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.
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.
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.
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.
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.