Search This Blog

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 or at

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 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 Amy can be reached by email at or at

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

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 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

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

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing - Darlington

The Richard Childress Racing teams came to Darlington with both Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer solidly within the top ten in points standings, Jeff Burton was attempting to claw his way up from the 20th spot, and Paul Menard had slid back to 15th in points. Across the board there had not been huge amounts of success from any RCR drivers in Darlington but the combined experience among the four drivers was a significant plus.

Practice and qualifications found the RCR teams with inconsistent results. Kevin Harvick posted the 9th fastest speed in practice but would line up 16th for the race. Paul Menard showed 24th on the speed boards during practice then qualified 18th for Saturday night's race. Jeff Burton was back in 30th spot on the practice boards but moved up to 24th quickest for qualifications. Clint Bowyer, 13th fast in practice would qualify all the way back in 26th for the race.

Once the green flag dropped Saturday night in Darlington staying out of trouble was the name of the game. The beginning of the race was fairly quiet among all drivers. Kevin Harvick had raced his way to the 6th position by lap 45. Clint Bowyer wasted no time getting out of the back of the pack and had moved to the 14th running position by lap 62.

As lap 100 passed, both Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer had made their way to the top ten. Menard, after starting 18th, had fallen back to the 20th position on the track when a debris caution came out on lap 122. Burton had moved up five spots from his starting position and was just in front of Menard in 19th.

As pit stops took place under yellow on lap 124, the 27 car was clipped by Brad Keselowski as Menard turned into his pit stall. Paul lost significant track position as he had to turn his car around before taking service. Once he finished in the pits, he tried a little too hard to make up lost time and was caught speeding on exit.

Bowyer continued to move up through the field, reaching the 7th position on lap 133 and moving into 6th on lap 137. By lap 181 Clint had found his way into the top five. The BB&T crew had made adjustments during each of the early stops and had given Bowyer a car that responded to his driving.

As lap 200 was completed, Harvick had the race leader in his sights as he passed Kasey Kahne for the 3rd spot on lap 201 and then took the 2nd running position on lap 206. Harvick took the lead from Carl Edwards on lap 236 with teammate Clint Bowyer in 5th position. With the car tightening up, Bowyer began dropping back and fell as far back as the 12th position on lap 273 before beginning to climb back toward the front.

Kevin Harvick remained in front of the field until yellow flag pit stops on lap 281 when Kahne beat the 29 off of pit road and relegated Harvick back to the 2nd position for the restart. Teammate Clint Bowyer broke back into the top ten on lap 283.

Harvick made his final stop on lap 330, complaining of a tight race car while Paul Menard had made his last stop on lap 325 complaining of the same conditions. Clint Bowyer showed in 9th and Jeff Burton showed in the 12th running position on lap 349; going into the last twenty laps of the race it looked like three of the four RCR drivers were on their way to top 15 finishes.

Then, Jeff Burton's car began to smoke. Over the radio Jeff stated the obvious, “I'm blowing up.” Burton's engine gave out with just 11 laps to go bringing out the caution. Jeff ultimately finished in the 33rd position, showing 12 laps down and in the pits. Burton now shows 24th in points standings after losing four positions at Darlington.

When the green flag dropped again on lap 362, Harvick and Bowyer were fighting for position with Kyle Busch just in front of them. Going three wide turned out to be not such a good idea as Kevin bounced off Kyle then down into Clint. Boywer found himself with the short end of the stick from this exchange and slammed into the inside wall as Harvick got past Busch.

Feeling as if contact was intentional, Kyle immediately chased Harvick down the track, got into the back bumper of the Budweiser Chevrolet and turned the car around. Kevin was able to drive off from the exchange but lost several positions on the track. Harvick crossed the line 17th and holds steady in the 5th position in the Championship standings.

The fourth driver of RCR, Paul Menard was only able to salvage a 22nd place finish for his day. Menard finished as the last car on the lead lap. Paul lost three positions in the points, and now shows 18th in standings.

After the checkered flag flew, the fight between Harvick and Busch was not over. Harvick corralled Busch coming out of turn four and stopped in front of him just onto pit road. Kevin got out of the car, intending to settle the disagreement there on the track. Kyle had other ideas, however and physically pushed the unattended 29 car out of the way and into the pit road wall.

