The No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet Team Finishes 18th at Atlanta
After persistent rain postponed Sunday night's AdvoCare 500, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams returned to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday morning, anxious to run the 25th points-paying event of 2011. Paul Menard had more than valuable championship points on the line throughout the 325-lap race - he was a finalist in the Sprint Summer Showdown and was battling for a $3 million payout to be split between one lucky fan, Andrea Gay, his charity of choice, Habitat for Humanity, and himself. Unfortunately, Menard and the Quaker State/Menards team battled track position, additional inclement weather and inconsistent track conditions to bring the No. 27 Chevrolet Impala home in the 18th position. After starting 22nd, Menard was running 21st when the first caution of the morning came out on lap 11. He reported that the car's balance was neutral, but that he lacked grip. He brought the car to pit road for service, and the Slugger Labbe-led crew changed four tires with air pressure adjustments, put a piece of tape onto the front grill and packed the car with Sunoco E15. With some teams opting not to pit, Menard lost valuable track position and was forced to restart 35th. He fought his way back to 27th by the time the competition yellow was displayed by NASCAR at lap 30. Menard informed the team that the previous adjustments had hurt the drive off and he was now tight in the center of the turns. The pit crew changed four tires, added fuel and made additional air pressure and chassis adjustments in hopes of counteracting the handling challenges. He continued to fight both a tight-handling condition and traffic until green-flag pit stops began to occur around lap 75. As Menard drove his Chevrolet down pit road on lap 77 his quick reaction to the exiting No. 17 entry saved both teams heavy damage. Labbe called for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment by the Quaker State/Menards crew. Menard reported the car was much improved, but still suffered from slight tight-center condition and poor drive-off, handling characteristics that he continued to battle for the remainder of the 500 miler. He and the No. 27 team worked diligently to get everything they could, making a variety of air pressure and chassis adjustments with each visit to pit road and climbing to as high as 13th. On lap 202, NASCAR officials displayed the red flag as rain began to fall, halting the field for nearly 25 minutes. When the precipitation finally left the area, Menard restarted strong and overtook the 11th position, his highest of the day. With the track's condition changed from the showers, Menard was faced with handling challenges and slipped to 21st. Labbe and Menard agreed that a track bar adjustment was their best bet with four fresh Goodyear tires and fuel on the final, green-flag pit stop of the afternoon. In the closing laps, the Eau Claire, Wis., native fought back to an 18th-place finish at the Hampton, Ga.-based facility.
Start - 22 Finish - 18 Laps Led - 0 Points - 20
PAUL MENARD QUOTES: "Unfortunately, we played catch-up all day. We were chasing track position, chasing the track's condition and, when the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet was handling well, we just seemed to always be stuck behind the group of cars that just couldn't get moving. It was definitely a frustrating afternoon. At the beginning of the race, I really think we had a car that could run up front, we just couldn't get there. I'm sorry I couldn't get the Sprint Summer Showdown win for our fan, Andrea Gay, and for Habitat for Humanity and another win for my guys. That would have really helped our chances to make the Chase (for the Sprint Cup). We'll just go to Richmond now, and do what we do each week, work our hardest, do our best and try to win."
Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet team score Seventh-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet team earned a seventh-place finish in the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The start of the race was postponed two days due to rain from remnants of Tropical Storm Lee and when the field took the green on Tuesday morning, Harvick started from the 21st position. On the initial run Harvick reported that the car was too tight as he worked his way up to the 16th position before the caution flag waved for the first time at lap 11. Crew chief Gil Martin called for the team to not pit, as NASCAR had announced a competition caution at lap 30 and teams couldn't take fuel until that point. Harvick restarted from the sixth position at lap 16 and ran inside the top seven until a restart on lap 134. As the field came to the green flag, the No. 18 car appeared to jump the restart and then check up to correct his position, bunching up the field behind him. As a result, the No. 43 car made contact with the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet, knocking it sideways. Harvick made an impressive save, but fell back to 10th with minor damage to the left-rear bumper. Harvick worked his way back up to fourth before rain brought out the caution at lap 200. Martin called the No. 29 Chevrolet down pit road for tires and fuel two laps later. The field ran under yellow for eight more laps before NASCAR threw the red flag to work on drying the track. Once the track was ready, the green flag waved at lap 219 with Harvick in the third position. He went three wide for the lead, but missed a shift and dropped back to third. The caution flag waved yet again just two laps later as rain continued to plague the race. When the green flag waved at lap 231, Harvick had trouble with the transmission again, missed a shift and fell to fifth. He dropped one more spot as he battled a tight-handling car and was running sixth when the caution flag waved at lap 241. When the team pitted two laps later, Martin called for track bar and air pressure adjustments to help free the car up for Harvick. When the caution flag waved again at lap 250, Harvick reported that the car took off better, turning-wise, after the adjustments. On the subsequent restart he fell back to ninth and reported that splitter damage was killing the car's handling. Harvick worked his way up to seventh before the team pitted under green at lap 283. He narrowed in on the top five in the closing laps, but remained in the seventh position as he took the checkered flag at lap 325.
