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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

IndyCar Names Beaux Barfield New Race Director


IndyCar has officially announced new IndyCar Race Director and President of Competition Beaux Barfield this morning. With a one-year contract, Barfield will have the final say on what happens on the track.

Barfield raced go-karts competitively as a youngster, winning his first karting race at age 15. He continued to race in Formula 2000 and IndyCar Lights before moving into teaching and coaching of open wheel tactics. Since 2008 Barfield has served as what most consider a successful Race Director for the American Le Mans Series; from 2003 to 2007 he served as steward for the now defunct Champ Car Series.

During this morning’s press conference, Randy Bernard indicates that he has been impressed with Beaux Barfield as being articulate, forward-thinking, experience. Bernard says “…this man has been chief officiator for another series and I think that is very important.” One of the first tasks for Barfield will be the re-writing the IndyCar rule book. Former IndyCar Race Director Brian Barnhart received much criticism throughout the 2011 season for his seemingly inconsistent calls, caused at least in part by the relaxed writing of the existing IndyCar rules book.

2012 not only brings a new Race Director to IndyCar, but a new car as well. Barfield will be tasked with retooling the IndyCar rules book to match the safety expectations that begin with the DW-12 Dallara car, to be more consistent over all situations, and to better fit the expectations of drivers and teams in regard to safety and fairness. Barfield reacted to his new position with comments including that he is looking forward to starting “from the ground up” in rebuilding the rules book.

In relation to the sometimes controversial calls in IndyCar on blocking, Beaux said “In the beginning, when I began my career in officiating, we made no calls on blocking. The next year, based on fan feedback we called absolutely everything on blocking. Both are absolutely wrong…the absolute black and white rules that most of us long for are not realistic….when it gets to the dangerous side, calls will be made.”

On officiating at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Barfield says that “I don’t think anyone can put in words the real emotions that we all get when coming to somewhere like Indianapolis motor Speedway…I certainly respect that as much as anyone else in here does. Ultimately, when the green flag drops I have to put those things aside and focus on what’s going on, on the track.”

Barfield says that he will lay out the rules for race control and that stewards will serve as a “safety net.” Although he says he is not prepared to roll out his steward plan quite yet, he did state during the press conference today that he feels it is important to have stewards from different backgrounds to have a well-rounded group of support personnel. Showing a bit of his humorous side, Barfield laughed and said that he knows he is probably just drawing a blank but he cannot think of a controversial call that he has made in his past, although to an extent, he says all calls have some level of controversy.

Beaux does hav a healthy sense of humor – just visit his Twitter page (@BeauxBarfield) to confirm this. Prior to today’s announcement, his bio on Twitter reads “ALMS Race Director. Instructor/Coach. Amateur: motorcycle builder, guitar player, helicopter pilot. If it has wheels I'll ride it drive it fix it or f**k it up.” He self-censors, but at the same time is not afraid to speak his mind.

Scrolling through his last month or so of Twitter updates finds Barfield calling other sports personalities names when he feels it necessary, joking about favorite movie quotes and scenes, and interacting easily with those from many walks of life. Barfield is involved in a long-term relationship with Cody Unser, founder of the Cody Unser First Step Foundation (http://www.cufsf.org/) and daughter of two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, Jr.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing - Indianapolis

Arriving on Thursday night in Indy the Richard Childress Racing Team expected big things from their drivers but after first practice on Friday the only RCR driver to post a speed in the top ten was Jeff Burton. Second practice on Friday afternoon found Kevin Harvick 5th fast and Jeff Burton 9th quickest. The third practice session on Saturday morning, and the final practice before qualifications ended without any Richard Childress Chevy drivers on the top ten list.

Qualifications came and went without any of the RCR teams cracking the front five rows. The highest starter among the four teams would be Jeff Burton, who would start 13th on Sunday. Paul Menard would roll off the starting grid in 15th position, Kevin Harvick would start 19th, and Clint Bowyer would begin on the outside of the 13th row for the 18th running of the Brickyard 400.

The Brickyard 400
The opening laps of the Brickyard 400 found the RCR drivers settling in for a long day. Jeff Burton gained six positions in the opening 20 laps and was shown in 9th place as lap 20 was in books. Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick teamed up to find 14th and 15th place, respectively on lap 25 when the first round of green flag pits stops began. Once the pit stops had cycled through, lap 20 found Harvick running 12th and Menard in 13th position. Bowyer was in 16th place and Burton, back in traffic was shown in the 33rd spot.

The first caution of the day flew on lap 35 for debris; Harvick dropped to 23rd on the restart after choosing to take two tires during his previous pit stop. By lap 41 Kevin was still mired back in 23rd place. In front of Harvick, Menard was shown in 18th place, Bowyer in 17th running position, and Burton in 15th place. By lap 42 the RCR drivers had grouped together to form a chain starting with Bowyer in 16th, followed by Bowyer in 17th, Menard in 18th, and Harvick in the 19th position on the track.

