Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Bell Helicopter team earned their first point-paying event victory of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season under the lights of Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night.
The No. 29 pit crew made an array of adjustments throughout the course of the originally planned 300-mile event during multiple scheduled four-tire pit stops.
As the race progressed, Harvick worked his way toward the front of the field finding a home in the top five.
Still battling handling issues during the final laps, Harvick drove down pit road on lap 397 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment under caution. The RCR veteran driver was scored in the seventh position as the field was set for a green-white-checkered finish.
During a dramatic restart, Harvick gained five positions with two laps remaining and captured the lead as the field came to the white flag. The 37-year-old driver remained out front during the final lap, and was able to collect his 20th Sprint Cup Series-career victory. Following the first-place finish, Harvick is now tied for the ninth in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Kevin Harvick (Start - 17 / Finish - 1 / Laps Led - 3 / Points - 9th): "I just want to thank everybody for this great finish. It's been a tough start to the season, but it all worked out for us tonight. We've gotten beat a couple times this year on pit road, but pitting was the right thing for us to do at the end tonight.
When tires fall off by almost two seconds, you've got to come in and get fresh tires for the restarts. Gil (Martin, crew chief) made the right call and it worked out. I've got to thank Bell Helicopter, Budweiser, Jimmy John's, Rheem, Chevrolet and everybody who participates in our team's program."
Jeff Burton Caps Off Solid Run with Top-Five Finish at Richmond
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Airgas/Bulwark Chevrolet team ran in the top 15 for 369 laps of the 406-lap night race at Richmond International Raceway, and finished off the solid effort with a fifth-place finish.
After starting the event from the 16th position, the South Boston, Va., native climbed into the top 15 early and reported to crew chief Luke Lambert that the No. 31 Chevrolet developed a tight-handling condition in the middle of the corners, especially on long green-flag runs.
Lambert and the No. 31 pit crew worked hard throughout the evening by making tire pressure and chassis adjustments on multiple pit stops, while Burton maintained a top-15 running position.
After narrowly avoiding a multi-car accident on lap 328, the Richard Childress Racing driver brought the white and black machine to pit road for fresh Goodyear tires and Sunoco Green E15 fuel. The adjustments made on the pit stop improved the handling of the car and Burton worked his way into the top 10 with 28 laps to go, and eventually moved to seventh-place on lap 385.
The final caution flag of the night was displayed with four laps to go, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. While the top-six competitors came to pit road for service, Lambert made the call for his driver to stay out putting Burton at the top of the leaderboard.
On the final restart, Burton raced hard before the drivers with fresh tires were able to get around the veteran driver on the final lap. In the end, Burton crossed the finish line in fifth for his first top-five result of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. With the strong finish, Burton gained four positions in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, moving up to 19th.
Jeff Burton (Start-16 / Finish-5 / Laps Led-7 / Points-19th): "We were seventh there and I thought I had the No. 22 (Joey Logano) beat before the caution flag came out. The caution came out and what the heck, we might as well try something. Luke (Lambert) made a good call there and obviously new tires were a lot better. But it was worth a shot.
We were going to maybe finish sixth without the caution so to pick up a spot from it was worth a shot. I thought it changed a lot. I thought Kevin (Harvick) and I both got better at the end of the race and some other cars got worse as the race went on.
However, Kevin got good at the end of the race. He was his best at the end; we were our best at the end. I think all of that was the track changing and kind of going to our setups a little bit."
Menard earns 13th-place finish Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway
Starting from the 29th position, Paul Menard and the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards team faced handling issues as track conditions changed throughout the evening, ultimately finishing 13th at Richmond International Raceway. The early laps of the race looked promising as Menard made a steady march toward the front of the field and was scored in 19th by lap 50.
Clicking off lap times as fast as the leader, coupled with lightning-fast stops by the pit crew, the 32-year-old driver worked his way inside the top 15 at lap 140. As the sun began to set, the track conditions changed and Menard struggled with a tight- handling racecar.
The No. 27 pit crew made a variety of chassis adjustments to the Chevrolet SS during the middle and later portions of the originally scheduled 400-lap event, in hopes of remedying the issue. With just three laps remaining, the yellow flag flew and crew chief "Slugger" Labbe called his driver into the pits one final time for four fresh tires and fuel.
Menard lined up 17th for the green-white-checkered restart and gained four spots in just two laps to finish 13th under the lights. Menard's top-15 finish ties him for ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings heading into Talladega Superspeedway.
Paul Menard (Start - 29 / Finish - 13 / Laps Led - 0 / Points - 9th): "Once the sun went down we struggled throughout the race to find the right setup for the CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet. "Slugger" (Labbe, crew chief) and the team never gave up working really hard to make adjustments all night in an attempt to get the handling issues resolved.
I have to thank my pit crew, they did an awesome job in the pits tonight and gained us several positions on pit road throughout the evening. There at the end, the car was handling better and we were able to gain several positions to come home with a solid finish. All-in-all it was a decent points day, so we'll take it and head to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend."
Richard Childress Racing