races at Richmond have gone well for the Home Depot Team. We’ve had really good race cars, too. It just takes us a little bit longer in the race to get our car good. Last time we were there, we took off really slow at the beginning of the race and went down a lap. We got our lap back and drove up to fourth – so we finished up there – it just took us a long time to get there. We’re going to focus on starting off a little bit better this time. It seems like the longer the race goes there, the better we get most of the time as the track rubbers up a little bit. I think it helps your team a lot to have all three cars running good there. I’m not running the Nationwide race this weekend, so I can focus solely on the Cup car. We’re finally coming off a top-10 run in Talladega, now we need to carry that momentum and work our way up in the points.”

LOGANO CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #303 to Richmond this weekend for the Crown Royal 400. This chassis has never been raced; however it has seen practice laps this season at Martinsville Speedway. The chassis received extensive damage in practice and a back-up car was utilized for the race. The back-up chassis is chassis #278 which Logano drove most recently at Bristol in March.

DAVID RAGAN ON RICHMOND: “We are back to a short track again this weekend and Richmond is one of my favorite short tracks. We ran well at Martinsville and were competitive at Phoenix, and both of those tracks help you get a feel for Richmond. Our short track cars are better than they have ever been and I’m ready to race at one of my favorite tracks under the lights Saturday night.”

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE AS EXPLAINED BY CREW CHIEF DREW BLICKENSDERFER: “Richmond is a place David runs well at and he really enjoys racing there. We are looking forward to our new-and-improved short-track program and taking a brand new chassis to Richmond this weekend. Phoenix is the closest track to Richmond and we had some really good things going there until we blew a tire, so I feel like we should have a good UPS Ford this weekend.”





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

Three-time Richmond Winner Jimmie Johnson Bringing Third-Place Phoenix car This Week

Jimmie Johnson
STARTS: 8 WINS: 1 TOP 5: 4 TOP 10: 5

Johnson using 3rd-place Phoenix car this week at Richmond (Getty)
Richmond International Raceway
• Johnson has made 18 Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond International Raceway, where he has earned three wins, five top-five and six top-10 finishes.
• Johnson has completed 93.5% (6736 of 7203) of competition laps and has led 376.
• He has an average start and finish of 11.1 and 16.9.

Chassis Choice
• Johnson will pilot chassis No. 590 in Saturday night’s race. He crossed the finish line third with that chassis at Phoenix International Raceway in February.
• Johnson finished fifth in backup chassis No. 540 at Phoenix International Raceway in Nov. 2010.

TALK ABOUT RICHMOND AND WHAT YOU EXPECT THIS WEEKEND: “It seems like we are up and down at Richmond. We’ve obviously won there but we didn’t have a great finish last year in the spring but then were able to pull out a good run to start the Chase in a good spot. Track position is always important there so the first few stops of the night really make a difference. Getting those adjustments right early on is important. We’re obviously happy where we are in points right now. We just need to continue our momentum from Talladega.”

Career Wins
• Johnson has 54 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, his most recent coming at Dover International Speedway on April 17, 2011.
• The El Cajon, Calif.-native is currently tied with Lee Petty for ninth on NASCAR’s all-time wins list, one victory behind Rusty Wallace.
• He is second in total wins among active drivers, behind Jeff Gordon (82).
• Johnson needed only 296 starts to hit the 50 mark. Only three drivers have reached 50 victories quicker – Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
• Johnson has won at least three Cup races a season since he posted his first victory in 2002. He is the only driver in the modern era to win at least three races in each of his first eight full-time seasons.
• Johnson has won Sprint Cup Series races at all but four (Michigan, Chicago, Watkins Glen, Homestead) of the 22 tracks on which the series competes.
• Johnson’s 10 wins in 2007 was the highest number recorded in a single season since Jeff Gordon posted 13 victories in 1998.
• The four-consecutive wins scored by the No. 48 team in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ties a modern-era NASCAR record.

Career Poles
• Johnson has collected 25 poles in his Sprint Cup career.
• The championship driver has earned at least one pole a year since his first full-time season in 2002.
• He had a career-high six poles in 2008.
• Johnson’s most recent pole position was at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 24, 2010.

Career Starts
• Johnson has finished in the top five in the Sprint Cup Series point standings each year since his first full season in 2002.
• Johnson is the only driver to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup every year since the format was adopted in 2004.
• In 335 Sprint Cup Series starts, Johnson has posted 138 top-five and 208 top-10 finishes.
• He has a top-five finish at every track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit.
• Johnson has led a total of 11,261 laps (of 96,718) in his Sprint Cup career, covering over 129,372 miles.
• He has finished on the lead lap 260 times.

- GMR Live Marketing for Team Lowe’s Racing, Press Release

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kyle Busch Heads to Richmond, His Best Statistical Track

Bowing at Richmond has become a regular occurrence for Busch (Getty)    
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (April 26, 2011) – Kyle Busch – winner of 93 races among NASCAR’s top three divisions – has never been described as average.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is not only better than average at most venues on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, he’s well above average when it comes to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, site of Saturday night’s Crown Royal 400.