Each RCR driver had improved one spot when the yellow waved on lap 50 for David Reutimann's run in with the wall. After a slow stop for Paul under yellow Menard would restart in 30th position. Bowyer restarted in 17th place, Harvick in 19th position, and Burton 21st on the grid. By lap 63, 10 laps after the restart Bowyer had improved to 13th on the track, Harvick was shown 15th, Burton in 17th position, and Menard was running 27th.

Green flag pit stops were again underway as the race reached the halfway mark. Burton, Bowyer, and Harvick all headed to the pits on lap 80 but Menard opted to remain on the track where he inherited the lead on lap 84 before coming to the pits on the next lap. Once all stops were made Bowyer was shown in 12th position, Harvick was running 15th, Burton was in 19th place, and Menard in the 28th position.

When the yellow came out on lap 94 Menard again took over the lead when he stayed on the track as many other headed in for service. Lap 99 showed Menard as leader, Harvick running 14th, Bowyer in 18th position, and Burton in 19th. Menard held onto the lead until a bump from the 17 of Matt Kenseth on lap 16 caused him shuffle back to the 4th position. With 50 to go Menard was 4th, Harvick was 12th, Bowyer was 13th, and Burton was 31st.

Kyle Busch brought out the next caution on lap 112 as he kissed the wall in turn two; this time around Burton opted to stay out when others went for fuel and tires. Menard took four tires and fuel, whereas Bowyer and Harvick took the gamble with two tires on their stops. The restart on lap 117 would see Burton in the 2nd position, Harvick 8th, Bowyer 10th, and Menard in 12th place. Bowyer got in a hurry as the green flag dropped and made his way to 6th position by lap 119. A scary moment on lap 120 when Landon Cassill spun saw the 27 car of Paul Menard dive low to avoid the crash; all RCR drivers made it through safely.

The closing laps of the 2011 Brickyard 400 came down to fuel conservation. With 10 laps to go, Menard was leading and crew chief Slugger Labbe was on the radio instructing his driver to save fuel. Menard let then second place driver Jamie McMurray pass him and ducked behind McMurray in hopes of saving a bit of fuel from the draft. By the time the call from the pits came with four to go that it was go time for Menard and he no longer needed to conserve fuel, Paul was ready.

With Jeff Gordon coming up strong from behind, Menard passed McMurray

Menard moved up five positions in the Chase to 12th place in the standings; Paul's win also puts into contention for one of the two wild card spots in the Chase. Kevin Harvick improved one spot with his 11th place finish at the Brickyard and now shows in the 3rd position for the Championship race. Clint Bowyer held steady in the Chase standings in 10th position after finishing 13th in Sunday's race. Jeff Burton's standing also remains unchanged as he will still show 25th in points totals after a finish of 35th due to a late race engine failure with just seven laps to go.

Looking Ahead to Pocono...
Paul Menard has a good chance of putting two good weeks together as we look forward to Pocono. Menard started from the 2nd position in Pocono's earlier race this season and finished his day in the 14th position. Menard will be looking for a top ten finish and hoping for a continuation of his Chase standing improvement next week. With a fifth place finish in the 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono in the spring Kevin Harvick is going into next weekend with confidence for his chances at Pocono; Harvick is another RCR driver who wants to keep rising to the top of the Points leader board.

Jeff Burton had 8th and 7th place finishes at least year's Pocono races but was able to only finish 20th at the 2011 spring race in Pennsylvania. Burton is still looking for his first top ten finish in the 2011 season; Pocono provides a good possibility for a breakthrough race for Jeff with his experience and past history at the track. Clint Bowyer needs a solid performance at Pocono to keep himself in the top ten for the Chase. With just five races left before the Chase cut off, Bowyer cannot afford any mistakes that could take his team out of contention.

Richard Childress Racing and the other NASCAR teams will roll into Long Pond Pennsylvania for first practice on Friday at noon; second and final practice will take place later that afternoon at 4pm. Qualifications will begin Saturday morning at 10:40am. Cup drivers will roll off the starting grid on Sunday for the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 just after 1pm. Tune in to watch the Richard Childress drivers fight their way around the Tricky Triangle and see if RCR can come out on top for a second week in a row.


Amy McHargue has followed various forms of auto racing since she was a child. She was born and raised in southern Indiana, where she still resides with her teen son, cat, and Doberman-Jack Russell Terrier mix. Amy makes attempts to get to the track as often as possible, currently works for a self-publishing organization, and recently graduated college with a Bachelor Degree in Organizational Security. Amy can be reached by email at amy.mack.74@gmail.com or at www.twitter.com/amymack74

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reflections on the Inaugural Quaker State 400 from Kentucky Speedway


I understand that many people had a very difficult time with the traffic and parking situation, that many felt the race was boring, and that the event was a major fail on the part of Kentucky Speedway, Bruton Smith, and/or NASCAR. I will say that I have been a race fan all my life and other than the tire debacle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a couple years back I do not remember the fans complaining this much about any race. From comments made through the media, by drivers and fans on Twitter, and Kentucky Speedway it looks as if this was much worse than the 2008 Brickyard 400.

