Solid Finish for Menard Thwarted by Blown Tire at Watkins Glen

Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Ted Rossino

In the closing laps of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen, Paul Menard and the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards team were en route to a top-15 finish when an issue with the left-front tire sent the neon yellow Chevrolet into the retaining wall, relegating them to a 32nd-place finish. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams lined up on Sunday afternoon to start the 22nd points-paying race on the 2011 schedule when rain began to fall on the Watkins Glen, N.Y.-based facility. The 90-lap event was delayed and eventually postponed until Monday morning. Menard started the No. 27 machine from the 32nd position and quickly moved into the top 20. With teams choosing to adopt different pit strategies as the threat of additional rain in the area remained, he climbed to 11th, where he was running when the first full-course caution period of the day occurred on lap 28. Crew chief Slugger Labbe called Menard to pit road for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments to both rear tires in an effort to provide the Eau Claire, Wis., native with an improved drive off of the turns. The yellow and black Chevrolet Impala remained in the top 20 until the next caution, when Menard reported the car's handling to be tight in the center of the right-hand turns. Upon returning to the track with fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment, he informed the team that he now lacked the front grip that he had earlier in the race. With 30 laps remaining, he made a green-flag pit stop for fuel, driving back up to 17th before the next caution period. Opting to remain on track while the yellow was displayed, the 30-year old driver restarted 11th when green-flag racing resumed. Battling a loose-handling condition with old tires and a full fuel cell, Menard slipped to 14th and was poised to bring home a career best top-15 finish, his best result at the 2.45-mile road course. Only five laps from the checkered flag, the left-front tire went down, causing irreparable damage to the No. 27 Chevrolet and relegating the team to a 32nd-place finish. The disappointing result dropped Menard one position, to 15th, in the NSCS point standings, remaining within striking distance of a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup wild card position.

Start - 32 Finish - 32 Laps Led - 0 Points - 15

PAUL MENARD QUOTES: "It was definitely a big disappointment to have the tire blow; we were on the way to finishing in the top 15, which would have been a good road course finish for this No. 27 team. We were going to make up some ground on Denny (Hamlin) as well. Now we'll get ready for Michigan (International Speedway) next weekend. We had a good finish there earlier this year, so I'm looking forward to going back."

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Harvick, Budweiser Team Capture 11th Top-10 Finish of the Season at Watkins Glen

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

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team survived a wild green-white-checkered finish to score a sixth-place effort in Monday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen road course race at Watkins Glen International. Originally scheduled for Sunday, the race was delayed a day due to rain and the field took the green flag just after 10 a.m. ET on Monday with Harvick in the 23rd starting position. At the start of the race, the team stuck with their pre-planned race strategy and hit pit road for fuel at lap six. That dropped Harvick back to the 38th position, but put him back on the course with open track ahead, allowing him to gain some ground on competitors bunched up in traffic. Other teams elected to start pitting about 10 laps later. The caution flag waved for the first time at lap 27 as the No. 16 car ran out of fuel on the course. After telling crew chief Gil Martin that they "had a good car," Harvick brought the Budweiser Chevrolet down pit road to the attention of the No. 29 pit crew on lap 29. They changed four tires, added fuel and lined up 18th for the restart at lap 31. The caution period threw a kink into the team's original pit strategy, but after analyzing the fuel mileage numbers, Martin called for the team to make their final pit stop of the day at lap 60 for four tires and fuel, knowing they'd be good to make it to the checkered flag from there. The strategy played out and Harvick was in the 12th position when the caution flag waved at lap 65. Martin told Harvick to conserve all the fuel he could under caution to allow some leeway in case of a green-white-checkered restart at the end. The caution flag waved again at lap 85 with Harvick running in the eighth position. Lengthy cleanup for oil on the track sent the race past the originally scheduled distance of 90 laps. Once again, Martin preached to Harvick to save all the fuel he could under the slowdown. The green flag waved at lap 90 and the field bunched up getting into the first turn. Harvick managed to pass two cars in the lap and a half before the caution flag waved during the final lap. The field was frozen when the caution came out, ending the race, and Harvick was scored in the sixth position.

Start - 23 Finish - 6 Laps Led - 0 Points - 4

KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE: "We had a great car. We just didn't get track position until right there at the very end. On that last restart, everybody went three wide and was sliding through the first corner. I just slowed down, got into the side of the No. 48 and kept digging. It got crazy, but was a good finish for the Budweiser team."

