Menard Finishes 24th in Attrition-Filled Martinsville Race
Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard and the No. 27 Richmond/Menards team escaped Sunday afternoon's action-packed short track race at Martinsville Speedway with a top-25 finish. Menard started the 500-lap race from the 21st position after rain throughout the early portion of the weekend caused NASCAR officials to scratch Saturday's qualifying and set the field according to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owners point standings. Menard took the green flag in front of an estimated 62,000 people and quickly noted to crew chief Slugger Labbe the No. 27 Chevrolet had a tight-handling condition.
With the race slowed by 18 cautions for 108 laps, there were plenty of opportunities to make chassis adjustments during routine pit stops and by the event's midpoint, handling had improved on the No. 27 machine. Menard was scored15th in the running order and racing for position with Kurt Busch when the two made contact on lap 425, sending the No. 22 machine spinning and leaving Menard's yellow No. 27 racer with significant right-side damage. Menard immediately brought his Chevrolet to pit road so the RCR team could evaluate the damage. A lengthy pit stop ensued, with the team adding door foam to the right side of the Chevrolet along with four Goodyear tires and Sunoco E15 fuel.
Menard lost three laps to the race leaders during the extended pit stop and restarted in the 27th position when green- flag racing resumed on lap 432. The 2011 Brickyard 400 race winner spent the remainder of the race working to secure track position and ultimately earned a 24th- place result.
Start - 21 Finish - 24 Laps Led - 0 Points - 21
PAUL MENARD QUOTE: "I don't know what to say. That was just dumb racing out there today. I think we would have been okay until that incident with the No. 22. It's just difficult to recover from three laps down, especially that close to the end of the race."
Harvick Finishes Fourth at Martinsville to Climb to Third in Points
In a race mired with 18 cautions, Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team avoided trouble and ran solidly in the top 10 for most of Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway before taking the checkered flag in the fourth position. Harvick started the race from the fifth position as the field was set by owner points after qualifying was cancelled due to persistent rain that fell on Friday and again Saturday morning. At the start of the race, Harvick struggled with a loose-handling No. 29 Chevrolet, and raced anywhere from second to 19th as various pit strategies played through. He noted to crew chief Gil Martin there was "no second groove," and struggled with restarting in the outside line throughout the race.
The Bakersfield, Calif. native fought a tight-handling race car during the middle of the race but remained inside the top 10. Harvick was running eighth when the caution waved for the 11th time and when he came down pit road at lap 399, Martin called for a two-tire stop to gain track position. Harvick took the lead off of pit road and took turns leading with various other Chase contenders for the next 20 laps, never falling below second until lap 438 when the No. 48 Chevrolet got underneath Harvick and pinned him in the outside lane causing the No. 29 team to fall back to sixth position by lap 441. He fell back to 10th after pitting for the final time on lap 459 for four tires and fuel, but was able to survive several late- race cautions and climbed to the fourth position before the caution flag waved for the final time at lap 492.
The field took the green with just four laps to go with Harvick once again stuck in the outside line. His Richard Childress Racing teammate, Jeff Burton, let him get down to the bottom quickly and Harvick was able to maintain his position for the closing laps to take the checkered flag in the fourth position.
Start - 5 Finish - 4 Laps Led - 13 Points - 3
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE: "It was definitely a battle. Everybody was driving hard. That is what you are supposed to do here at Martinsville (Speedway). I know the guys did a good job making the car better and we got good track position. The No. 31 (Jeff Burton) helped us on that last restart there to get down and I really appreciate that. The top was tough for me to get going on the restarts and the No. 14 (Tony Stewart, race winner) was really the only one that could make any ground up there on the restarts and that's what won him the race. All-in-all, everybody on our Budweiser Chevy team did a good job"
Hard-Earned Top-10 Finish at Martinsville for Caterpillar Racing Team
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Racing team earned a top-10 finish for the second consecutive week with a scrappy and determined run that resulted in a sixth- place showing at Martinsville Speedway. Rain washed away Friday's schedule entirely and further precipitation Saturday morning wiped out NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying. Teams were given an hour and a half of practice that afternoon and Sunday's 43-car field was set based on the owner point standings. Burton, therefore, lined up on the inside of the 12th row for the 500-lap race on Martinsville's flat half-mile paper clip.