Coming into Saturday everyone should have already been aware that traffic was going to be an issue; the same backups occurred Friday night for the Nationwide race and Thursday night's Camping World Truck Series event. Once I found I was going to the race – I did not find out until late Friday evening – the first thing I did was plan a route that did not involve I-71. I hit KY -39 at the Indiana Kentucky state line and took KY-42 to KY-35. It took a total of three hours to make the trip and get parked. Google Maps estimated two hours and 22 minutes. I was one of the few who did not have issues with traffic going in.

I think my parking space was right at a mile from the track. Looking back, I would have been closer if I had paid $20 to park at the unofficial campground just north and east of the track off of KY-35. For those of you who have been to Kentucky Speedway, I had to park up the hill and way behind the Sunoco tank north of the track. Come to think of it, I was up two hills and in the middle of a field that shows as still wooded area if you look at the speedway on Google Maps. I am glad it did not rain – I am not positive my Chevrolet Cobalt would have made it out had it been muddy. Bottom line is that I did not get stuck and the parking at the Speedway is free – free is good.

Once we made it into the track things could not have been better up to race time. My son & I had pit and garage passes and were able to watch pre-race inspections, car preparation, pit set-up, we shook hands, high-fived, or otherwise said hi to about half the field, their crews, crew chiefs, and owners and there was always a track official nearby if a question came up. Concessions and restroom facilities in the garage area were more than adequate. Three trips to concessions for drinks and food resulted in no long waits and restroom lines were short.

The only item I would add to the garage and pit areas would be better signage to direct fans to the tunnel that takes them from the garage area to the grandstands. That tunnel is marked with a sign that simply says “Escalators.” A sign indicating “Tunnel to Stands” might be a bit more helpful. Also, security in the tunnel and escalator area might need improvement. There was one guard in the tunnel, in a chair, taking a nap. No kidding.


Rows in the grandstands could be better marked. Coming into the lower level stands one is coming from the top and walking down the concrete steps. The row numbers are painted as such that those numbers cannot be seen unless one is walking up the steps. The views are great. We were in the 28th row and could see all of the track. Any lower and I think we would have lost some of the backstretch and the cars as they passed beneath us but from the 28th row up a person will not miss a thing on the track or in the pits.


I enjoyed the race. I see a lot of people online who are saying they thought it was boring and awful but I have to disagree. Of course I have never seen a bad race, neither on TV or in person. So although the race on TV might have been rather dull for some and even for some who were at the track I found no time that I did not have something to hold my interest on the track or in the pits. I also had an HD Radio and ear buds on me so I was able to hear the radio commentators. The same was being played over the speedway loudspeaker system but with the cars running under green flag conditions it could not be heard in the stands.

The only real negative from our experiences was the concession stand areas in our part of the stands were severely inadequate. My son went to get drinks and a hot dog at one point. He came back after 30 minutes empty handed. He said he had been in line the whole time and had only made it a quarter of the way to the front of the line. Others sitting around us had similar experiences when making trips to the concessions. In the end we never got any food or drinks after the race started because of the lines throughout the race. We cleared out about 10 seconds after Kyle Busch took the Checkers and headed to the parking lot.

Up the hills, through the field, and the car should be about right....here? After the sun goes down the back parking lot is a bit on the dark side. The ruts from previous vehicles causes walking to be fairly treacherous and the darkness makes it hard to find one's car in the thousands that are out there. We had to backtrack and there was my car, right where I thought it was. It was so dark I had literally walked right by it the first time.

I hear from many that getting out of Kentucky Speedway last night was as bad as getting in. Again, I avoided I-71 and had no issues leaving the area. Yes, it took some time and at one point I was passed by a man in a motorized wheelchair but it was not as bad as many races have been in my experience. I was directed west out of the parking area and took a right at the top of the hill; it took about 45 minutes to get that far. Once I made the right onto KY-1039 I was back in Indiana in no time. The trip home, in total took about three and a half hours from the time we got the the car.

Thinking back to the Inaugural running of the Brickyard 400 in 1994, I lived 3.3 miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the time and it took me three and a half hours to get home. The traffic coming out of IMS that day averaged less than one mile and hour. The first time a city hosts a full weekend event the number of attendees generally greatly exceeds expectations. Kentucky Speedway and the fans, crew, and drivers in attendance experienced that firsthand yesterday. As IMS had in 1994, Kentucky Speedway has many opportunities for improvement before next year; I hope that fans will return to give them another chance.

Lessons learned from the Inaugural running of the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway include avoid I-71 if at all possible, wear good shoes, take your own snacks, and break out as soon as the checkers fly. Lessons that Kentucky Speedway should learn include that they need more roads that lead to the speedway, more restroom facilities in the parking areas, better signage for fan directions. Also, they might consider adding more speakers for the stands areas, more concession staff and more concessions outlets, more parking, paved parking access roads, and better lighting in remote parking areas.

