Paul Menard and the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet team overcame handling issues early in Sunday's AdvoCare 500 to finish eighth under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Starting from the 18th position, Menard maintained a spot in the top 20 while battling a loose-handling condition on the neon yellow and green machine.
During routine pit stops under both yellow and green-flag conditions, crew chief Slugger Labbe called for a number of chassis, shock and air pressure adjustments to assist the Richard Childress Racing driver around the 1.54-mile race track. With each visit to pit road, the handling of the No. 27 Chevrolet improved.
On two occasions during the 327-lap event, the Eau Claire, Wis., driver found himself a lap down to the leader, returning to the lead lap during the ensuing restarts by racing into the Lucky Dog position prior to each caution period. As the race neared the halfway point, Menard broke into the top 15 and reported the No. 27 machine was tight for the first five laps of the run and then began to turn well.
On lap 270, an accident occurred just in front of the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet, bringing out the fifth caution period of the evening. Scored in the ninth position following the melee, Menard drove to pit road and the No. 27 pit crew fired off a pit stop that catapulted the RCR team into the seventh spot for the lap-279 restart. Menard remained a fixture in the top 10 for the final 108 laps, including the green-white-checkered conclusion. The eighth-place finish marks the No. 27 team's third consecutive top-10 finish.
Paul Menard "We kept making the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet better and better tonight. When we started off in the daylight, it wasn't that good. As the sun went down we got better, made the right adjustments and came away with another top 10. You always want more, but it was a solid night for this No. 27 team."
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem team captured a fifth-place finish, and clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, after leading 101 laps while battling a tight-handling condition during the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday night.
The Bakersfield, Calif., native started the 327-lap event from the 24th position and began a run toward the front of the field as soon as the green flag waved, entering the top five within the first 38 circuits. During the initial run, Harvick reported to crew chief Gil Martin that the Rheem Chevrolet was too tight on the exit of the turns and the pit crew went to work on the No. 29 Chevrolet during the first pit stop on lap 39 while under caution.
After the pit crew changed four tires, added fuel and made a chassis adjustment, Harvick returned to the track in the fifth position for the ensuing restart. As green-flag racing resumed, the 36-year-old driver drove to the front of the field taking over the lead on lap 83.
The Rheem team had a dominant run until lap 280 when Harvick was shuffled back in the pack, to seventh, after restarting the race from the fifth position following a caution period. As the race neared an end, the Richard Childress Racing driver battled for track position while continuing to fight the tight-handling condition on the Rheem Chevrolet.
The pit crew made one final attempt to correct the issues Harvick was facing during their final pit stop on lap 321 under yellow-flag conditions. A speedy pit stop sent Harvick back on track in the fourth position for the green-white-checkered finish.
During the restart the Rheem Chevrolet was shuffled back in the pack when Harvick lost momentum as the driver directly in front of him spun his tires on the restart, leaving him to cross the finish line in the fifth position. The team's fourth top-five finish of the 2012 season allowed Harvick to remain ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, and clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Kevin Harvick "This was just a great night for our Rheem team. We had a really good car in the first half of the race. It wasn't bad in the second half, but with about 150 laps to go we just got too tight getting into the corner and never could get over that. I have to thank Gil (Martin, crew chief) for coming back.
Things are going in the right direction and thanks to this solid run we have clinched a spot in The Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) and can head into the race next weekend at Richmond (International Raceway) with a little less pressure on the team."
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team battled to a 12th-place finish in the AdvoCare 500 under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After starting from the 26th position, the South Boston, Va., native climbed into the top 20 early in the race and remained there for a majority of the Labor Day weekend event.
Throughout the 500-mile race, Burton radioed to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer that the No. 31 Chevrolet was tight in the middle of the 24-degree banked corners of the 1.54-mile facility. On two occasions during long green-flag runs, Burton lost a lap to the leader. However, clutch calls on pit road by Blickensderfer resulted in the 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner getting his lap back both times.
With less than 60 laps to go, Burton was scored in the ninth position, but was unable to get the Caterpillar Chevrolet to rotate in the middle of the corners. Blickensderfer called for many different chassis and air pressure adjustments on the final two pit stops of the night, but the tight-handling condition persisted.
Burton maintained a top-15 running position over the final portion of the event which included a green-white-checkered finish and was able to gain a few positions in the closing laps to bring home the Caterpillar Chevrolet in 12th-place.
Upon a post-race inspection of the Richard Childress Racing machine in the garage area, crew members found that the left-side portion of the front splitter on the No. 31 Chevrolet was missing which explained why the tight-handling issue wasn't resolved when major adjustments were made. Burton remains 20th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Jeff Burton "The team effort tonight was outstanding on the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet. Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer made great calls in the pits and the pit crew was solid all night on every pit stop. We were fighting a tight-handling condition most of the night and it turned out the left side of the front splitter was completely ripped off so that explains a lot. We improved again with our 1.5-mile program which is very encouraging. That's definitely a step in the right direction."
Source: Richard Childress Racing