The first five of the day's 18 caution periods occurred in the race's first 100 laps, including the first after just seven laps that resulted in sheet metal damage to the left-rear corner and TV panel of the No. 31 Chevrolet. The pit crew did yeoman duty to fix the damage and keep Burton on the lead lap. Burton ran as high as seventh on the leader board during the balance of the first 100 laps. The No. 31 Cat Chevy began the second 100 laps in 22nd place but, from gritty driving in cramped quarters and adjustments made under caution on laps 150 and 197, Burton moved into the top 10 by lap 200. The Caterpillar Racing team was ninth at the race's halfway point and stayed in the top 15 for nearly the next 150 laps.
On lap 398, the No. 39 car made contact with the No. 22 car which, in turn, made contact with the No. 31. The Cat Chevy backed lightly into the outside retaining wall but the contact resulted in little further rear-end damage. Burton restarted 16th on lap 405 and pitted again, under caution, on lap 427 for fresh tires and fuel. He restarted 17th on lap 433 and stayed out with the No. 48 car when the balance of the field pitted under caution on lap 457. That move jumped Burton up to second place for the restart on lap 463 and he remained in the top five until being passed by the Denny Hamlin coming off the fourth turn of the final lap.
Start - 23 Finish - 6 Laps Led - 0 Points - 22
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "I can't be too unhappy with finishing sixth because the Cat Racing team worked their tails off to get us in position at the end to win this thing. Pit stops were good, especially when there was some damage to fix and Luke (Lambert, crew chief) made good calls to help get us up front. That last caution probably didn't help us but it was another solid finish."
Last Lap Spin Costs Bowyer Top-10 Finish at Martinsville
Climbing his way back into the top 10 after an early pit road speeding penalty, Clint Bowyer was spun out in the last turn of the race and finished 19th in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Starting from the 13th position after NASCAR and track officials were forced to postpone Saturday's qualifying session due to rain, the Richard Childress Racing driver immediately moved up into the top 10 before suffering minor damage in a lap-nine multi-car pileup. The damage was not significant enough to warrant an immediate pit stop as crew chief Shane Wilson chose to wait until a lap-30 competition caution period to repair damages to the No. 33 Chevrolet. Once the black, silver and green Chevrolet was repaired, the Emporia, Kan. native worked his way back into the top 10 while fighting with a loose-handling machine.
Over the next 100 laps, Bowyer ran in the top 20, providing feedback to Wilson and giving the "Helping Hands" pit crew an opportunity to make chassis and air pressure adjustments to improve the balance and handling on the car. After a strong pit stop just past the halfway point of the 500-lap marathon vaulted the 32- year-old driver into the top 10, NASCAR officials penalized Bowyer for exiting pit road too fast and forced the No. 33 Chevrolet to return to pit road and serve a pass-through penalty. The penalty dropped Bowyer to the 25th position and required Bowyer to restart at the tail end of the longest line. The next caution flag wasn't displayed until 99 laps later, easily the longest green-flag run of the afternoon and Bowyer fell one lap down to the leader. Not until a caution flag on lap 399 was the RCR driver awarded the "Lucky Dog Award", allowing him to rejoin the lead lap. Once back on the led lap, the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner steered clear of many accidents and eventually worked his way into the top 10 yet again.
Working with a loose-handling condition that plagued him for most of the day, Bowyer maintained a top-12 running position for the latter part of the event before a caution on lap 494 set up a final three-lap dash for the checkered flag. On the final lap going into turn four, Bowyer was spun out by another competitor and forced to settle for a disappointing 19th-place finish. Bowyer remains 13th in NSCS driver championship point standings.
Start - 13 Finish - 19 Laps Led - 0 Points - 13
CLINT BOWYER QUOTE: "It was just a long day for us today and you can see that by looking at the shape this No. 33 Chevrolet is in. We were given a speeding penalty on pit road and it trapped us deep in the field and it is just so hard to pass here on this tire. We were in position for a top 10, but I got taken out in the last turn. It is just frustrating. I want to thank American Ethanol for being a great partner for this race and the entire season. I wish we could have got them in victory lane today."