Both drivers were called to the NASCAR hauler after the disagreement continued into the garage area, although news of what actually happened during the meeting has not been released. When asked about what transpired during the meeting, Harvick would only say "I don't have anything to tell you other than not much." NASCAR is expected to announce Tuesday if any penalties are to be assessed in regard to the incident during and after the Saturday night race.

During his post-race interview, Clint said “It's the nature of the beast. There's no room to race at the end. I knew when the caution came out (on Lap 359), all hell was going to break loose. And it did." Bowyer finished in the 31st position after the lap 363 wreck, lost two spots in the standings, and now shows in the 9th position in points.

Looking Ahead to Dover
Paul Menard's record shows his best finish of 7th came last fall. His other six starts here have found Paul in 19th or farther back at the end of the race. With his most recent appearance providing his best outing at Dover International Speedway, RCR will be hoping the Menard can at least repeat that performance in an attempt to turn his 2011 season around.

Jeff Burton needs a win, badly and his 34 previous starts at Dover have given him more experience than any other RCR driver at this track. With one past win and 15 top ten finishes, including two back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2010, Jeff may have what it takes to find the top spot in Dover this week.

Clint Bowyer shows a 30% success rate at Dover for finding the top ten at the end of the day but has yet to find victory lane at this track. It has been since September of 2008 that Clint has seen a top ten finish at Dover; with the lost positions after Darlington he cannot afford a bad day again this weekend.

Kevin Harvick is another RCR driver who arrives in Dover without a win at this track. His 20 previous starts have given him seven top ten finishes and two top fives. Coming off of a 15th place finish in Dover last fall and a 7th place finish in last season's spring race, Harvick will be looking to improve on his recent appearances at this track.

Don't miss the action from Dover International Speedway on Sunday at 1pm to watch Richard Childress Racing drivers fight for position in the standings as we get closer to the halfway point in the season then check back next week for another edition of Last Week in Retrospect for Richard Childress Racing news from Dover.

Amy McHargue

Monday, May 2, 2011

Last Week in Retrospect: Richard Childress Racing - Richmond

Arriving in Richmond, the Richard Childress Racing teams were coming off of a week of rest after Talladega. Three RCR drivers, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, and Kevin Harvick were all in the top 11 places in the points and Jeff Burton had moved up three spots to the 22nd place. Continuing to show that RCR drivers are consistently competitive Bowyer and Menard posted speeds n the first practice session at Richmond in the top five; Harvick and Burton posted the16th and 17th fastest speeds, respectively.

Harvick and Burton both improved on first practice speeds in the second session. Harvick found the right car set up to post the second best speed of the session while Burton moved to the seventh position on the speed board. Clint Bowyer held his ground as he ranked 5th among second practice session speeds. Paul Menard struggled with car handling conditions and fell to the 18th position on the board.

Bowyer's consistency continued through qualifications as he would start from the third position on Saturday night. Paul Menard rebounded to claim the 10th starting position on the grid, Harvick would start 12th, and Jeff Burton would line up 25th. With the #33 team showing near the top of the board throughout both practices and qualifications, Bowyer appeared to be the RCR driver to watch for during the Crown Royal 400 from Richmond.

Paul Menard
The #27 team started in the 10th position Saturday night but quickly lost track position. By lap 15 Paul was showing in 11th position and by lap 45 Menard was in the 17th spot. Paul spent much of the first three-quarters of the race in the middle of the pack. Menard went a lap down on lap 169 but gained that lap back as recipient of the lucky dog pass on lap 279.

On lap 301, Menard's luck ran out; he was collected in a multi-car incident and headed to the pits for a lengthy repair session. The crew was able to make repairs and get Paul back on the track to finish the race running, but Menard ended up 15 laps down finishing in the 37th position.

Paul lost four positions in the points standings after his rough ride in Richmond and lost the most positions in the standings this week among all Cup drivers. Now 15th in points Menard will be looking for an opportunity next week to gain back his lost ground.

Jeff Burton
Gaining position in the points standings was very much on Jeff Burton's mind as the green flag dropped Saturday night in Richmond. Starting from the 25th position, Burton wasted no time in moving toward the front of the field. By lap 15 of the race Jeff had broken into the top 20. Burton stayed around 20th position much of the first half of the race.

