Richard Childress Racing heads to Watkins Glen

Richard Childress Racing

RCR at The Glen ... In 49 starts at Watkins Glen International, RCR boasts two wins (Robby Gordon 2003 and Kevin Harvick 2006), eight top-five and 19 top-10 finishes with seven different drivers. Additionally, Dale Earnhardt won three poles (1990, '92, '96) at the high-speed, 11-turn central New York circuit.

Paul Menard
Paul Menard

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

The Collective RCR ... Over the season's first 21 races, RCR's four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries have notched 13 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes. The No. 31 team kicked off the 2011 season with a non-points win in the second Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. The No. 29 team visited Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway in March and backed that up with a win the following weekend at Martinsville Speedway. In May, Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 team visited Winner's Circle at Charlotte Motor Speedway, claiming the checkers in one of NASCAR's marquee events - the Coca-Cola 600 - before Paul Menard and the No. 27 team captured the checkers in the prestigious Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway two weeks ago. RCR-prepared Chevrolets have also completed 23,052 out of 23,824 total laps (96.8 percent) with drivers Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Harvick and Menard, who have led a combined 505 laps. At least one RCR driver has led laps in each of the season's first 21 events with the exceptions being Kansas Speedway, Pocono Raceway (June and August) and Kentucky Speedway.

Get to the Points ... Following the Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono, Harvick slipped two spots in the championship point standings, to fifth, despite only sitting 20 markers outside of the top spot. Bowyer remains 12th and is 41 points in arrears to the top-10 cutoff with five races remaining before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup commences. Menard is 14th in the points rundown where he now sits 54 points on the cuff of the top 10 while Burton advanced one position, to 24th, and is 67 markers behind Joey Logano's 20th-place tally.

30 and Counting ... ECR Engines have revved up their horsepower and stats for the 2011 season, accumulating 30 victories across seven different series. In NASCAR's top-three national levels of sanctioned competition, ECR has won six Sprint Cup Series events, including the non-points series opener Duel 150 at Daytona International Speedway, one Nationwide Series and six Camping World Truck Series races. ECR's biggest accomplishments so far this year include winning the Southern 500 at the historic Darlington Raceway, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Other triumphs were scored in the ARCA Racing Series (eight), Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype (three), SCCA Trans-Am Series (one), and Late Model Dirt (five). At this point last year, ECR had accumulated 15 victories across the same series.

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This Week's Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet at WGI ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 361 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and will make its first paces this weekend at Watkins Glen International.

By the Numbers, Making Lefts and Rights ... In seven career NSCS starts at "The Glen," Menard has finished each contested race and completed 100 percent of the laps (632 of 632). The last time around (August 2010), Menard logged his best finish of 16th at the 2.45-mile road course. His best start of 14th came in August 2009.

Menard is qualified for the Sprint Summer Showdown ... With his victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Menard was crowned the first qualifier for the Sprint Summer Showdown presented by HTC EVO 3D. The Summer Showdown puts $3 million on the line for drivers, their charities and one lucky fan in a six-race competition. Any driver who wins between Indianapolis and Bristol (the first five races) will become a finalist for the Labor Day weekend race in Atlanta (the sixth race). If one of those eligible drivers wins the Atlanta race, then the driver, the driver's charity and one lucky race fan each collect $1 million. Fans can enter for their shot at the big bucks each week at www.sprint.com/speed.

Double Duty Weekend ... In addition to his driving duties with RCR's No. 27 team, Menard will drive Kevin Harvick Incorporated's No. 33 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet in Saturday's 200-mile NASCAR Nationwide Series race at "The Glen." The race will air live on ESPN beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.

PAUL MENARD QUOTES:

You had a good run at Infineon Raceway. Does that carry over to Watkins Glen International at all? "No, it's a totally different race track and atmosphere. It is really tough to pass at Sonoma (Infineon Raceway), and everyone drives in way over their heads. You see a lot of tore-up race cars at Sonoma. You'll probably see some of that at Watkins Glen, but it's a lot easier to pass there. It will be more of a straightforward race."

How does Watkins Glen stack up for you career-wise? Do you like it there? "I like racing at Watkins Glen better than I do at Sonoma. We've had good runs there in the past. But, we've had bad runs in the past. I still don't like either of the road courses, but if I had to pick a favorite of the two, I like Watkins Glen better than Sonoma because it's more open, and you can pass more. You have more room to race."

