Richard Childress Racing heading to Phoenix with 4 entries

Richard Childress Racing press release

RCR at PIR ... Team owner Richard Childress has three victories, tying him with Robert Yates for third on the all-time car owner victories list at the Avondale, Ariz.,-based facility. In 76 races at Phoenix, RCR has earned three wins, including Kevin Harvick's sweep of both races at PIR in 2006. Prior to that, Dale Earnhardt won the Checker 500 on Nov. 4, 1990. Additionally, the Welcome, N.C.-based organization boasts 14 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes.

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

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

RCR Daytona 500 Rewind ... In last Monday's Daytona 500, RCR drivers led a total of three times for a combined 26 laps before posting three top-10 finishes. Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, while RCR's fourth entry of Elliott Sadler finished 27th after experiencing issues with the fuel pressure on his No. 33 Chevrolet.

Get to the Points ... RCR's three full time Sprint Cup Series drivers rank fifth (Jeff Burton), sixth (Paul Menard) and seventh (Kevin Harvick) in the championship point standings leading into this weekend's race at Phoenix International Raceway.

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Paul Menard No. 27 Tarkett/Menards Chevrolet Impala

This Week's Tarkett/Menards Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 328 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the Fresh Fit 500. This Chevrolet Impala was utilized by the No. 27 team three times in 2011, most recently at Phoenix International Raceway in November 2011 where Menard started 11th and finished ninth. This chassis was also raced last season at Darlington Raceway in May, where the Eau Claire, Wis., native finished 22nd and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March where he finished 12th.

Race Rewind ... Menard started the No. 27 Chevrolet from the 13th position in the 2011 Fresh Fit 500, finishing 17th in the 312-lap event.

In the Rearview Mirror: Daytona 500 ... 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.

PAUL MENARD QUOTES: Were you surprised at how good the racing was in the fall at Phoenix International Raceway with the new surface and configuration? "We tested there and as the two-day test went on we picked up three seconds, everybody did as the track weathered in. Everybody was worried because it had one groove when we tested. I think the track did a really good job along with Goodyear to rubber-in the track by having some guys go out there and run the Petty School cars on the actual compound tire that we (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams) were going to race. It opened up the groove a lot. The race was actually really good. We had a second groove to run and at times, even a third groove. It's going to get better as we continue to go back."

How different is the new configuration and surface? "I've described it to people as feeling like a video game because it was like everything was perfect. The way the transitions were and the way it looked. There wasn't a speck of dust on the place and no skid marks anywhere when we unloaded for the test. It was almost surreal at how neat the track was. Turns one and two still have the same character, as do turns three and four. The biggest difference is the dogleg in the back. It's a huge elevation change. There's a lot sharper and little bit longer corner and then another elevation change on exit. The back half of the race track is the biggest difference. We drive turns one, two, there and four the same as before."

What did you think about that dogleg? After a while the guys started shooting a straight line. "We saw that it didn't work out that well a couple times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Race, but we figured it out and made it work pretty good in the Sprint Cup Series race. I think we almost had to. The way the track is designed in the dogleg, it's really fast. We're probably 150 mph through there, but it's really narrow. It's kind of a weird feeling going in there because you dip, there's a really sharp apex and then you exit. You don't want to be on the outside of that, that's why everyone was going to the inside."

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Kevin Harvick No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet Impala

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

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

This Week's Rheem Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 365 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This former No. 33 racer competed in three races in NASCAR's senior division last season, placing finishes of 17th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, 22nd at Richmond International Raceway in September and 10th at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

Triple Winner in '06 ...The RCR driver dominated and claimed victory in both Sprint Cup Series races at Phoenix in 2006. In addition, the Bakersfield, Calif., native owns one NASCAR Nationwide Series win, which came in April 2006.

Desert Details ... In 18 Sprint Cup Series starts at the Avondale, Ariz., facility, Harvick has earned two wins (back-to-back victories in 2006), four top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He has completed 99.6 percent (5,664 of 5,686) of the contested laps at PIR and led 317 of those laps.

Double Down ... In addition to his driving duties with the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet, Harvick will compete in Saturday's Basha's Supermarkets 200 Nationwide Series event, driving RCR's No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. The Bakersfield, Calif., native has 18 Nationwide Series starts at the one-mile desert oval that includes one victory (Apr. 2006), 14 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. The 200-lap event will air live on ESPN2 beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and will also be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Daytona Rewind ... Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team avoided being collected in several multiple-car incidents, a two-hour red-flag period and minor front-end damage after contact with the commitment cone on lap two to score a seventh-place finish in the 54th running of the Daytona 500.

Meet the Press ... Harvick will field questions from the gathered media inside the infield media center on Friday, Mar. 2 from 10:15 - 10:30 a.m.

KEVIN HARVICK QUOTES: With all the hype around Daytona, is Phoenix the real start of the regular season? "To carry that momentum from Daytona to Phoenix is going to be exciting for all of us. I know that I look forward to going there just for the fact that I grew up racing there, and I enjoy the race track."

There's quite a bit of hype difference between the first and second week of our sport unlike other sports. "Well, when you lead off the season with your biggest race, the Daytona 500, there's really no other race on the schedule that can match the hype and anticipation of that particular race. It is really the first official week of what it's going to be like on the weekly grind as we go to Phoenix this year."