I think the biggest need for the facility is to add additional parking on the back side of the speedway. Adding additional roadways on the back side that lead to more parking will offer more area for traffic to disperse and reduce congestion coming into and leaving the track. I know I am in the minority but overall, for the Inaugural running of the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway I would grade the event as a low B. We had a great day, the weather was beautiful, and although many did not, we enjoyed the day from beginning to end. I can't wait to do it again next year...


Amy McHargue has followed various forms of auto racing since she was a child. She was born and raised in southern Indiana, where she still resides with her son, cat, and Doberman-Jack Russell Terrier mix. Amy makes attempts to get to the track as often as possible, currently works for a self-publishing organization, and recently graduated college with a Bachelor Degree in Organizational Security. In addition to her blog she is a contributor at skirtsandscuffs.com Amy can be reached by email at amy.mack.74@gmail.com or at www.twitter.com/amymack74

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing - Kansas

Cruising into Kansas Richard Childress Racing was coming off a Kevin Harvick win and was looking to improve upon last week's finishes for the remaining three drivers. Paul Menard showed much improvement from his 28th fastest speed in first practice at Kansas to 5th quickest on the boards during the second session. This earned Paul a late qualifying position, where he posted the 9th fastest speed among all drivers.

Jeff Burton was slow in first practice, posting a 36th place speed on the boards. Second practice saw some improvement and Jeff was able to post the 17th quickest speed. Burton held steady through qualifications and would begin Sunday's race in the 16th position.

Kevin Harvick was 26th in the first session at Kansas and dropped back slightly to 28th during second practice. Qualifications found Kevin on the track early, Harvick was able to find speed on the track and hold onto the 10th starting position for Sunday. Clint Bowyer rolled into Kansas with car issues and found himself 31st in first practice. Car adjustments gave Clint the grip he needed to find 12th fastest speed in second practice but he could only qualify in for 27th on the starting grid.

The STP 400 from Kansas Speedway
Fireworks at Kansas Speedway began the night before the running of the STP 400; after the Camping World Series Trucks Race as team owner Richard Childress accosted Kyle Busch in the garage area following a post-race on-track bump between Busch and Joey Coulter's RCR truck. With much speculation over what happened and what penalties would be handed down to RCR owner the team's Cup drivers were forced to focus on the race amid much speculation regarding their leader.

Kevin Harvick made a charge to the front shortly after the green flag on Sunday. From his starting position on 10th place Kevin was able to move his way to 5th position by lap 29. On lap 40, just before first green-flag pit stops were to begin Harvick was still holding the 5th position on the track but voiced over the radio that the car was tight and needed to turn better in the corners.

The first 45 laps saw few major moves by RCR drivers; Paul Menard slipped to 13th by the end of the first green flag run. Menard was complaining the car was loose and took four tires and a trackbar adjustment in an attempt to improve his conditions. Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer were complaining of similarly loose conditions and took comparable adjustment during their stops. Jeff would come through the pit cycle in 20th position, Bowyer in 21st.

By the first yellow flag period on lap 69 Kevin Harvick had moved into 4th place on the track, Clint Bowyer had moved to 16th, Jeff Burton was 19th, and Paul Menard was running 18th. At the half-way mark the 33 car of Bowyer was running 13th, Menard was in 24th position, Burton ran 18th, and Harvick had slipped out of the top ten.

Throughout the race, Harvick was plagued by tight condition out of the pits, a good car in the middle of a run, and loose handling before the next stop. Bowyer's car was loose for the duration of the race; after the race, Clint said “It was really hot and we just couldn't find any grip the entire day and it got worse as the day went on.”

Burton fought similar poor-handling with his Caterpillar Chevrolet and Menard had a car that was no better. Long green-flag runs left the teams with little time in the pits to experiment with adjustments to try to improve conditions for the drivers. Ultimately, there would be no Richard Childress drivers in the top ten finishers in Kansas. Kevin Harvick finished in 11th, Bowyer in 18th position with Menard just behind in 19th, and Burton would finish one lap down to the leaders in 25th place.

Kevin lost two spots in the standings, slipping to 4th in the points totals but with three season wins there is little doubt that he will be one of 12 drivers vying for the Championship at the end of the year. Clint dropped one position in points and is now in 9th position in the standings. Paul held steady at 20th in points, and Jeff slid back to the 24th place after losing two notches on the day.

Looking Ahead to Pocono...
Team Owner Richard Childress will be at the track but with a lighter wallet and on guard after NASCAR handed down a $150,000 fine and placed Childress on probation for the remainder of the 2011 season for his actions towards Kyle Busch on Saturday following the CWTS race. The RCR patriarch accepted the penalty from NASCAR and made a statement taking full responsibility for his actions in regard to the incident.

With the media split between those who feel the penalty was not severe enough and those who applaud Childress' actions, this is likely to stay in the news throughout the week. RCR drivers will have to ignore the buzz surrounding the team once arriving in Pocono. Menard has his work cut out for him; with a 25.6 average finish at Pocono Paul will have to dig deep to finish big this weekend.

