Paul Menard, No 27 PEAK/Menards Team Finish Sixth In Hot Season Opener
Paul Menard and the PEAK/Menards team overcame fire and rain to claim a sixth-place finish in the 54th running of the Daytona 500. The No. 27 team started from the 37th position after being collected in a multi-car accident on lap eight of Thursday's Duel 150 qualifying race. The Slugger Labbe-led group went to work to prepare the backup car for the "Great American Race" at Daytona International Speedway. Inclement weather postponed the green flag until Monday night, setting the stage for a historical primetime showing of the season opener. The first cautions of the night occurred quickly with Labbe making the call to remain on track at lap-13 yellow flag to lead a lap and earn a valuable championship point. Menard raced in the top 10 until the yellow flag was displayed on lap 63. With the memories of two early exits during Speedweeks still fresh, Menard opted to drop to the back of the pack. Another caution occurred on lap 128, during which Menard told his team that 'when it's time to go, we'll be able to go.' While under caution on lap 158, an odd sequence of events led to a massive fireball on the backstretch as a jet dryer erupted in flames. The field was placed under the red flag for more than two hours. When the pack returned to green-flag racing it was a 34-lap race to the checkered flag. Restarting 15th, Menard survived the final three multi-car incidents to cross the finish line in the sixth position, his career-best finish at the "World Center of Racing."
Start - 37 Finish - 6 Laps Led - 2 Points - 6
PAUL MENARD QUOTE: First of all, I have to say thank you to Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and the No. 27 team. This was the third car we unloaded in Daytona and the fact that the backup car was really fast and drove great says a lot about the work these guys do. They never gave up. We were fortunate and had a pretty uneventful race, really. We just kind of rode around the first half of the race anticipating some big wrecks; there were a couple, but not as many as we thought. I figured it was time to go about lap 120 and to work our way up there, but it was hard to pass. We could get two cars pushing for about half a lap or so before you could separate them. It was just a lot of riding around the bottom. Sixth is still a good finish and a solid start to our season."
Harvick, No. 29 Team Notch Seventh-Place Finish in Daytona 500
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team finished seventh in the 54th running of the Daytona 500 that ended early Tuesday morning after being delayed one day by rain and more than two hours by a fire that erupted as a car made contact with a jet dryer in Turn 3. Harvick started the race from the 13th position but found trouble early as he hit the orange pit road commitment cone as a wreck occurred on lap two, causing minimal damage to the front end of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet. The team pitted twice to work on the nose and changed tires, added fuel and made a small chassis adjustment. Harvick restarted the race from the 34th position when the field took the green at lap seven. Harvick and the group of drivers he was running with worked to stay in line to remain within range of the lead pack of cars. Harvick ran anywhere from the 11th position to the third position during the middle portion of the race, making routine pit stops along the way. Shortly after the team made their final pit stop of the night under caution at lap 158, another competitor's car made contact with a jet dryer in Turn 3, sparking a large jet fuel fire. Safety personnel worked for two hours to put out the fire as more than 200 gallons of jet fuel burned. The race restarted just after midnight with less than 40 laps remaining and Harvick scored in the third position. He worked the bottom and outside line for the remainder of the race with help from his Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton. The final caution of the night pushed the race into overtime with a green-white checkered finish. Harvick restarted in the sixth position, while his RCR teammates Burton and Paul Menard restarted on the bottom in the fifth and seventh spots, respectively. Without drafting help, Harvick did the best he could to stay ahead of the two-car tandems behind him and took the checkered flag in the seventh position
Start - 13 Finish - 7 Laps Led - 0 Points - 7
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE: "Right off the bat we got into a little argument with the cone (the orange commitment cone) there. We had to come in and fix the hole in the nose. We just decided to take care of the car for the first 100 laps and make sure it didn't get too hot. Then there at the end, we just couldn't get everything organized. You want to be in the front when you have those green-white-checkered situations like that because you can't get everybody from the first two back attached enough to get going. Overall it was a good day for our Budweiser Chevy and definitely a lot better than last year when we left here."