Burton received the lucky dog pass on lap 265 and stayed out when the leaders went to the pits on lap 293. Jeff took over the lead position when Carl Edwards headed to the pits under yellow and Burton led the field to the green flag on lap 313 only to lose the lead to Kyle Busch less than two laps later. Burton gained a valuable bonus point while leading 12 laps in the race.

Unfortunately, the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet did not have the fuel to make it to the end of the race without a quick splash and go. A late-race green flag pit stop was required and Burton finished in the 16th position, one lap down. Jeff earned 29 points toward the Chase and improved two spots in the standings. Burton is now in the 20th position in points.

Clint Bowyer
Starting from the third position on Saturday night Clint Bowyer quickly took 2nd position by lap 15. Bowyer then took the lead from Juan Pablo Montoya with a pass on the inside of turn two at lap 26. Bowyer continued to lead the race until lap 45 when he lost the front-runner position to Kasey Kahne. Clint received a slight air-pressure adjustment during his first pit stop on lap 87. After the first round of green-flag stops were complete Clint was shown running in the second position.

Bowyer remained in the top five throughout the mid-section of the race. A run that included avoiding accidents that led to cautions, making good decisions in the pits, and quietly staying near the front of the field seemed to be the plan for the #33 Cheerios Chevrolet in Richmond. Pitting for fuel just after lap 300, Bowyer fell out of the top ten because of many cars the opted not to pit. As cars in front of him nearly empty of fuel began to be forced to the pits, Clint began to climb back toward the front of the field.

Team Bowyer had no penalties in the pits and posted the third fastest average pit times among all teams during the race. Clint's solid driving, solidly performing car, and near-perfect pit crew performance all helped his solid run on Saturday. When the checkered flag came out Bowyer was in the 6th position; he gained 40 total points on the night and moved up three spots into the 7th position in the standings.

Kevin Harvick
Richmond found Kevin Harvick back and forth between hot and cold during practice and qualifications. The #29 Budweiser Chevrolet driver and team still could not find the combination to make the car perform as a front-runner Saturday night. Opening laps found Kevin complaining the car was tight in the center of the turns and loose coming out.

Pit stops on lap 80 and during the lap 107 caution period gave the time to make adjustments but Kevin saw little in way of positive results. At the halfway mark Harvick still complained about the handling of his race car and although the crew continued to give their driver fresh rubber and adjustments in attempts to make the car better, Kevin still was only to run in the 15th position.

By lap 270 Harvick had made his way back to his original starting position and with 80 to go had moved into the top ten. With 12 laps to go Kevin was put a lap down by race leader Kyle Busch. Harvick finished in the 12th position and did not lead a lap during the race. He lost one spot in the standings, falling to the 5th position but with two wins already to his credit on the season and solidly in the top ten Harvick likely feels little pressure in regard to making the Chase.

Looking Ahead to Darlington
Richard Childress Racing teams will roll into Darlington, South Carolina later this week to take their shot at taming the Lady in Black. Paul Menard has just four Cup starts under his belt at Darlington Raceway and has not broken the top ten; his best finish at this track has been a 15th place finish in 2009. Jeff Burton shows 16 top ten finishes over his career, an average finishing spot of 11.6, and two wins to his credit at Darlington. Burton is coming off an 8th place finish in last' year's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway; he knows this could be the track to turn his season around.

Out of Clint Bowyer's five Cup starts at Darlington he can only claim one top ten finish – but that one was a win. Clint will be hoping for a finish more like that win and not a performance that better reflects his 17.2 average finish here. Kevin Harvick brings five top ten and two top five finishes with him from his past experiences at Darlington; Harvick is still searching for his first win on this track.

Richard Childress Racing is running strong so far this season – but not as strong as last year's three-car team. The collective team is looking for a way to get all four cars running at the top of the field. Can they find the magic formula at Darlington? Keep an eye on the race Saturday night and watch for another RCR in Retrospect next week to recap the action at Lady in Black.

Amy McHargue

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Richard Childress Racing; This Week in Retrospect - Talladega

Leading up to Raceday...
Coming out of Texas, Richard Childress Racing was on the move; Kevin Harvick lost four positions in points standings while Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard improved a collective nine spots. Harvick, in 9th position, was still the only RCR driver in the top 10 in the Championship race. Menard left Texas in 11th with Bowyer right behind in 12th and Burton with the 25th spot in the standings.