Start - 21 Finish - 7 Laps Led - 0 Points - 6
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE: "The No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet team had a solid race today. We had damage to the splitter that got the car too tight for the last 100 laps or so, but we were a top-five car before that. The guys did a great job on pit road, too."
Burton and Caterpillar Team Fight Back to Finish 13th at Atlanta Motor Speedway
After waiting out weather delays which postponed the start of the AdvoCare 500 for two days, Jeff Burton and the Caterpillar Race Team climbed from their 27th-place starting position to finish 13th at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday. As inclement weather remained around the Hampton, Ga.-based track, Burton battled ever-changing track conditions throughout 325-lap event which tampered with the handling on the No. 31 Chevrolet Impala. The early portion of the race delivered strong enough handling on the black and yellow machine to allow Burton to move into the top 20 by lap 40. Following quick pit work by the 31 crew on lap 95, the South Boston, Va. native then jumped up to the 13th position for the restart on lap 98. The middle portion of the event brought with it handling frustrations on the No. 31 Chevrolet. Though Burton was searching for more grip into the corners and fighting a tight-handling condition leaving the turns he maintained his position in the top-15, then ultimately moved up to tenth on lap 185. Unfortunately, the handling issues worsened and by lap 200 the No. 31 Chevrolet was listed in the 18th position. With rain in the area and mist beginning to fall over the 1.5-mile speedway, NASCAR waived the yellow flag on lap 202 and most of the teams, including the 31, took the opportunity to hit pit road. While entering the 31 team pit stall in the 18th position, Burton avoided near disaster as the Caterpillar Chevrolet slid on the wet pavement and stopped awkwardly into the stall with the front bumper facing the pit wall. The Caterpillar crew jumped into action to service the No. 31 Chevrolet with four tires and fuel, but the chaos resulted in a loss of ten positions on pit road. Following a 25-minute red flag for rain, Burton took the lap-219 restart in the 28th position. From there the 44-year-old driver used patience to methodically work his way back up through the field, climbing into the top 20 on lap 237 and then up to the top-15 on lap 254. With one final pit stop on lap 283, Burton was able to pick up a few additional positions and bring home the 13th-place effort.
Start - 27 Finish - 13 Laps Led - 0 Points Position - 24
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "We had a steady day for the Caterpillar team today. We are working hard and making gains. We still have a long way to go to get back to where we need to be but we are definitely going in the right directions so that feels good."
Late-Race Accident Ends Top-10 Effort for Bowyer at Atlanta
Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team finished 36th in the rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway getting caught up in an accident with 82 laps to go. After remnants from Tropical Storm Lee forced NASCAR officials to postpone all on-track activity Sunday night, the green flag finally dropped for the 500-mile marathon around 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Bowyer started from outside the front row after posting a solid qualifying effort on Saturday. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner immediately drove his Chevrolet Impala to the point position and led lap one, earning a valuable championship bonus point in the process, before settling into the top five. The Emporia, Kan., native radioed to crew chief Shane Wilson that his red and yellow machine was loose off and tight in the middle of the 24-degree banked corners of the 1.5-mile oval. After staying out under the first caution flag period of the day, the Richard Childress Racing driver worked his way back to the front of the 43-car field again for seven more laps until a competition caution on lap 30 allowed the "Helping Hands" pit crew to make the necessary adjustments to improve handling on the No. 33 Chevrolet. For a majority of the first half of the 325-lap marathon, Bowyer was a mainstay in the top 10 and very happy with the overall setup on his car. On lap 202, rain showers in the area started to become a factor delaying the race for over 25 minutes. Once NASCAR officials were able to dry the track and get back to green-flag racing, another shower came over the Hampton, Ga.,-based facility 20 laps later. On the ensuing restart, the 32-year-old driver started complaining that his race car was very tight and began dropping back through the field. On lap 243, contact with another competitor coming out of turn four sent Bowyer's Chevrolet into the outside retaining wall. The damaged race car was brought back to the garage area where the "Helping Hands" pit crew worked diligently to repair the front nose of the machine and get the RCR driver back on the track to earn points in their quest to qualify for the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The No. 33 Chevrolet eventually returned to the race track with under 10 laps to go, but was unable to gain any positions and settled for a disappointing 36th-place finish. Bowyer, now 14th in NSCS driver championship point standings, still has an opportunity to qualify for the Chase this weekend at Richmond International Raceway by winning the race with fellow competitor Denny Hamlin finishing 11th or worse.
Start - 2 Finish - 36 Laps Led - 8 Points - 14
CLINT BOWYER QUOTE: "We had a really good Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet today and got wrecked by another competitor who was racing stupid and not showing any patience. It sounds like we are going to have to win next week to make the Chase for (the NASCAR Sprint Cup) and we run well in Richmond. We had a top-10 car this weekend and I expect us to have one in Richmond. This team isn't going down without a fight."