Harvick claims top ten finishes in 7 of his 20 starts at the Tricky Triangle, with back-to-back 4th place finishes in 2010 Kevin has a good shot at taking home the trophy for the fourth time this season. Four of Burton's last five finishes at Pocono have been in the top five. Jeff needs a good week and Pocono could be the place to deliver it.

Half of Bowyer's starts in Long Pond Pennsylvania have given up top tens at the end of the day – with the right conditions, a lot of focus, and a little bit of luck it would not be unlikely to find three RCR drivers in the top ten at the end of the race this weekend. Tune in this weekend for two practices on Friday, Qualifications on Saturday, and the 5-Hour Energy 500 coming to you live Sunday afternoon at 1pm. Check back next week for Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing from Pocono.

Amy McHargue
http://ellipticalcurrents.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing - Charlotte

Going into the Coca-Cola 600 the Richard Childress Racing team regrouped, talked about how to improve what was lacking during the All-Star Race and readied themselves to improve their Championship standings placement by the end of the 600 miles race.

By the end of the two practices and qualifications, it was clear that RCR might have something for the competition. Jeff Burton sat atop the speed board at the end of first practice, Paul Menard found the top spot in the second practice session, and the third practice sowed both Burton and Menard in the top ten fastest speeds of the session.

Burton held on to his practice speeds and would roll off the starting grid in the 5th spot on Sunday. Menard fell back to 16th during qualifications, Clint Bowyer posted a speed fast enough to start 10th, Kevin Harvick would begin Sunday’s race back in the 28th position after fighting a tight car throughout the days leading to the Coca-Cola 600.

The Coca-Cola 600
Off the start, Jeff Burton gained track position to make fourth place by the end of lap one. Drivers began to settle in for the long 600 miles in opening laps and racing remained relatively calm on the track. Green-lap pit stops began on lap 43 when Paul Menard came in for tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment. Paul had no complaints regarding his car during opening laps.

Jeff Burton gave up the number one spot to come to the pits on lap 47. The 31 Caterpillar Team opted for two tires on their first stop and because of their quick work in the pits Jeff was able to restart still in the lead position. Clint Bowyer, running 12th, also visited his pit during lap 47 and took four tires and a wedge adjustment to fight tight conditions.

Menard, from the 13th position during lap 65 reported his car was good, especially in turns three and four. Kevin Harvick had been weaving in and out of traffic during the beginning of the race, and although his car was reportedly tight moved inside the top 15 at lap 86.

Harvick spent much time on his radio in the opening 100 laps telling his Crew Chief that they were fighting the same handling issues they had fought for the previous two weeks. Crew Chief Gil Martin, at one point early in the race told Kevin to simmer down, they had four hours left to figure it out. Jeff Burton remained the leader at the lap 80 restart but his earlier two-tire stop soon caught up with him and he began to fall back through the pack. By lap 89 Burton had fallen to the 9th position.

As the first quarter of the race drew to a close Bowyer was clearly unhappy with his car, the race, the track, and just about anything else he came across. Over his radio Bowyer was heard saying “There's just no passing...it won't turn...the car's tight.” Another four-tire stop with a wedge adjustment and full tank of fuel was hopefully the cure as Clint restarted in 18th position at lap 103.

The 27 crew of Paul Menard had an almost flawless top under the lap 98 caution, took four tires, fuel, and no adjustments to the car. Paul would restart 15th, behind several cars who opted for two-tire stops during the caution. Kevin Harvick's team had a good stop for fuel, tires, and adjustments; Kevin would restart 16th. Jeff Burton also took four tires under yellow and would restart 14th on the track.

The Richard Childress Racing Team drivers, along with most everyone else on the track, settled in over the next 50 laps without a lot of pushing, shoving, or jockeying for position on the track. Bowyer was still had handling issues plaguing him regardless of what the crew changed during his stops. On lap 150 Clint was running 19th and saying the car was still shoving in the nose, loose in and tight off the turns. Kevin Harvick again began working his way through the field and by lap 175 had found the 5th running position.

An extended stop for Bowyer on lap 185 to adjust the camber left him in the pits with the hood up on the car. By the time he got back on track he would be in the 21st position. At the green flag on lap 187 Paul Menard showed in 5th position after another great pit stop by his team. At the halfway mark Menard was 9th, Harvick had dropped back to 12th , Burton showed in 15th, and Bowyer was running 21st and one lap down.

Lap 210 brought Harvick back on his radio saying that his car didn't like two tires. The car was tight and Kevin was having trouble turning through the corners. The 33 of Bowyer would take the wave around under the next caution helping him to regain a position on the lead lap but Paul Menard would again be the high man on RCR and would restart in the 5th position on lap 237. Unfortunately, on lap 240 Menard got loose, headed to the wall, then down across the track.

By lap 305, after a lengthy stay behind the wall for repairs Menard had rejoined the race and was several laps down in the 34th running spot. Harvick had again moved into the top 10 and was running 9th, Jeff Burton was 19th, and Clint Bowyer showed in the 20th position. Lap 340 brought about a restart after almost the entire field came for fuel and tires. Harvick dropped on the restart from 4th to 3rd place, while Jeff Burton was 18th, and Clint Bowyer was in the 13th spot.

