Richard Childress Racing press release
Paul Menard and the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards Team Victims of Ill-timed Cautions; Finish 17th at Charlotte
Paul Menard started the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet from the seventh position in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and finished 17th despite getting caught laps down to the leader with ill-timed caution periods falling immediately after green-flag pit stops. During the first run of the 500 miler, Menard battled a tight-handling machine and fell back to the 12th position. When he brought the No. 27 Chevrolet Impala to pit road on lap 43 for the first green-flag pit stop of the evening, crew chief Slugger Labbe called for four fresh Goodyear tires, a full tank of Sunoco E-15 fuel and a spring rubber removed from the left-rear spring to counter the tight condition. The result was a much-improved Chevrolet that only tightened up late in the ensuing long run.
A caution for debris on lap 77 allowed the CertainTeed/Menards team the opportunity to make air pressure and chassis adjustments which, unfortunately, freed the car's balance too much, causing Menard to fall as far back as 23rd in the running order with the loose-handling machine. Over the next 150 laps, Menard regained track position, running as high as 15th before settling in the 16th spot. The No. 27 team continued to make small air pressure and chassis adjustments, getting the car's handling balanced for the Eau Claire, Wis., native. Following the lap 236 green-flag pit stop, the yellow flag was displayed only two laps later, trapping the 2011 Brickyard 400 winner two laps down to the leader who had not yet visited pit road. Menard restarted 17th and regained one lap as he took the wave around. To add insult to injury, it happened again on lap 287, with the caution flag appearing for fluid on the racing surface just as Menard returned to the track following another green-flag pit stop. Menard remained trapped a lap down through the end of the 334-lap race and, after falling back to 20th on a lap-303 restart, powered back to take the checkered flag in the 17th position.
Start - 7 Finish - 17 Laps Led - 0 Points - 21
PAUL MENARD QUOTE: "We had a pretty solid car tonight and Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards team did a good job adjusting on the handling as the race progressed. We just had bad luck getting caught two laps down when the caution flag came out after a green-flag stop. What's crazy is that it happened twice with back-to-back green-flag stops. That was frustrating and at that point, we were just ready for the checkered flag to fly."
Harvick Avoids Trouble to Claim Sixth-Place Effort at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Jimmy John's Chevrolet team avoided trouble in Saturday night's Charlotte 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to bring home a sixth-place finish and maintain the second position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings. After starting from the 14th position, Harvick struggled with a car he said was "way too tight" on the first run. Crew chief Gil Martin called for a four-tire stop with air pressure and chassis adjustments on the first trip to pit road at lap 43. Once green-flag pit stops cycled through, Harvick was scored in the 13th position. The No. 29 Chevrolet was still too tight for Harvick's liking when the caution flag waved for the first time at lap 76 and Martin called for a two-tire stop in an effort to gain valuable track position. The Bakersfield, Calif. native restarted in the second position at lap 81, but still felt the car was too tight as he slipped back to 11th before the team's next pit stop under green-flag conditions at lap 122 for four tires and additional chassis adjustments. The caution flag waved for the second time at lap 146 and again the No. 29 team gambled with a two-tire stop. However, a number of other teams did as well, so Harvick lined up in the ninth position for the lap 152 restart. He was running 12th when the team pitted again at lap 193.
On the ensuing run, Harvick once again noted the car was "too tight off." Martin called Harvick to pit road again at lap 235, but spotter Billy Odea alerted him to stay out as a car was slowing on the backstretch. Two laps later the caution flag waved as another competitor was unable to make it to pit road. The spotter's call kept Harvick on the lead lap, allowing the Jimmy John's Chevrolet to restart in the 10th position after pitting for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Harvick started out too tight, but the handling seemed to improve over the course of the run. The No. 29 team came back down pit road at lap 285 for four tires and fuel, and just two laps later the caution flag waved. Because the leader hadn't pitted yet, Harvick was caught a lap down but was returned to the lead lap when he took the wave around. He was listed in the 12th position when the green flag waved at lap 292. Before the field completed a lap, three competitors in front of the No. 29 Chevrolet made contact and spun. Harvick went low through the grass to miss the melee and then a quick move back up the track allowed the 35-year-old driver to completely avoid the accident. The trip through the grass caked the nose of the Jimmy John's Chevrolet with debris, requiring a trip to pit road on lap 295 for fresh tires, fuel and the ability to clean off the grille. Harvick restarted in the 10th position at lap 298 and gained two spots before the caution flag waved again a lap later.