Team driver histories prior to 2011 at Talladega show vast differences. Paul Menard's nine Cup starts at 'Dega have given him one runner-up finish in 2008; his only top 10 at this track. Kevin Harvick shows almost half of his starts result in top 10 finishes. Kevin also came into Talladega with at least some confidence on his side from winning the spring 2010 race at Talladega.

Jeff Burton shows two of his previous five starts at 'Dega have given top 10 finishes. His last two appearances at this track have ended with him outside of the top 30, however. Clint Bowyer has a 40% rate of finishing in the top 10 in his prior Cup races at Talladega. He won last year's fall race here and was looking to break the top ten in the Championship race with a good performance on Sunday.

Saturday's Qualifications ended with two of the four RCR drivers with top 10 starting positions. Although a surprise as RCR's highest starting driver, Paul Menard was satisfied to have posted the 5th fastest speed in qualifications. Clint Bower was slated to start from the 10th position on Sunday, Jeff Burton in the 27th spot and Kevin Harvick would line up 38th on the starting grid. Experience seemed not to play a part in qualifications performance among Team RCR.

This is Talladega...
The first RCR driver to lead at Talladega and wasting no time in finding a dance partner, Clint Bowyer teamed up with Michael Waltrip at the drop of the flag because of proximity on the starting grid. Bowyer took the lead for the first time on lap six for a moment before Waltrip got loose and had to back off the gas. Clint fell back to 11th place by the time lap seven was in the books.

Lap eight found Paul Menard in the 6th position. Both Menard and Bowyer remained in the top 10 through the opening 25 laps of the race. With the first caution of the day coming out on lap 28 for Brian Vickers' spin pit stops gave teams a chance to regroup. When the green flag waved again on lap 30 Clint Bowyer was at the point with Jeff Burton lined up behind him in the 3rd position.

Teaming up, the pair of Bowyer and Burton stayed at the front of the pack for the most part of the following seven laps until switching positions on lap 37. The partner position swap caused a loss in momentum but the pair soon made their way back to front to allow Jeff to lead for the first time in his day at lap 40.

Green flag pit stop began on lap 68 with Bowyer, Burton, and Menard all in the top 10. Having started from deep in the pack Kevin Harvick was still riding back in the 24th position. With no changes on either Clint or Jeff's cars, a solid stop by Menard, and the choice of stopping for just two tires and fuel for Harvick all four RCR driver were in the top 20 when the yellow came out on lap 89.

The field restarted on lap 96 with Paul Menard leading the field, Clint Bowyer in the 5th position, Jeff Burton right behind Bowyer in 7th, and Kevin Harvick showing in the 18th spot. Harvick began his run for the front of the field upon the restart and was in 6th place by lap 100. With Kevin in the 6th spot, all four RCR drivers, at lap 100 were in the top 10.

Lap 120 showed the four Richard Childress teams again within the top 10. Kevin Harvick showed 2nd, Jeff Burton was running in 4th with Clint Bowyer just behind in 5th, and Paul Menard had made his way back to the 7th position. Caution came out on lap 128 for debris on the track. After pit stops the field lined up with Paul Menard leading the field to the green.

The lap 131 restart found Bowyer in 3rd position, Burton in 6th, and Harvick in the 9th spot on the track. Just eight laps of green flag racing later Clint Bowyer barely missed being caught up in the wreck just behind him. All four RCR driver, much like the rest of the field, came to the pits only for fuel. At the restart on lap 144 Kevin Harvick was shown in 1st position, Jeff Burton in 2nd, Clint Bowyer in 3rd, and Paul Menard in 4th.

Harvick and Bowyer teamed up to hold on to the lead but the team of Menard and Burton slid back to 7th and 8th on the restart. On the same lap, Jeff Burton made a tremendous save as his car was sideways in the tri-oval. In front of the field, Harvick and Bowyer had their hands full with pressure from Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya as the lead was swapped a few times until the RCR driver reclaimed the top four spots with 37 laps to go.

With 30 laps to go, all RCR drivers still ran in the top ten. Bowyer took over the lead with Kevin Harvick on his bumper on lap 158 and by lap 160 all four RCR teams were back in the front four positions. A debris caution on lap 163 brought about much discussion on whether to pit or stay out. All four RCR teams opted to skip the pits to retain track position.