With 55 laps to go Clint Bowyer had moved into the top ten while Harvick was holding onto 4th position. By lap 370 there had been some moving for position; some won but RCR lost the battle. Harvick was back to 9th, Jeff Burton to 10th, Clint Bowyer in 11th, and Paul Menard was in 29th and 18 laps down. With 10 laps to go, leaders lapped Menard again putting him 19 laps down.

Bowyer slid back to 11th place with 10 laps to go, had fallen to 13th on lap 292, and 12th on lap 293 but regained the 11th position on lap 294. While Clint was sliding backwards, both Burton and Harvick were moving forward. Lap 293 found Harvick and Burton in 8th and 9th places, respectively and by the next lap they had both moved up one position each to the 7th and 8th spots. With five laps to go the yellow waved for the Jimmie Johnson engine failure.

During the caution in an unusual display of teamwork Menard, several laps down but in line with his teammates on the track and Burton making up the middle of a RCR sandwich pushed the 7th place car of Harvick around the track. This let Kevin shut off the 29 car and save fuel for the upcoming Green-White-Checker finish. Upon the restart Burton got caught up a pile of cars who seemed unable to go. The 31 car spun as cars jammed the brakes all around in attempts to avoid one another.

Kevin stuck to the bottom of the track, avoided the pileup, and took over the 4th position. At the white flag, Harvick was challenging for third. As the leaders rounded turn three leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr ran out of gas. Second and third place cars lost fuel pressure as well and Harvick was able to dive below the slowing cars between turn four and the finish line to cross the finish line as the winner of the 2011 Coca-Cola 600.

Bowyer would finish 15th on the day and holds steady in the 8th position in the Championship standings. Burton ended his race in the 29th running position and gained one spot in the standings. Jeff now shows in the 22nd position in points. Menard crossed the line 29th and 19 laps down, losing another three spots in points, sliding to 20th position. Harvick's win improved his standing to 2nd place, up three spots from two weeks ago and now 36 points back from points leader Carl Edwards.

Looking Ahead to Kansas...
Paul Menard has just four starts under his belt at Kansas Motor Speedway, his best finish of 8th place coming last year. Paul's goal for the week should be to end his race in the top ten. With an average finish of 14.6 at Kansas Kevin Harvick has laid the groundwork to possibly earn back-to-back wins. If Harvick can pull it off, it would be his first Cup win at Kansas.

Just two of Jeff Burton’s 10 starts at Kansas have offered up top ten finishes but his intermediate track average is better than his 18.5 average finishing spot at Kansas. If Burton keeps the car underneath him, Kansas could be the jump start his season so badly needs.

A Kansas native, Bowyer is chasing his first win at this track along with the other RCR drivers. When asked about racing at Kansas Speedway, Clint says “I’m really excited about it...Once it (the track) was built, I drove by it every week and would set goals just to be able to drive there in anything. I never dreamed I would be able to drive an ARCA car there, let alone start a race in a Sprint Cup Series car.” It would be a big win for Bowyer as his best finish in Kansas has been in the runner-up finish in 2007. This could be Clint's week to shine at his home-state track.

Don’t miss the action in the Mid-West all weekend long, starting with two practices on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and culminating on Sunday afternoon with the running of the STP 400 beginning just after 1pm. Tune in to find out if RCR can find the top spot again this week at Kansas Speedway.

Amy McHargue
http://ellipticalcurrents.blogspot.com


Monday, May 23, 2011

Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing – All-Star Race

Coming into Charlotte for All-Star week Richard Childress Racing had two drivers, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, with guaranteed starting spots in the big show because of wins last season. Both would start in the main event on Saturday night but Paul Menard and Jeff Burton were left to earn their way in, either through the Showdown or by winning the fan vote – assuming anyone other than the reigning Most Popular Driver could win that right.

With just one practice prior to Showdown qualifications both Burton and Menard came out to prove they were serious about making the main event. Jeff and Paul ended first practice 2nd and 3rd on the speed boards. Qualifications for the Showdown were also rewarding for both Menard and Burton. Paul would start from 3rd and Jeff would roll off the starting grid in the 5th position on Saturday evening.

Bowyer arrived at All-Star race practice and posted the third quickest speed of the session. After a solid qualifying effort, Clint would begin the All-Star race on the outside of the front row. Kevin Harvick was able to post just the 11th fastest speed at All-Star practice, almost a full half-second off the pace. Harvick's qualifications were not as successful as he had hoped; Kevin would start in 14th position on the track on Saturday night.

Paul Menard
Starting 3rd in the early race on Saturday, Menard was loose at the green flag but regrouped during the early caution, coming back out and ready to go when the green flag dropped for the 2nd time on the night. By the halfway point Paul was securely tucked in the 2nd position and looked to be having no issues staying glued to the back bumper of the leader.

