Bowyer Gives RCR 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Victory with Win at Talladega
Clint Bowyer, driving a special No. 33 Chevrolet paint scheme to celebrate the Chevrolet Centennial, edged out Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton in a photo finish to win the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, giving team owner Richard Childress his 100th career victory in NASCAR's elite division. The now five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner started the 188-lap event in the third position and, following the original team plan instituted during Friday's practice session, immediately found his RCR stablemate Burton to draft as a two-car tandem, which has become the norm at restrictor-plate facilities such as Talladega and Daytona International Speedway. Once the two RCR entries began drafting together, it was apparent that both Chevrolets would be considered among the favorites to take the checkered flag in the end.
We were really good on the restarts and kept getting together before the other cars and I think that is what ultimately won the race.
Throughout the first half of the event, the Bowyer and Burton combo never fell out of the top 15 in the running order, showcasing the strong horsepower of Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines while taking turns pushing each other to the front and using different lines on the race track to build a strategy for the final 10-lap sprint to the finish. Under a caution-flag period on lap 130, the two RCR drivers decided it was faster if Bowyer pushed Burton to the end of the race. That specific strategy continued until the two Chevrolet Impalas were separated on pit road during the final two-tire pit stop of the day on lap 165. On the ensuing restart, the Emporia, Kan., native dropped back through the field to hookup again with Burton and once lined up the two cars were scored in the 24th and 25th positions, respectively. The caution flag was displayed again with 13 laps to go, giving Bowyer and Burton the opportunity to carry out the plan they originally decided to use while planning strategy during the middle part of the race. Once gain, they immediately went to the front of the lead pack and were running one-two when the final caution flag of the day was displayed, setting up a two-lap dash to the finish.
After taking the green flag, Bowyer and Burton pulled away from every other competitor on the track running single file. While exiting turn four, the 32-year-old driver made his move to the inside of the No. 31 Chevrolet and the two drivers battled each other in a drag race down the frontstretch to the finish line, rubbing fenders and bringing the crowd of more than 105,000 to their feet. Bowyer beat Burton to the finish line by a mere 0.018 seconds, the 11th-closest finish in NSCS history as both RCR drivers combined to lead a total of 15 times for 51 laps. Bowyer also remains 13th in NSCS driver championship point standings.
Start - 3 Finish - 1 Laps Led - 25 Points - 13
CLINT BOWYER QUOTE: "I told him Richard (Childress), 'this is Chevrolet's 100th Anniversary, what an awesome paint scheme.' I am so proud of the paint scheme and the fact this is Richard's 100th race that he has won in the (NASCAR) Sprint Cup Series. So I told him 'congratulations and I guess I'm going to have to race my ass for the 101st (laughs).' But just thank you to Cheerios, Hamburger Helper, everybody involved with this car. BB&T too, they've been a long supporter of ours and it meant a lot to me to get all these guys back in victory lane before we cap off this season. It was a good day. I need to thank my teammate Jeff Burton. We were really good together. We thought about it, talked about it a lot before the race and things really did play out just how we planned. We were really good on the restarts and kept getting together before the other cars and I think that is what ultimately won the race."
TAKE US THROUGH THE LAST LAP: "It was pretty calm day to be honest with you. It was methodical and I wanted to stay up front. I told Jeff (Burton) that we needed to stay up front and stay racing with these guys. That way, when the time comes we would have practiced, were ready for it and could race like the end of the race needs to be raced. That restart we got bunched up before everybody else and I was really worried about the Nos.14 and 27 Chevys, the Nos. 4 and 83 cars were also hooked up too. I didn't think it was going to happen like that, but sure glad it did. Obviously, I was trying to figure out where to pass him and I said, 'aww, I'm at least going to give him a shot at it.' I decided to try it early and knew it was going to be a drag race to the finish."
CREW CHIEF SHANE WILSON QUOTE: "This deal is really good. We've worked hard and been close so here and there. We missed the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) this year, but this group is a good group and it is a shame that it is going to end, but that is just the way it is. I'm proud of everybody today across the board at RCR and ECR. We all had really good cars today and I'm just happy."
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE NO. 31 TEAM AND JEFF BURTON? THOSE TWO NEVER LOST EACH OTHER ON THE TRACK: "We were good all day and those guys did a great job. They did their tandem deal there very well and track position was worth a little bit, especially at the end. I think it made us better for the end running up there all day."
Menard and the Serta/Menards Team Finish 12th at Talladega Superspeedway
Paul Menard knows every lap at Talladega Superspeedway is a gamble and Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 proved no different as he finished 12th in the No. 27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet at the Alabama-based race track after a late-race restart left the field scrambled. Following a solid qualifying effort on Saturday, Menard lined up in the seventh position to start the 188-lap race. Menard and Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick paired up for the two-car tandem-style racing which has become common at the superspeedways, and were a dominating force for more than 100 laps, proving they could drop back to avoid trouble and power to the front on a number of occasions.
Finding the best result with the No. 27 Serta/Menards entry pushing the No. 29 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet, the duo led the field with Harvick in front on six occasions for 13 laps around the 2.66-mile superspeedway. On lap 104, trouble found the RCR pair with the No. 29 car receiving heavy damage by contact with a competitor's spinning car. With Harvick requiring repairs first in the pits and ultimately in the garage, Menard found himself looking for a new "dancing partner" as the race returned to green-flag conditions. The No. 27 Chevrolet restarted seventh on lap 110 and then plummeted through the field before finally hooking up with the No. 9 machine of Marcos Ambrose. The Eau Claire, Wis., native and the Aussie methodically worked their way into the top 15 by lap 143 and then into the top 10 only a few laps later.