Kevin Harvick dropped back through the field as Burton and Bowyer led the race on the restart. Paul Menard teamed up with Regan Smith and took over the lead on lap 168. Bowyer and Burton took back the top two spots one lap later. Menard and Smith dropped back through the front of the field after switching positions.

With 15 to go a spinning Ryan Newman caused the fifth caution of the day. The restart came three laps later with Harvick in the 7th position, Bowyer in 8th, Menard running 9th, and Jeff Burton showing 20th. By lap 180 Harvick was leading the race with Bowyer just behind in 2nd position. Menard had dropped to the 11th spot, and Burton was mired back in 14th place.

Bowyer swapped positions with Harvick at six laps to go to lead the race while Paul Menard had teamed up with A.J. Allmendinger to break back into the top 10 with five to go. With four laps to go Bowyer and Harvick had fought their way back to 5th and 6th places, respectively. At three laps to go the pair had taken the lead. with pressure coming up fast from behind. Paul Menard had made it back to the 6th spot as Bowyer and Harvick had their hands full of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle with just two laps left.

At the white flag, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin had 1st and 2nd but Bowyer and Harvick passed the pair on the backstretch. Through the tri-oval it was three wide with Bowyer and Harvick, Gordon and Martin, and Jimmie Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. behind him all fighting for the checkered flag. A photo finish at the line found Clint Bowyer in 2nd place, just .002 behind Jimmie Johnson. Kevin Harvick would finish 5th, Paul Menard came across the line in 12th, and Jeff Burton was scored as finishing 16th.

All four Richard Childress drivers earned a bonus point toward the chase for leading a lap during the race. Clint Bowyer earned an additional bonus point for leading the most with 38 laps lead. Bowyer gained two spots in the standings and is now ranked 10th. Paul Menard held steady in the 11th position and Kevin Harvick gained back the positions he lost last week plus one, improving five places and now showing 4th in points. Jeff Burton is now in the 22nd place in standings, improving three position on the week.

Looking Ahead to Richmond
With an off-week looming between Talladega and Richmond, the Richard Childress drivers will have ample time to mull over what went down in Alabama and how to duplicate the team's strengths in Richmond. Paul Menard is going to Richmond with eight starts; his best finish at Richmond has been 16th place. Paul will be the RCR team member with the least success in past starts at Richmond.

Kevin Harvick arrives at Richmond with 20 starts behind him. Harvick posts one win and twelve top tens at Richmond International Speedway. Jeff Burton has started 33 race in Richmond since 1994. Jeff has went to victory lane once, shows 15 top ten finishes, and nine top fives. Clint Bowyer, from his 10 starts at Richmond shows one win to his credit and five top ten finishes. Two practices will take place Friday afternoon at Richmond International Speedway and qualifications will be held Friday evening.

Amy McHargue

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Richard Childress Racing; This Week in Retrospect – Texas Motor Speedway

Kevin Harvick had two wins in a row and had moved into the 5th place in Championship points standings after Martinsville, but arriving in the Lone Star State the other Richard Childress teams were looking for new life. Jeff Burton slid back three places after Martinsville and Paul Menard had lost six spots to fall to 13th place, while Clint Bowyer improved one spot to 16th position. Past successes at Texas by all drivers had RCR confident that the four teams would drive strong at TMS.

Jeff Burton ran 6th quickest for RCR during first practice and Clint Bowyer ran 9th fastest while the the other two team members struggled. Second practice found Paul Menard with enough speed to grab the second fastest speed of the session, just .001 of a second behind Kasey Kahne. Bowyer showed 11th fastest on the board, Harvick was 27th, and Burton was left back in 41st place during the second session.

With RCR team speeds all over the board during both practices there was no certainty upon the performance of any of the teams going into qualifications. More than respectable qualifying efforts rewarded Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton with 3rd and starting positions. Paul Menard would roll off the grid in 19th position and Kevin Harvick was to start Saturday's race in the 29th place.

Paul Menard
After starting from the 19th position on the grid, RCR driver Paul Menard found the green Quaker State paint scheme brought him some good fortune at Texas. In the opening segment of race, Paul moved into the top 15 and remained there throughout most of the day.

Just after the halfway mark in the 500-mile race, Menard made his way into the top 10. With only minor adjustments in the pits and no errors by the crew or the driver during stops, Paul found himself in 6th position with just more than 100 laps to go.