Menard chose not to pit during the scheduled competition caution at lap 20. Menard held onto 2nd position through the restart and ensuing seven laps until the yellow once again came out on lap 27. Restarting on the outside of the front row Paul bumped the leader, was grazed again by a car going by, and then rubbed the wall. The yellow came out before the lap was complete.

With 13 laps to go Paul restarted in the 8th position with a tire rub from the previous contact but held position on the track through the first green laps. But with the body damage and tire rub there was no place for Menard to go except backwards. Paul finished the Showdown in the 11th spot.

Jeff Burton
Rolling off the grid in the 5th position for the Showdown, Burton held steady through much of the opening segment and went to the halfway mark in 7th position. Jeff avoided trouble throughout the first 20 laps and headed to the pits during the competition caution for two tires and fuel. Burton restarted 8th and was able to make his way to 6th place before the yellow came out again with just 13 laps to go.

Jeff, with almost all other drivers, stayed on track during the 2nd caution of the Showdown. When the green flag dropped Burton dove to the bottom of the track and moved up to 5th in the quarter-lap of green flag racing. Jeff then made contact with Brian Vickers and dropped back several spots before the yellow waved for a Vickers spin.

Burton would restart from the 11th position and did not have enough time in the remaining 13 laps to gain the positions he needed on the track. Burton improved his restart position by two places and finished the Showdown in the 9th position.

Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer fought tight conditions from the drop of the green flag. He lost one position on the start, another on lap two, and yet another on lap three. The car then stabilized enough underneath Bowyer that he held onto the 5th position until lap 21 when he lost another two places over the next two laps. Clint went into the mandatory pit stop in the 7th running spot, made a good stop, and came out 5th for the restart.

Bowyer lost a position at the green but held onto that 6th spot until lap 40 when debris on the grill caused the temperature to rise and Clint had to back off a bit. At the lap 50 break Bowyer showed in the 8th position. During the break the 33 crew made air pressure and chassis adjustments in an attempt to fight the still tight conditions Bowyer was battling.

The tires spun on the restart, Clint lost two spots before the 51st lap was complete. By the yellow on lap 61 Bowyer was ready for fresh rubber on the car, fuel, a track bar adjustment, and an air pressure change. A second stop under the same caution gave the team opportunity to make further adjustments including a change to the front shocks set-up. Clint would restart in 19th.

Bowyer would move up to the 18th running spot at the lap 70 pit stop. He lost a position on the restart but would stay out when the yellow flag was shown on lap 74 to gain five positions on the track. A good restart by the 33 gained another position on the track and by the end of the third segment Clint was shown in 11th position.

The final restart saw Bowyer gain one position at the drop of green flag but a steady loss of momentum thereafter. By lap 95 Clint had fallen to 16th place, where he would ultimately finish his night.

Kevin Harvick
Starting in 14th, Kevin Harvick wasted no time in attempting a move toward the front of the field. Kevin was running in 12th position by the 13th lap but was fighting the same tight racing conditions as his teammates. Harvick went into the mandatory pit stop on lap 26 in 16th place but lost positions during the stop and would restart 18th.

Throughout the next 25 laps Kevin could only improve one position and finished the first segment of the All-Star race in the 17th position. Harvick lost three positions on the restart and fell to 20th but gained two places back in the ensuing 20 laps. When the caution came out on lap 61 Harvick headed to the pits for fuels and four fresh Goodyears.

Still fighting a tight race car, Harvick lost a position on the next restart but at the end of the segment the 29 team opted to stay on-track and restarted for lap 71 in the 14th spot. Kevin held his ground on the restart and although he slipped a few spots during the third segment he completed lap 90 in the same 14th position.

During the break Harvick gave feedback to his crew that he could not get into the corners; chassis adjustments and four fresh tire for the last 10 laps was the solution the team offered. On lap 193 Kevin moved into the 11th spot on the track and on lap 195 Harvick moved into 9th where he finished his evening.

Looking Ahead to Charlotte
The four Richard Childress Racing teams are all winless during All-Star week but know what needs to improve in Charlotte. RCR teams are ready to spend this week working on losing the tight conditions that followed RCR throughout All-Star week. The break from points racing is over; RCR will come out looking for Championship point standing improvements for all RCR drivers. Check back next week to find out who was still standing at the end of the Coca-Cola 600 in another edition of Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing.

Amy McHargue
http://ellipticalcurrents.blogspot.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing - Dover

With a rainy forecast setting the tone for the beginning of the weekend in Dover, the first Cup practice found Kevin Harvick posting the 8th best speed during first practice and the fastest among Richard Childress Racing drivers. First practice ended with Paul Menard 14th on the speed boards, Clint Bowyer in 16th position, and Jeff Burton in the 24th spot.

Before the rains set in, Jeff Burton posted the 6th fastest speeds among all drivers during second practice and was the quickest of RCR drivers. Elsewhere on the boards, Clint Bowyer posted the 8th fastest lap, Paul Menard fell to 16th quickest, and Kevin Harvick, with just a few laps registered the 31st quickest practice speed during the second session.

