Richard Childress Racing is trending in the right direction.
Although just five races remain in the 2015 season, the company has made significant gains in recent weeks.
Before Austin Dillon cut a right front tire and destroyed his No. 3 American Ethanol Chevy on Lap 155 of Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, he was running fifth — a position he had held for 20 laps.
We had a really fast American Ethanol Chevrolet. I was catching everybody in front of us.
While Dillon was clearly disappointed that his race ended prematurely, he was equally pleased with the progress his team made over the course of the weekend.
“We’re carrying a lot of speed around the top of the track, and just cut a tire,” said Dillon, who started 25th. “If we bring another car like this one to the racetrack this year we will end up with a win.”
Scott scores career-best result
After Dillon retired from the race, Chase driver Ryan Newman finished 11th. Brian Scott had a Sprint-Cup-career-best 12th-place finish in an RCR-prepared car with crew chief Todd Parrott calling the shots.
"I am really proud of the effort of our Shore Lodge Chevrolet team today,” Scott said. “This team did a great job all weekend and we fought hard the entire race. This gives us good momentum to head into Texas Motor Speedway for our final Sprint Cup race of the year.”
RCR’s fourth entry with Paul Menard finished 19th.
"We had a really fast American Ethanol Chevrolet,” Dillon added. “We were a little tight that run. I was catching everybody in front of us. The team worked hard on our Chevrolet this weekend, and I’m really proud of them.”
Dillon appeared to be in a bit of a sophomore slump earlier this season. After the first 15 races, which produced three top-15 and one top-10 finish, RCR replaced veteran crew chief Gil Martin with Slugger Labbe. In the last 16 races, Dillon has posted one top five, four top 10s and six top 15s. Although Labbe was moved to a R&D position after five seasons with Paul Menard, RCR brought him back to the pit box to oversee Dillon’s Cup program.
Sources told Motorsport.com Labbe is expected to continue in that role next season and has been offered a three-year extension.
We’re not in Kansas anymore…
Clint Bowyer didn’t receive the homecoming he had hoped for at Kansas Speedway.
The 36-year-old Emporia, Kan. native took a brutal hit on Lap 171 when he lost control of the No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota coming out of Turn 2 on Sunday. He finished 40th.
“I was following (Jeff) Gordon there and I started to catch him back,” said Bowyer, who was running 16th before the wreck. “I went in and he kind of took my line away and I tried to pull down and as soon as my headlight got out and got some air in it, man it turned me. I probably should have just spun to the inside, but I thought I could save it. Guess I didn’t save it. Man, it hit hard.
“We were actually having some fun, doing a little better than I actually thought we were going to. Just disappointed and frustrated. You always hate to have something like that happen, especially at home.”
This has been Bowyer’s worst performance since his rookie year in 2006 when he finished with just four top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 19.7. This year, Bowyer has two top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 17.5. In 10 seasons of Sprint Cup racing, Bowyer’s nine laps led are the fewest of his career.
The keys to the King-dom
Richard Petty partnered with Eckrich to make a military family’s dream come true.
On Friday morning of race weekend at Kansas, through Eckrich’s Operation Homefront program, Petty met Retired Army Sergeant Mike Dizmang-Espy and his wife, Diana, who serves in the National Guard, at a local grocery store.
The couple arrived at Price Chopper expecting tickets to the race. Imagine their surprise when Petty drove up in a 2016 Ford Fusion and handed the Dizmang-Espy family the keys to the car. The NASCAR Hall of Famer also offered the Kansas City family of six free groceries for a year — all compliments of Eckrich for the parents service and sacrifice.
"I really don't know what to say, but to thank everyone for these wonderful gifts," Dizmang-Espy told reporters. "You can tell that Eckrich really put a lot of effort to make today special, and I can't thank everyone enough. We do sacrifice a lot in service and it's just nice to know that people out there want to give back.”
Since 2012, Eckrich has donated more that $1million through Operation Homefront.
"Our military families are the ones who allow us to do what we love," said Petty. "They don't ask to be recognized, so it's always nice to give back and surprise them with something so special such as a new car. It's great to see Eckrich doing this and I'm a big supporter of what they do for all our military families."