Menard took 5th position on the last lap when he passed an out of fuel Tony Stewart. Finishing 5th rewarded Paul with a two-spot increase in points standings. Now in the 11th position, Menard is 47 points back from points leader Carl Edwards.

Jeff Burton
From the 15th position at the green flag, Burton lost seven position in the first 10 laps and came into the pits for major adjustments and a set of new right side tires during the early caution. Through improvements in the pits Jeff was able to climb back as high as 13th position during the first half of Saturday's race.

As night fell upon the track, Burton lost handling in the car and found himself fighting the steering through the turns. Regular scheduled pit stops kept Jeff's lap times competitive however, and he remained running on the lead lap.

The final pit stop of the night was without error for the #31 Caterpillar team and Burton was able to bring home an 11th place finish – his best of the season so far. Jeff improved three spots and now resides in 25th place in points standings. Saturday night was Jeff Burton's 900th career NASCAR start.

Clint Bowyer
Starting inside row two on Saturday night was Clint Bowyer. The #33 Chevrolet was a bit tight at the beginning of the race but adjustments during an early yellow allowed crew chief Shane Wilson to tighten up Clint's ride. Bowyer first took the lead on lap 200 after spending most of the beginning of the race solidly in the top five.

Clint led a total of 44 laps at Texas Motor Speedway to earn an extra point toward Championship standings. The RCR/Cheerios team held their collective breath on lap 248 when the #83 car made contact with Bowyer on the front stretch. Although the car was almost completely sideways, Clint was able to save the car from spinning.

With a strong car, solid stops, and no mistakes on or off the track Bowyer finished in the runner-up position. This is a career best finish at Texas Motor Speedway for Clint. Bowyer gained four places in points and now finds himself in the 12th spot in Championship standings, just 12 points out of the top ten.

Kevin Harvick
Starting from deep in the field, Kevin Harvick had his work cut out for him on the track Saturday night. Handling was not good in the #29 car and Harvick was unable to make up ground early. Bad luck followed Kevin to the pits as he became virtually trapped between cars during two separate stops and fell further behind the leaders.

Repeated adjustments during pit stops improved the car's handling little throughout the evening. On the long-green flag runs of the latter stages of the race Harvick found himself losing ground and two laps down. A finish of 20th place left the Budweiser team down four spots in the standings; Kevin is now 9th in Championship points.

Looking Ahead to Talladega
Kevin Harvick won last years spring race and Clint Bowyer won the fall race at Talladega. With both of last year's races being won by RCR drivers there is much confidence that the team will perform strongly again at this year's spring race.

Paul Menard has seen some past success at this track; Paul's first victory in the ARCA series came at Talladega and he snagged the runner-up position in the spring 2008 Cup race. Jeff Burton has yet to find victory lane at Talladega in his 34 starts but posts four finishes within the top five and 13 finishes in the top 10.

This weekend should be a good week for Richard Childress Racing as all drivers for the team have shown prowess on the Talladega Super Speedway. Each of the RCR drivers have different experiences to draw upon and through teamwork have the ability to make it a good weekend. Two practices on Friday afternoon lead into Qualifications on Saturday; the green flag drops Sunday afternoon for the Aaron's 499 from Talladega

Amy McHargue

Friday, April 8, 2011

Richard Childress Racing; This Week in Retrospect - Martinsville

Arriving in Martinsville Richard Childress Racing had both Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard in the top 10 in driver points standings. Clint Bowyer had moved up seven positions and Jeff Burton improved four positions after both drivers had solid days at Fontana.

First practice at Martinsville was promising as all four RCR driver posted speeds in the top 11 but second practice saw the RCR drivers lacking in the speed of the first session. Menard was the fastest of RCR drivers in practice two, posting the 15th fastest speed among all drivers.

Kevin Harvick came out of Qualifications on Saturday with a 9th place starting spot, the best among the RCR drivers. Clint Bowyer would start 15th, Paul Menard would start 16th, and Jeff Burton would start from the 32nd position.

Paul Menard
The #27 Team did not have a good weekend at Martinsville. After a 16th place qualifying effort driver Paul Menard was left alone on the high side early in the race and drifted back in the pack. Being stuck in traffic and battling against a loose car Menard brought the Chevrolet to the pits for adjustments during the lap 52 caution.