Burton Posts Solid Fifth-Place Finish in Bizarre Daytona 500
In front of a Monday night primetime audience on FOX, Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team survived one of the most bizarre races in not only Daytona International Speedway history, but NASCAR history and posted a solid fifth-place finish in the 54th running of the Daytona 500. For the first time in history, the "Great American Race" ran on a Monday night after consistent rain showers covered the Daytona Beach, Fla., area from Sunday afternoon into Monday morning. Once he finally took the green flag around 7:15 p.m. on Monday night, Burton immediately drove his Chevrolet Impala into the top five after starting ninth. He ran single file for the first 40 laps before making a charge to the front of the 43-car field notching the lead on lap 41 and never relinquishing it until a four-tire pit stop under green-flag conditions on lap 57. Once the pit stop order cycled through, the 44-year-old veteran held the point position again from laps 61-67. Burton continued to run in the top five until the caution flag was displayed for a slow car that was stalled out on the race track. While Burton slowed his car down to caution-flag speed, he communicated to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer the No. 31 Chevrolet was out of fuel. Burton immediately hit pit road for service and fuel, but would have to restart at the tail end of the longest line when he went back to green-flag conditions since the Cat Racing driver pitted while pit road was officially closed. Within five laps, the South Boston Va., native was back in the top 10 until the next caution flag was displayed. Under the caution, one of the most bizarre incidents in NASCAR history occurred when the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet lost control of his car due to mechanical issues and slammed into a safety truck carrying more than 200 gallons of kerosene. Immediately, the collision caused a huge explosion while the remainder of the jet fuel ignited on the asphalt surface in the turn three area of the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Once NASCAR and DIS track safety officials contained the blaze, it took more than two hours to dry the track and repair the damage to the racing surface. Burton and many other drivers were able to get out of their cars during the two-hour red-flag delay. Once the drivers were called back to the race cars, it was 34-lap dash to checkered flag. Throughout the final 30 laps, Burton maintained a position in the top 10 before hooking up with Richard Childress Racing teammates Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick in the final 10 laps, which included a green-white-checker finish, posting fifth, sixth and seventh-place results, respectively. With the strong effort, Burton now sits fifth in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings
Start - 9 Finish - 5 Laps Led - 24 Points - 5
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "We had a good evening. We ran in the front most of the night and were able to keep ourselves in good track position. We thought we had a really good shot at it. Paul (Menard) was hooked up to me and we were coming pretty hard on them going into three. The group on the outside got a run on him and just sucked the air of each other. It's so hard to get tandemed-up. In the past, we could get tandemed-up a lot better. NASCAR did a great job. To be honest, I didn't think they could make these kinds of changes, but they did a great job of breaking up the tandem. It made for a completely different race."
Fuel System Issue Plagues Sadler, No. 33 Team at Daytona
Elliott Sadler and the No. 33 General Mills/Kroger Chevrolet team avoided numerous on-track incidents in the 2012 season opening Daytona 500, including a two-hour delay due to a jet dryer fire, but an issue with the fuel system early in the event ultimately resulted in a 27th-place finish. With inclement weather delaying the start of the 'Great American Race' more than a day, NASCAR's 'Super Bowl' was rescheduled to run Monday night in front of a primetime television audience. After a fourth-place finish in the qualifying race lined up the No. 33 Chevrolet in the 10th position for the 200-lap main event, the Emporia, Va. native, was a mainstay in the top-15 in the early going. Soon before the halfway mark at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway, Sadler radioed crew chief Gil Martin with a concern which would affect the outcome of the race for the No. 33 team. The red, white & blue Chevrolet had lost fuel pressure which led to multiple trips to pit road to diagnose the issue, causing Sadler to lose two laps to the leader in the process. While the General Mills/Kroger team worked out a strategy to work through their fuel system issue to allow them to complete the race, action literally heated up on the track. While the race was under caution with 40 laps remaining, something broke on another competitor's car sending it barreling into a jet dryer cleaning the track in turn three. Though there were no injuries, the impact caused the jet fuel to explode and erupt in fire, sending strong flames into the air and requiring NASCAR and track officials to scramble to contain the fire. After working for two hours to clean up the mess from the blaze, the race resumed with only 35 laps remaining. Sadler and crew continued to nurse the ailing fuel system on the No. 33 Chevrolet and were able to manage the 27th-place finish
Start - 10 Finish - 27 Laps Led - 0 Points - n/a
ELLIOTT SADLER QUOTE: "It's really unfortunate. I was really excited about the opportunity to race in the Daytona 500 again this season and we knew we had a good car. It started to lose fuel pressure before the halfway mark and Gil (Martin) and the guys did what they could to get us to the finish. It's not what we hoped for with the General Mills/Kroger Chevrolet but hopefully we can learn something from it they can use at the next restrictor-plate races."