Where are the best places to pass at Watkins Glen? "I think turns one, four, five and six are the best places to pass there."

How different is the turn that they call the bus stop? "It's wild the first time through there. It's kind of like going to Bristol for the first time; you don't know how you're going to be able to do that lap after lap, but everything slows down and it becomes kind of natural."

Is that where people get a little crazy? "No, not really. It gets crazy where you have braking zones, or more like the lack there of. That's where you'll have accidents. The bus stop is actually one of the easier places to make a pass.

Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

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This Week's Budweiser Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International ... Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 321 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The No. 29 team utilized this car in last season's event at The Glen where Harvick scored an 11th-place finish.

Harvick at Watkins Glen ... In 10 starts at Watkins Glen, Harvick has earned one win (2006), two top-five and five top-10 finishes. His average starting position at the road course is 11.7 and his average finishing position is 13.6. Harvick has completed 96.9 percent (874 of 902) of the laps run in the last 10 NSCS races at Watkins Glen. He has also led a total of 29 laps at the 11-turn road course.

Welcome Home ... Billy O'Dea, spotter for the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team, returns to his native state for this weekend's race. The 44-year-old O'Dea hails from Victor, N.Y., located about 75 miles from Watkins Glen. He's been Harvick spotter for six years and also works in the RCR shop as a mechanic during the week.

KEVIN HARVICK QUOTES:

When it comes to the road course tracks, you seem to run better at Watkins Glen? Do you like it better than Sonoma (Infineon Raceway)? "It's just different for the fact that it's just a higher-speed course. Sonoma is a lot more technical with a lot slower speed. Watkins Glen is high speed and you can run over all the curbs. I enjoy them both. I enjoy all the road races that we have. I think we need more of them. It's one of those things that I enjoy getting to do a couple times a year."

What's the good, bad and ugly about Watkins Glen? "Restarts are usually the ugly part at that particular track. The road courses have become really rough. They've probably become the most exciting races we go to on the circuit. The good thing is it's usually a whole lot cooler up in that part of the country this time of year."

Do you expect the same slamming and banging as Sonoma? "Probably. But, not quite as much because the fenders do mean something at Watkins Glen because of the high-speed stuff."

So, I hear you're going to throw out the first pitch at Yankees Stadium this week? "Yeah, it's going to be pretty cool. I've become good friends with Gene Monahan (head athletic trainer for the Yankees) and Joe Girardi (manager of the Yankees) up there. To go up there, see those guys, hang out for the evening and just take it all in is going to be a lot of fun."

Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

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This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International ... Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 245 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built new in 2009 as a No. 07 racer, this machine was put through two short track tests and then shelved before being converted to a road course No. 31 racer. It was put through its first competition at Infineon Raceway in June 2010 where the South Boston, Va., native finished 27th before rebounding at Watkins Glen International a couple of months later when No. 31 team took home a ninth-place finish. Earlier this season, Burton piloted this Caterpillar Chevrolet to a 21st-place result at Infineon Raceway in June.

Watkins Glen Details ... In 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at "The Glen," Burton has posted two top-five and four top-10 finishes. His best finish of second came in August 2001. He has a 20.2 average starting position to go along with a 21.3 average finish and has led three different races for a total of 54 laps.

Twists & Turns ... In 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course starts (Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International), the 18-year veteran driver has three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. Burton has also led 57 laps of competition and has earned a 20.4 starting average coupled with a 20.8 average finish.

Back to School ... Team engineer and Fairfax, Va., native Jeff Curtis attended Cornell University, located in Ithaca, N.Y., where he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 2001.

JEFF BURTON QUOTES:

Can you translate your driving style at Sonoma over to Watkins Glen? "The tracks at Watkins Glen and Sonoma are comparable in the same way as Pocono and Indy are comparable. The tracks are different but the same. For people like me who don't have road course experience, I think there are similarities because the driving style is very similar. In some ways, technically, there is not a lot of information we use from one race to the other but from a driving standpoint it's the same."

You had a top-10 finish at Watkins Glen last year. "Yeah, I feel good about our road course program. We ran a little better than where we finished. We did a nice job of having a fast car and not letting it get taken away from us. That's been our history on road course; we run well and finish awful. Last year, we ran well and finished decent. That was big for us. That was a step in the right direction as to what we needed to do at the road courses. We feel good about running road courses, but if you look at the records, they're horrendous. But, if you go back and look at our average running position it's pretty competitive. The last 10 laps of the races on road courses at almost every race, someone spins me out. After Sonoma this year, I decided that there's a few of them that the next time I get to them I'm sending them around as quick as I get to them. That's what continually happens to me and it's with the same people over and over. So, it's not happening again."