A lap-163 caution allowed the Slugger Labbe-led team to service the signature Menards yellow Chevrolet with right-side tires and fuel. Restarting 10th on lap 167, Menard partnered with Tony Stewart, pushing the No. 14 Chevrolet to the lead in only two circuits. With eight laps remaining, Regan Smith made hard contact with the outside retaining wall, slowing the field for the ninth caution period of the afternoon and setting the stage for a two-lap dash to the checkered flag. Restarting sixth on lap 186, Menard quickly paired with Stewart once again but in the mad scramble to the finish, lost ground and took the checkers in 12th.
Start - 7th Finish - 12th Laps Led - 0 Points - 21
PAUL MENARD QUOTE: "We had a really fast Serta/Menards Chevrolet all weekend. We brought a brand new car this weekend and the team did a great job building it. We didn't require any adjustments for handling and the pit stops were solid. I thought we had a good shot at the win, especially drafting with (Tony) Stewart and restarting sixth after the last caution. I'm not exactly sure what happened in the big pack, but Superspeedway racing is always a crapshoot and I think we can be thankful that we are at least loading our car up in one piece."
Harvick and the No. 29 Team Finish 32nd at Talladega after Mid-Race Accident
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Jimmy Johns team's plan for the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway unraveled at lap 104 when Harvick was caught up in another driver's accident. After making several trips to pit road and eventually going to the garage for repairs, Harvick finished the race in the 32nd position. Due to the need to race in pairs at the superspeedway, the No. 29 Jimmy Johns team went into Sunday's race with a plan to work with Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard and the No. 27 Serta/Menards team throughout the 500-mile race. The plan worked early as Harvick and Menard hooked up and drove to the lead at lap 16 where they stayed for three laps before settling into a comfortable pace. The Harvick-Menard tandem worked together during the next several circuits around the track when things started heating up and getting dicey at the front of the field, so the duo drifted back a little in the running order after the first 50 laps of the race.
Not wanting to get too far behind the leaders, Harvick and Menard started moving closer to the front of the field prior to the third caution at lap 79. Harvick was racing in the top 20 with Menard close behind when disaster struck at lap 104. Another drafting duo triggered an incident which sent cars spinning and across the hood of cars in front of Harvick. With nowhere to go, the Bakersfield, Calif. native was caught up in the accident and eventually came to a stop on the apron of the track. Harvick drove the No. 29 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet back to the pits where the team went to work on the front end of the car in an attempt to fix the damage. Harvick lost a lap in the midst of the work and would lose another when, after returning to the track, the No. 29 car started smoking as the field came out of turn four to take the green, requiring a return trip to pit road to try to determine the source of the smoke.
When Harvick returned to the track he was two laps down to the leader and in 37th place. The smoking problem persisted on the No. 29 Chevrolet, causing NASCAR to black-flag the team at lap 128, forcing Harvick to take the car to the garage so the team could fix the issue. After quickly assessing and fixing the problem with assistance from member of all four RCR teams, the No. 29 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet returned to the race, in the 37th position, eight laps down to the leaders. As the laps wound down and the attrition rate continued to build, Harvick was able to pick up five positions before the checkered flag waved to finish the race in 32nd place. The 32nd-place finish cost Harvick valuable points and positions in the championship point standings. He now sits in fifth place, 26 points out of the lead.
Start - 13 Finish - 32 Laps Led - 13 Points - 5
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE: "It is a little bit frustrating. You do what you think is right at this particular race track and you hope for the best. We had a lot of great runs in the weeks leading up to this and I guess the odds were against us coming into this one. Obviously, that wasn't the day we wanted. But, but the way the rest of those guys raced, it didn't devastate us. We wanted to be in the front. We thought that was the safer place to be in case the thing went green. I thought I was around a pretty good group of cars there. I don't know what happened. It is just one of those deals."
Burton & Caterpillar Racing Team Finish Second After Strong Day at Talladega
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Racing team led seven times for 26 laps in the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway but were passed by Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer coming to the checkered flag were narrowly passed to earn a season-best second-place finish. Burton qualified 25th early Saturday afternoon with a second-lap run of 53.318 seconds at an average speed of 179.602 mph on the 2.66-mile tri-oval. The green flag waved below a clear blue sky at 1:23 p.m. Central Time on Sunday and Burton took the lead on laps four and six with tandem-drafting partner Bowyer in tow. The first of the race's nine caution flags slowed the field on lap 26. The drafting partners changed places soon after, with Bowyer leading four times for 13 laps between laps 30 and 75. Burton was back in the lead for two circuits beginning on lap 84 and then four more laps beginning on lap 102.
The duo stayed hooked up throughout the race and periodically exchanged the lead. Burton assumed the lead again on lap 146 (for three laps) and again on lap 158 (for six laps). Cautions late in the race allowed for pit stop strategy to play a role, with crew chief Luke Lambert calling for two tires on lap 165. Burton pushed his teammate to the front one lap later, took the lead for his own on lap 179 after the next-to-last caution led the field coming off turn 4 on the final lap. Bowyer made a last-second move while coming to the line and beat the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet to the finish line by 0.018-of-a-second.
Start - 25 Finish - 2 Laps Led - 26 Points - 24
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "That's (restrictor) plate racing. The Caterpillar Team was in position to win the race and Clint (Bowyer) did a great job. I thought he made his move a little too early and, as it turned out, he did it perfect. We had a great day. Part of me wants to cry and part of me wants to cheer. Any time you leave (Talladega Superspeedway) and the car is in one piece you should be happy, but to come that close after the year we have had is pretty disappointing."