RCR's Paul Menard NASCAR Cup Race At Indianapolis Report

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RCR's Paul Menard NASCAR Cup Race At Indianapolis Report

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Menard Makes History with Win in Famed Brickyard 400


Paul Menard made history following the No. 27 Nibco/Menards Chevrolet team's gutsy call to gamble on fuel mileage, becoming the first driver to earn his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career win at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After starting from the 15th position in the famed Brickyard 400, the Richard Childress Racing driver went to work, remaining in and around the top 15 until a tire got loose during a lap-51 pit stop and he was assessed a penalty that sent him to the end of the longest line on the ensuing restart.

... my Dad has been trying to win here for 35 years ...

Paul Menard

Never giving up, Menard worked his way to the front, leading lap 83 before coming in for service as the field cycled through green-flag pit stops. The Slugger Labbe-led team performed flawlessly, changing four tires and making chassis adjustments to combat the loose-off and tight in the center conditions, and packing the Chevrolet Impala full of Sunoco fuel. Buried in the back of the field, Labbe made the call to stay out during the lap-94 caution period for debris. With most cars behind the No. 27 Chevrolet only taking two tires, Labbe was confident that Menard could remain up front. Restarting from the cat bird seat, he kept the Nibco/Menards Chevrolet in the top five until the next caution period on lap 114. With the car well-balanced, Labbe called for four tires and no adjustments when Menard returned to pit road.

Shortly after restarting 13th, a scary moment occurred on lap 120 as a car in front of the bright yellow machine spun on the track, causing the Eau Claire, Wisc., native to drive through the grass to avoid contact. While under caution once again, Labbe and Menard discussed their options and ultimately decided, "in some cases, you have to gamble to win." On lap 123, Menard brought the No. 27 Impala to pit road for two tires and fuel, and with one lap to go before the restart, Labbe called him to pit road for a final visit to top off the tank on lap 125. Menard restarted 16th and as the field cycled through green-flag pit stops, he remained on the track and took the lead with 15 laps remaining in the 160-lap event. Carefully conserving fuel, the 30-year-old driver forfeited the top spot on lap 151, but when Labbe gave him the go ahead to make the charge, Menard regained the lead and took the checkered flag to claim his first career NSCS victory.

It was an emotional victory for Menard, whose family has had a presence at the famed Indianapolis, Ind.-based facility for 35 years. Despite a number of IndyCar championships as a team owner, it was son Paul who delivered John Menard his first trip to kneel and kiss the famous yard of bricks. With his win, the younger Menard moves to 14th in the NSCS championship point standings, where he is in contention for a wild-card berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, while also becoming the first driver to be eligible for the Sprint Summer Showdown $3 million payout.

PAUL MENARD: "I'm just running through a lot of emotions right now. You know, I've been coming here (to Indianapolis Motor Speedway) since I was a kid and my Dad has been trying to win here for 35 years, so this is for my Dad. Slugger Labbe (crew chief) and all of these guys just do a hell of a job. I can't believe we won Indy. This is the one I wanted to win. My family, my Dad has had IndyCars here since the late 70s, 35 years or so. For 35 years he's been trying, so giving him his first win here after all those years of trying is pretty special. I can't wait to get out there and kiss the bricks. We're the inaugural Sprint Summer Shootout winner, too, which is cool. Man, its Indy!"

Victory lane: race winner Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet celebrates
Victory lane: race winner Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet celebrates

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

"I was saving a little bit (of fuel) and maintaining with the Nos. 5 and 1 cars and I started backing up a little bit more and they kind of kept backing up with me. I knew that we saved plenty of fuel and was more worried about the guys that pitted for fuel and coming hard. Slugger had told me where Jeff (Gordon) was and how fast he was coming. I was afraid he would catch me, but I knew there was no way I was going to let him pass me. The Menards Chevrolet was really good and clean air was so important."

"I didn't even see the checkered flag because I was hoping we weren't going to run out of fuel and kept checking the fuel pressure gauge. ECR gave us great horsepower and great mileage. Everybody at RCR builds awesome race cars. It is a thrill to drive for Richard Childress."