If you're going to get bounced around at "The Glen," where does that usually happen? "Everything that happens always happens on a restart. It's so competitive today that we as Cup drivers look so unprofessional on road course restarts. We don't look like professional race car drivers, we look like amateurs that have been told 'it doesn't matter where you finish or what happens.' It's ridiculous. Our professionalism has gone down over the years on road courses. Our skills have improved. We have more skilled road course racers today than we have before. Our normal drivers have improved on the road course abilities, but we are losing our ability to race each other and race each other with respect and willingness to give an inch in return for an inch later in the race. It's kind of embarrassing for our sport. I just don't think we do a very good job and we could do much better."

It used to be a joke that eight tires were better than four tires getting around a corner. "When someone dives underneath you, gets on your door and they use you, that's one thing. It's a completely different thing to just wreck each other. We've moved into this thing where people just get wrecked. The attitude is that it's just a road course. It's like when people would get wrecked at Bristol. The guy that got wrecked would get out of his car and say 'that's just Bristol.' Well that's just not right. We need to take responsibility for our actions."

How do drivers, such as yourself that grew up learning to race on ovals, learn to drive a road course? "When I first started, we had a Nationwide (Series) race at Watkins Glen. It was the first time they ever ran a Nationwide (Series) race there. We were getting prepared for that by going to Bondurant and went to school to try to learn how to heel-toe, which I never used. But, I learned the idea of it. After that, I went to two or three other things. But, the biggest thing that helped me though was when I went to Roush (Racing) and had a chance to go to Watkins Glen to test with Mark (Martin). That was the biggest thing I ever did because I was there on the same day and I was able to look at his data, talk to him and follow him around on the race track. That did more for me than anything, just practical experience."

Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

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This Week's Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet at Watkins Glen International ... Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 300 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built in 2010 specifically for road course racing, has seen action three times - the first being a 31st-place finish last season at Infineon Raceway and also last August at Watkins Glen International when Bowyer brought home a 32nd-place effort. Most recently, Bowyer drove this racer to a fourth-place finish earlier this year after starting ninth at Infineon Raceway in June.

Career WGI Stats ... This weekend's road course race marks Bowyer's 203rd career NSCS start.

In five NSCS starts at Watkins Glen, Bowyer owns one top-10 finish, posting his best finish of ninth in the August 2009 event.

Points Racing ... Bowyer remains 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, 41 points out of the top 10.

CLINT BOWYER QUOTES:

Your statistics aren't as good at Watkins Glen International as they are at Infineon Raceway. Any particular reason why? "I have no idea why. I've always run well at Sonoma where I'm very comfortable. I get to Watkins Glen and I struggle. I think I've gotten a lot better at road courses. I'm looking forward to Watkins Glen. I think we can get another top 10 if not, a top-five finish there."

How much faster of a track is the Watkins Glen International than Infineon Raceway? "It's a lot faster than Sonoma. The speeds are much higher at The Glen. Sonoma is a very tight, technical track. You have to get settled in and hit your marks. It's a challenging race track. However, Watkins Glen is wide open, straight off into the corner and running harder than the next guy. You have to keep that momentum up because it's a very fast race track."

Where is the best place to pass on the track? "There's never a good place to pass on a road course. There's not enough room anywhere. Obviously, the best place to pass is getting into turn one though it's hard. You have to get yourself off the last corner to set yourself up for that pass."

Do you ever get in the situation where you out-brake someone and you get in the corner a little too far? "Oh for sure, everyone does. It's not a good feeling because it usually leads to wheel hopping and then you are completely out of control and wrecking in that order."

Is the turn deemed the "bus stop" where all the crazy moves are made? It's called that because you carry so much speed coming off that long straightaway and high speed up through the S-turn. You get flying on down into the bus stop with a head of steam built up, trying to out-brake the next guy, who also got into the corner fast, and if he doesn't give you the spot, it creates a pretty intense situation because there's not a lot of room down there."

Why do they call it the bus stop? "It's a pretty big chicane. Business picks up pretty good through there."

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags bowyer, burton, chevrolet, havick, menard, nascar, sprint, watkins glen