Paul made his way back on the lead lap by receiving the lucky dog pass on lap 175 and continued his rise through the field during the following hundred laps. Menard restarted 15th after the Truex incident but just three lap later was bumped from behind and spun into the first turn safer barrier.

After a eight lap stay in the pits Menard returned only to call it a day 12 laps later because of mechanical issues. Menard finished Sunday's race in the 38th position and lost six position in points standings. Paul is now showing in 13th position in Cup standings.

Jeff Burton
The struggles that Jeff Burton has been followed by thus far in the 2011 season continued on Sunday. Burton fought a loose car from the beginning of the race but managed to make his way forward from a starting position of32nd to the 17th spot by lap 100.

After multiple adjustments by the Caterpillar crew the car improved to allow Jeff to break the top ten; he ran as high as 9th before loose conditions returned. As Burton began sliding back in the pack he made contact with another car and sustained right-side damage.

After further front-end damage during a later restart Jeff found himself five laps down after a green flag stop for repairs. Burton finished 24th in Martinsville and began a backwards slide through points standings. Burton is now shown in 28th position in the points totals after losing three spots this week.

Clint Bowyer
RCR #33 driver Clint Bowyer had a fast car from the green flag on Sunday. He quickly made his way through the field from his 15th starting position to reach the top five by lap 100. Clint led the race on three separate occasions for a total of 91 laps, gaining a valuable bonus point toward Championship standings.

Clint ran with the fastest cars on the track through the first half of the race at Martinsville. The car inexplicably tightened up in the last 100 laps of the event and no improvements could be found by the BB&T pit crew.

Bowyer said after the race that he felt as if he had a car that could win at Martinsville until the tight conditions arrived late in the day. Clint finished in the 9th position and moved up one spot in Championship standings to the 16th position, 30 points out of the top ten.

Kevin Harvick
For the second week in a row Kevin Harvick finished ahead of the pack on Sunday. This week, for his efforts he took home a coveted Martinsville grandfather clock. This Martinsville win marked the first Richard Childress Racing win since Dale Earnhardt won the fall Martinsville race in 1995.

Harvick's day did not start out as smoothly as he would have liked; after starting 9th on the grid Kevin began falling back through the pack early as he fought car handling issues. Damage from a mid-race incident resulted in chassis issues.

The #29 Chevrolet Team went to work in the pits, made adjustments, and gave Harvick back a car he could work with. The two-tire stop call by crew chief Gil Martin on lap 372 may have been the call of the day as Kevin was then in position to drive his way to the front of the field during the last quarter of the race.

The final laps of the race were again the deciding factor in Harvick's win over Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch on Sunday. Kevin closed on the leaders and passed Earnhardt for the lead with just three laps to go.

In addition to the win, the #29 car also took home two contingency awards including the Moog's Problem Solver Award for improving lap speeds the most among all drivers during the second half of the race. Harvick moves up four spots to the 5th spot in Championship standings after this week's win, 15 points behind points leader Kyle Busch.

Looking Ahead to Texas
Jeff Burton says that despite the bad luck the #31 team has encountered at every turn this season they will try their luck again at Texas. 20 previous Cup starts at Texas have resulted in nine top 10 finishes, three top fives, and two wins in 2007 and his first Cup race at Texas in 1997.

With nine Cup starts to his credit at Texas Motor Speedway Paul Menard has less experience than his teammates on this track. His only top 10 finish at TMS came in last fall's race. With a bit of leftover confidence in regard to this track Menard has a good chance of posting another strong finish this week.

Clint Bowyer has five top 10 finishes in his 10 Cup starts in Texas. Bowyer will be looking for win number one at Texas and for the season this weekend as he tries to better his previous best fourth finish in the Lone Star State.

Texas Motor Speedway is a track that Kevin Harvick has yet to conquer; 16 previous starts in Texas have given Kevin eight top ten finishes and three top fives, but no credits in the win column. Harvick and crew will be hoping that Texas leaves them continuing their climb upward through the Championship standings.

The Richard Childress Racing team has a good chance of finding each driver higher in points when they leave Texas Motor Speedway. With Harvick the only RCR driver currently in the top ten improvements are desired.

The majority of Paul Menard's 2010 successes came on mile-and-a-half tracks, he could be the RCR to keep an eye on for Saturday night's race. Watch NASCAR Sprint Cup action under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway this Saturday night to find out which Richard Childress Racing drivers are hot in Texas.

Amy McHargue