Once the field took the green again, Harvick worked his way up to the sixth position before the caution flag waved at lap 316. On the last run, Harvick climbed to fourth with 11 laps to go, but fell back two spots to sixth with as a tight-handling condition developed once again. He maintained the position in the remaining laps and took the checkered flag in the sixth position, scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and his 17th of the season.
Start - 14 Finish - 6 Laps Led - 0 Points - 2
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE:
"We made it through the first five Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) races this year. We have had a lot of goals that we wanted to achieve this year and that was one of the goals we wanted to achieve was to get through these first five races, with not too much damage, so five points, if you would have told me we would come out of Charlotte (Motor Speedway) with a only a five-point deficit going into the next five races, I would be really happy. Everyone did a great job on our Jimmy John's Chevrolet. It wasn't great, but it was better at the end of the race than it was in the first half."
Caterpillar Racing Chevrolet Finishes 18th at Charlotte Motor Speedway
The No. 31 Caterpillar Racing team went from loose to good to tight to good and back to loose again before finishing 18th in the Charlotte 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Jeff Burton qualified 28th on Thursday night and would line up on the outside of the 14th row for Saturday night's "home race" for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. The first half of the 334-lap race on Charlotte's 1.5-mile tri-oval was a mixture of three caution periods and two green-flag pit stops. Burton ran as high as 15th before losing a lap to the leaders two-thirds of the way through the race. Five caution flags in the race's final 100 laps allowed Burton and the Caterpillar Racing team to work on their car in an attempt to bring its handling under control. Attrition from late-race crashes allowed Burton to pick up a couple of spots before crossing the finish line in the 18th position. He maintained the 24th position in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings with five races remaining.
Start - 28 Finish - 18 Laps Led - 0 Points - 24
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "The Caterpillar Chevy started the race tight and then went to good, then loose and tight and good and back to loose again. It was a back and forth throughout the night but the Cat crew never gave up in the pits in an effort to make the car better."
Bowyer Finishes 24th in Backup Car at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team finished 24th in the Charlotte 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a backup car. After a solid 19th-place qualifying effort on Thursday, the Richard Childress Racing driver's No. 33 Chevrolet became really loose with 20 minutes remaining in Friday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session and made significant contact with the outside retaining wall, forcing the "Helping Hands" pit crew to bring out the backup chassis for Saturday night's 334-lap event. Starting from the rear of the 43-car field per the NASCAR rulebook, the four-time NSCS race winner worked his way up to the 28th position on the leaderboard before the first green-flag pit stop of the day at lap 43.
After the pit stop, Bowyer reported to crew chief Shane Wilson that his red and yellow machine was tight on long runs and fell one lap down to the leader. Bowyer would receive the "lucky dog" award during a lap-78 caution-flag period to regain the lost lap and pitted for four fresh Goodyear tires and Sunoco E15 fuel with a chassis adjustment. Upon returning to the race track after a pit stop on lap 120, Bowyer reported to Wilson his left-rear wheel was loose and the team was forced to return to pit road for service, falling two laps down. For the next 150 laps, the Emporia, Kan., native ran around the 28th position, two laps down. Wilson decided to try some pit strategy on lap 287, coming down pit road early to gain a lap back, but as the 32-year-old driver exited his pit box the caution flag was displayed again, pinning the No. 33 Chevrolet three laps down in the 28th position with 42 laps to go. Over the final run, Bowyer was able to gain one more lap back under caution and passed four more competitors on the track before crossing the finish line in 24th-place. With the finish, Bowyer remains 13th in NSCS driver championship point standings.
Start - 19 (41) Finish - 24 Laps Led - 0 Points - 13
CLINT BOWYER QUOTE:
"It was just frustrating because we had a decent car before I got loose and wrecked it in practice on Friday. These guys worked hard to get the backup ready. We just couldn't catch a break during the race and couldn't recover after we fell a few laps down. Next weekend will definitely be more interesting in Talladega."