The track went through a re-pave last year. Did it surprise you that, unlike other tracks, the new surface was racy? "The new surface was definitely racy. They did a great job prepping for the race. With the shorter tracks, the grip is greater but it's a different environment than what you experience on the mile-and-a-half tracks. It was a great race. They spent a lot time laying the track out, taking their strength and weaknesses and thinking about the fans as to what they can see from their seats. It all played out really well and I hope to have another good race this weekend."

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Jeff Burton No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet Impala

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

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

This Week's Wheaties Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 382 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend. This is a brand new No. 31 Chevrolet Impala that will turn its first laps during opening practice on Friday.

Career Phoenix Stats ... Sunday's event marks Burton's 26th start at the "The Desert Jewel" and 621st -career Sprint Cup Series entry. He has amassed two wins, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes and led 215 laps at the one-mile oval.

No Stranger to Victory Lane ... Burton has scored two victories at the one-mile desert oval, bringing home back-to-back trophies from Phoenix International Raceway in 2000 and 2001 and leading more than 100 laps in both events.

Rewind to Last Week ... In front of a Monday night primetime audience on FOX, 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.

Points Racing ... With his strong top-five finish in the Daytona 500, Burton sits fifth in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, just seven markers behind the leader.

JEFF BURTON QUOTES: Phoenix International Raceway has a new surface and you guys put on a great race there last November. Do you expect another great event? "I think when we go to Phoenix International Raceway, no one really has an idea what to expect. The track changes so much from day-to-day. We were really fast there and ran well, but didn't qualify that great. I think we were second-fastest in practice and the track slowed down a half-second from what we ran in practice. We ended up qualifying 14th, ran in the front all day and had a legitimate shot to win the race. We adapted pretty quick and were fast at the test sessions out there before the race also."

How did Phoenix International Raceway race with new asphalt compared to other tracks which got new asphalt? "Once the track got rubber-d up, it was ok. Once the race got going, it was fine, but there was no grip at the start of the race. Getting the race started was hard though. The track would change so much. Once we got a lot of cars on track to lay that rubber down, it would rubber up and stay consistent."

You finished in fourth-place last November, talk about that day. "It was a good day. We ran well and competed all weekend. We were fast all weekend. It was just a really solid day. We had good pit stops, probably one of our better days all year for the pit crew. It was a good day all the way around."

Talk about how much you are looking forward to going back to Phoenix International Raceway. "It's been a really good track for me. Knock on wood, every time I go there we run well and haven been in position to win the race. We even won it several times. It's just been a good track. When we go there, I'm very comfortable and feel like we know what it takes to win."

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Brendan Gaughan No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Chevrolet Impala {{

This Week's South Point Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway ... Brendan Gaughan will pilot Chassis No. 351 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala is a proven contender in Sprint Cup Series competition, as Gaughan's RCR teammate Kevin Harvick made a trip to Victory Lane with it in May 2011 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Harvick also drove this former No. 29 racer to a seventh-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September, a 10th-place finish at Dover International Speedway in October and a 19th-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

Return Trip to Sprint Cup ... The Fresh Fit 500 will mark Gaughan's 38th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his first since the 2010 Daytona 500. The Las Vegas native raced full-time in NASCAR's top series during the 2004 season, posting one top-five and four top -10 finishes. Phoenix marks the first of four Sprint Cup Series starts with RCR for 2012, Gaughan will also race the No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speeedway and Auto Club Speedway events during the month of March.

Phoenix Details... Gaughan's experience runs deep at the one-mile track in the desert, spanning 14 years and four series for a total of 19 starts (two Sprint Cup Series, four Nationwide Series, nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and four NASCAR K&N Pro Series West).

Top of the Box ... Leading the charge for the No. 33 Chevrolet team is veteran crew chief and longtime RCR employee Gil Martin. The Nashville, Tenn. native has been at RCR since 2000 and has served as crew chief for Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kerry Earnhardt and Robby Gordon. He is one of a select few crew chiefs to win races in NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. In addition, Austin Dillon's No. 3 NASCAR Nationwide Series pit crew will pit the No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet at PIR.

What's in Store for 2012 ... In addition to the four scheduled Sprint Cup Series races in the No. 33 South Point Chevrolet, Gaughan will compete in 10 Nationwide Series races and eight Camping World Truck Series races for RCR in 2012.

Race Rewind for the 33 ... Elliott Sadler and the No. 33 General Mills/Kroger Chevrolet team avoided numerous on-track incidents in the 2012 season opening Daytona 500 earlier this week, 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.

BRENDAN GAUGHAN QUOTES: After running full time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2004, what does this four race Sprint Cup Series opportunity with Richard Childress Racing mean to you? "The opportunity to run four races for Richard Childress in the Sprint Cup Series is truly amazing. RCR has top-notch equipment and teamed me with a winning crew chief in Gil Martin. Everyone deserves a second chance and I am ecstatic that my second chance in the Sprint Cup Series is in the No. 33 Chevrolet with RCR."

You raced at Phoenix International Raceway in the Truck Series race last spring but not since the track has been repaved. What are your expectations with the new configuration? "After talking with some of my RCR teammates, they told me that the track hasn't changed all that much, they just made the track a little "racier" off of turn 2. The Chevrolet Impala I'm driving had a win last year so I'm really looking forward to going to Phoenix in equipment the caliber I have never had a chance to drive in my career."

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About this article
Series NASCAR SPRINT CUP
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Casey Mears , Kerry Earnhardt , Brendan Gaughan , Paul Menard , Clint Bowyer , Robert Yates , Eric Gilbert , Elliott Sadler , Austin Dillon
Teams Richard Childress Racing
Tags burton, chevrolet, childress, gaughan, harvick, menard