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Burton Earns Top-10 Finish at Watkins Glen International

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

Jeff Burton overcame a qualifying hiccup by finishing inside the top 10 in Monday's edition of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen. Burton qualified 40th for the scheduled 90-lap main event that was slated for Sunday afternoon, but heavy rain forced NASCAR and track officials to postpone the race until Monday morning. The veteran driver took the green flag with the chance of rain lingering in the back of his mind and increased his position by seven spots within the first lap. He soon made his way into the top 20 by lap 14 and continued charging forward before being scored 15th on lap 26. Burton radioed to his crew of a tight condition in the right-hand turns but assured the team that the car was very good through the esses. As crew chief Luke Lambert was discussing pit strategy, the first caution of the day was displayed on lap 27, allowing the rookie leader to call his driver to pit road to alleviate the tight-handling condition by servicing the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet with four fresh Goodyear tires, an air pressure adjustment and fuel. With pit sequence in their favor, the Welcome, N.C.,-based team restarted seventh for the lap-31 restart. Burton slipped to 11th on lap 38 but climbed his way back to eighth when the second caution of the day was displayed on lap 49. Keeping their track position, the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner stayed out under the ensuing caution and restart seventh on lap 52. The tight condition re-appeared on the No. 31 Caterpillar machine before Burton hit pit road on lap 60 for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment. He was scored 15th when he rejoined the competition but redeemed track position on lap 66 when the third caution was waved. Restarting seventh on lap 69, Burton maintained a top 10 run until the final caution of the day slowed the field on lap 86. With the race now in overtime, the South Boston, Va., native was instructed to save fuel for the green-white-checkered finish. Burton survived the wild restart, driving his No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet to a ninth-place result and earning Lambert the first top-10 finish of his crew chief career.

Start -40 Finish - 9 Laps Led - 0 Points - 24

JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "I'm really proud of the Cat Racing team today. We all want the same thing and that's to turn this season around. Hopefully, our run and finish today helps us do that. Luke (Lambert, crew chief) stuck to our strategy and it played out just the way we wanted it to. The last restart got a little wild but I did my best to hold on to a decent finish."

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Despite Accident on Final Lap, Bowyer Brings Home 11th-Place Finish at Watkins Glen

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

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team brought home an 11th-place finish in the rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Watkins Glen International. After Bowyer qualified 19th on Saturday, the weather at the Watkins Glen, NY-based facility wasn't cooperative on Sunday as consistent rain showers forced NASCAR officials to postpone the 90-lap event until Monday. The 43-car field, under foggy conditions, hit the track Monday morning and the Richard Childress Racing driver wasted no time driving his Chevrolet Impala through the field, entering the top 15 by lap eight and breaking the top 10 by the 18th circuit. After the first pit stop of the morning on lap 24, Bowyer radioed to crew chief Shane Wilson that the racer was a little loose and the Emporia, Kan., native settled into the top 15 all the way through the halfway mark of the event. After staying out under a caution period on lap 50, Wilson told the 32-year-old driver to start conserving fuel so the "Helping Hands" pit crew would only need to make one more pit stop. As Bowyer once again worked his way into the top 10 while other competitors hit pit road under green-flag conditions, Wilson directed the four-time Sprint Cup Series race winner to stay out and lead lap 60, earning a valuable championship driver point. After leading one lap, the RCR driver brought the No. 33 Chevrolet down pit road for the final time, getting four fresh Goodyear tires and Sunoco E15 fuel. At that point of the race, Wilson assured Bowyer that his car had enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag. Bowyer worked his way back through the field and into the 12th position when the caution flag was displayed with five laps to go setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Under that caution, Bowyer shut his engine off to conserve fuel. On the final restart, Bowyer worked his way into the top 10, but on the last lap was collected in a multi-car accident and settled for an 11th-place finish. Per the NASCAR rulebook, drivers are awarded the position they are running when the caution flag is displayed on the white-flag lap of a green-white-checkered finish. With the finish, Bowyer was able to gain a spot in points, moving up to 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings with only four races remaining before the cutoff for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He is currently 25 points out of the top 10.

Start -19 Finish - 11 Laps Led - 1 Points - 11

CLINT BOWYER QUOTE: "I can't believe we got caught up in an accident on the last lap. That's just our luck lately. We were on our way to a top-10 finish, maybe even a top five. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) had a good pit strategy and I was happy with the handling on our Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet today. We were on our way to a better finish, but it sounds like some of the other guys we are battling to get into this Chase had a bad day too."