Why would he be described at well above average at Richmond? Busch’s numbers at the .75-mile short track tell the story. His most recent win there last May was the second of his career to go with four runner-up finishes and an amazing 10 top-fives in just 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond. The Las Vegas native has an average finishing position of 5.2, tops among active drivers at Richmond, where he sits ahead of JGR teammate Denny Hamlin, whose average finish there is 8.0. Busch has completed all 4,810 laps available to him. Of those laps completed, Busch has run in the top-15 for 4,253 laps (88.4 percent), second-most among active drivers.

While he has always had strong runs at Richmond, Busch’s first Sprint Cup victory there came in May 2009, where he became only the second driver in Sprint Cup history to celebrate a victory on his birthday, a feat first accomplished by Cale Yarborough twice. Yarborough won on his March 27 birthday at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway in 1977 and at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1983. Since then, Busch has finished no worse than fifth at Richmond during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, recording wins in both spring races and fifth and second, respectively, in the fall races the past two seasons.

While his birthday isn’t until this coming Tuesday, the soon-to-be 26-year-old would like nothing more than to add another Richmond win to his resume and celebrate his birthday a few days early in victory lane on Saturday night at Richmond.

Do you enjoy racing at Richmond? “I like going to Richmond. It’s a fun racetrack. It’s a nice short track that we get to go and run at. For me, the success I’ve had there, I’m not sure why, but it’s just been a good place for me to run. I’m excited about getting back there to get another run in the top-five and try to go after a win with our M&M’s Pretzel Camry like we did there the last two spring races.”

Gibbs always has a great car for Busch at Richmond (Getty)
You’ve had plenty of success at Richmond over the years with an impressive average finish of 5.2. Is there a way you drive the racecar there that has helped you? "At Richmond, you try to be easy on the brakes getting in so you don’t lock up getting into the corner or get too loose getting into the corner. It’s really particular there. The center (of the corner) always seems to be a little tight with these cars. And the exit, today, has been so loose. Nobody has any forward bite coming up off the corner, so it’s pretty bad. That should make for a pretty interesting race. It’s a fun short track. It’s pretty fast and it usually spreads out, and you’ll get a lot of grooves to choose from. You can pretty much count on the usual exciting short-track race when you go there.”

What is it like to go to short tracks like Bristol and Richmond and know you are always one of the guys to beat? “It’s pretty cool. You go to those places and I’m, like, ‘Alright, well, we’re here to win this weekend, obviously.’ If you can put it all together, you’re going to be the guy to beat. Probably Joe Gibbs Racing is the team to beat here since Denny (Hamlin) won the fall race and I won the other one and finished second to Denny in the second race. You wouldn’t say I’m the guy to beat at a place like Michigan or something like that, where my record is horrendous. I don’t know. It gives you a little bit better pep in your step and a little bit more confidence. It gives you a better feeling for how your weekend should go, barring any catastrophic failure or something like that. Richmond is the same. I expect to go there and I expect to run top-three at Richmond. You always want to go to the racetrack to win, but you have some realistic expectations, first. I feel like, yeah, we can win this weekend, but we’re going to start with a top-five. Yeah, I can win at Richmond. I’m going to start with expecting a top-three.”

How do you communicate what you feel in the race car, and does that help you at short tracks? “That’s always been there. I have a good knowledge of what I’m feeling. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) doesn’t know exactly what I’m feeling in the car, so I know what a track bar does, what a wedge does, I know what air pressure does. I know what all that does, so when they ask me about a change, they’re like, ‘Let’s do wedge,’ and I’m like, ‘No, that’s not really going to help with what I need.’ Sometimes Dave can look at the timing and scoring and say we’re two-tenths off from where we need to be and I can say, ‘Yeah, I just need half-a-round of wedge.’ Then he says, ‘We need something a lot more than that. We’re going to have to swing at this thing to get it right.’ That’s when you rely on information from both sides. It’s like what I’m feeling is this and what Dave is seeing on the stopwatch is that, so you have to work back and forth. We work together on those decisions.”

Busch is using a strong Martinsville car this week (Getty)
You sit sixth in the standings, now. When do you start looking at where you are in the points? “I think you actually want to try to do that sooner rather than later, knowing some things happen like they did at Talladega that are sometimes out of your control. It’s about Charlotte time – about the end of May – when you get into the season and you look at where you’re at. You can pretty much say you’re going to be four or five positions one way or the other – you can be four positions better or five positions worse once you get down to Chase time. It can go either way. If you’re really good, you can be four better. If you kind of hit a roadblock and have some bad races, you can probably be about five worse. That’s how we look at it. Right now, I think we’re solid fourth (Busch currently is sixth in the standings), or something like that. I don’t even watch or even pay attention to them right now. If you have good results, then they’ll take care of themselves.”

Busch Chassis Selection
Chassis No. 302: This chassis will make its second career start in Saturday night’s Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. No. 302 made its debut earlier this month at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where Busch started 11th and led a race-high 151 laps before bringing home a solid third-place finish.

- True Speed Communications PR