As qualifications were rained out, starting positions were determined by fastest overall practice speeds. Kevin Harvick would start 10th on Sunday, Jeff Burton would roll from the 16th spot, Paul Menard would start Sunday's race 20th, and Clint Bowyer would begin 22nd on the starting grid in Dover.

Paul Menard
Menard had a below average race; he and his team never could quite get the car comfortable underneath him. Fighting loose conditions from the beginning, Menard dropped two places in the opening 100 laps and remained in 26th position through lap 170. With minimal handling improvements, Paul managed to move to 25th position on the track by lap 172 and 23rd place on lap 258.

Menard's day went from bad to worse when he collided with Juan Pablo Montoya during a lap 338 restart. Paul's car sustained left front damage from the contact with the 42 car that ultimately led to a flat tire. The unscheduled green-flag pit stop left Menard another lap down to finish four laps behind the leaders in the 24th position. Menard gained one position in points, moving to 11th in the standings

Kevin Harvick
Starting 10th, Kevin Harvick wasted no time in charging toward the front of the pack. By lap 30 Harvick showed in the 3rd position and he held onto top five positioning through the first 100 laps of the FedEx 400. A pit stop on lap 108 gave Kevin a new set of rubber, a track bar adjustment, and an air pressure adjustment to fight loose conditions.

In the 7th position on lap 170, Kevin reported the car was handling good; he proved it two laps later by moving into the 6th position. Between the 200 and 300 lap marks, Harvick remained in the front seven and showed every indication of being in contention for a top five finish on the day. As with most of the front-runners, Kevin took four tires under yellow on the last pit stop of the day.

When the restart came with 24 laps to go, Harvick would be in the 15th position. Kevin could not make up the ground he needed to catch those who gambled with two-tire stops but made his way to 10th place by the time the checkers waved. Harvick held steady in points and remains in the 5th spot in the Championship points.

Jeff Burton
If there was a RCR driver who needed a strong showing in Dover it was Jeff Burton. Plagued with bad luck, poor finishes, and mediocre qualifying efforts through a majority of the first 10 races of the year Burton began giving feedback to his crew chief to improve the car's tight handling conditions as soon as the race started.

Getting a feel for the car, Jeff moved between 10th and 15th positions for the first 200 laps of the race while the crew made adjustments in the pits. Adjustments offering Burton a looser set up also gave him the ability to move into the top ten on lap 230. Flawless pit stops let Jeff move toward the front of the field and by the lap 332 caution period Burton was running in the 5th position.

Jeff's crew called for four tires on the last stop of the race and while the handling of the car was good, Burton could not make up track position on those who took two tires. Restarting in the 13th spot, Burton tied his best finish of the 2011 season by coming across the finish line in 11th. Jeff improved one spot in the points and moves into the 23rd position in the standings.

Clint Bowyer
In the opening 30 laps of Sunday's race Clint Bowyer moved up six places after starting in the 30th position. A loose race car kept Bowyer in 24th through his first pit stop. By lap 145 the handling of Clint's car had improved enough for him to move into the 19th running spot. Good pit times found Bowyer racing in 11th on lap 172 after a brief rain shower brought out a caution that allowed for more adjustments by the 33 crew.

Lap 217 brought about another pit stop and lightning fast speeds helped Bowyer gain four positions on the track to restart 6th. Pitting from the third spot on lap 332 Crew Chief Shane Wilson asked his driver what he needed. Clint's reply was straightforward – the car was fine but the driver was thirsty. With a fast four-tire stop, a fill-up on fuel, and a fresh water bottle for Bowyer, the 33 came out the race leader.

A solid restart on lap 338 kept Clint on point; he remained at the front of the pack through the next caution on lap 361. Clint was one of many drivers to take four tires on the last stop and who didn't gain the advantage needed over those who took two tires for track position. Bowyer restarted and finished the day in the 6th position. This was Clint's sixth top ten finish in the last seven races. Bowyer improved one spot in Championship standings and now shows in the 8th position in points.

Looking Ahead to the All-Star Race
Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are the two drivers guaranteed to start the All-Star Race from Richard Childress Racing. Clint and Kevin both earned the right to race in the 2011 All-Star Race with race wins last season. Jeff Burton and Paul Menard will have to race their way in via the Showdown earlier on Saturday.

With just one of Menard's eight Cup starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway resulting in a top ten finish his chances of making the show on Saturday night are slim. With 34 Charlotte Cup starts Jeff Burton has three previous wins at the track and more experience. Can he find himself a spot in Saturday night's starting grid?

The potential for action between Harvick and Kyle Busch on Saturday night exists, as the All-Star Race is historically where one executes revenge upon another driver. With probation looming over their heads the two aggressive drivers will have to be careful to not catch the eyes of NASCAR officials in any attempts to take one another out.

Don't miss the fireworks on and off the track at All-Star Race on Saturday night from Charlotte where points don't matter and tempers flare. Check back next week to see how it all shakes out for RCR teams in another edition of Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing.

Amy McHargue
http://ellipticalcurrents.blogspot.com