RICHARD CHILDRESS: "I'm just so proud of that whole Menard team. I caught a lot of flack back early last year when we decided to go with four teams. I've been watching Paul ever since he won the Nationwide race. He doesn't tear equipment up. He's consistent. He's really good. Got a cool head on him in all situations.I knew if the right situation come along, we'd win. To get Slugger to come over, John Menard support us, get Slugger, a couple of the engineers, that was a big jump going in on a fourth team. I couldn't be prouder of everyone at RCR or ECR Engines. They ran great today and got fuel mileage. We were chewed out last week for not getting fuel mileage, but they got the fuel mileage today and I am proud of them. I couldn't be prouder for the Menard family. John has been here for many, many years."

SLUGGER LABBE: "It seems to be a trend in the Sprint Cup Series, that people take gambles on pit road. It was our turn to get aggressive. I told Paul he had to support me. He supported me a hundred percent today. Three times he had an occasion where he could have said no, I don't want to do that, but he did. Fortunately, it worked out."

Menard led four times for a total of 21 laps on the way to the checkered flag.

Menard has one win, six top-five and 14 top-10 finishes in 167 career NSCS starts.

Menard's win marks the third trip to the IMS Winner's Circle for team owner Richard Childress, who scored wins in 1995 with Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and 2003 with Kevin Harvick.

***

Harvick, Jimmy John's Team Earn 11th-Place Result at the Brickyard

Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Jimmy John's Chevrolet team took home an 11th-place finish in Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after starting the race from the 19th position, fighting a tight-handling car and gambling on pit strategy late in the race. Harvick worked his way up to 15th by the time the team made their first pit stop of the day at lap 25. He radioed to the team that the car was tight in and off of the corner, so crew chief Gil Martin called for air pressure and track bar adjustments during the four-tire stop.

Quick work by the No. 29 pit crew picked up three more positions for Harvick after the round of green-flag pit stops cycled through, moving him up to the 12th spot. He continued to battle a tight-handling condition over the course of the next two runs. The team made additional chassis adjustments that seemed to make some headway as they reached the halfway point of the race. However, despite improved handling off the corner, the Jimmy John's Chevrolet became too tight entering the corner, so Martin called for further chassis adjustments as Harvick hit pit road under caution at lap 95. On the next round of stops, Martin called for a two-tire stop to gain track position, moving Harvick up to the eighth spot with a little more than 40 laps to go.

When the caution flag waved just a few laps later, Martin and Harvick discussed trying a different pit strategy than most of the other teams in an effort to place them up front at the end of the race. Knowing they couldn't make it to the end of the race on just one more stop, they elected to come down pit road at lap 122 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment and then make a subsequent stop under green for just a splash of fuel, while most other teams would need to make longer stops later in the run to get enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. Harvick made the second trip down pit road for fuel only under green-flag conditions on lap 129. He dropped back to the 33rd position, but quickly started gaining spots as other teams had to come to pit road.

Running out of traffic and by himself for the first time all race, Harvick reported the car was now loose on lap 131. He cracked the top 20 by lap 134. A little while later, Martin radioed that some of the drivers in the top 10 were shutting off their engines and coasting to conserve fuel as the race wound down to the closing laps, allowing them to stretch their fuel to the end. The No. 29 Jimmy John's Chevrolet made it all the way up to the 11th position when the checkered flag waved at lap 160.

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

KEVIN HARVICK: "We're all disappointed we didn't run better but hats off to Gil (Martin, crew chief) and the rest of the Jimmy John's team for trying a different strategy at the end. It was a long, hot day and it was very difficult to pass cars. We'll regroup and get back at it next weekend in Pocono. But, it was a great day for RCR and Paul Menard. His win was a long time coming!"

***

Mechanical Issues Plague Burton, RCR's No. 31 Caterpillar Team, at Indy

Jeff Burton and Richard Childress Racing's No. 31 Caterpillar team looked strong for a majority of Sunday's Brickyard 400, but an electrical ignition issue that developed inside of 10 laps remaining in the 160-lap/400 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway race forced the team to end their day eight laps shy of the scheduled distance in 35th position. Burton started one of the most prestigious races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit from the 13th position and soon noted to newly-appointed crew chief Luke Lambert that the black and yellow No. 31 Chevrolet lacked much of the grip that it had during final practice the day before.

Burton was running ninth when teams began to make green flag pit stops on lap 25 and the South Boston, Va., native was directed down pit road. However, miscommunication caused the veteran NSCS driver to miss his pit stall and, as a result, Burton had to make another lap around the famed track before re-entering pit road on lap 27 for a set of Goodyear tires and fuel. The miscue dropped Burton to 34th in the running order, but he was able to gain track position by staying out on the race track while a majority of teams pitted under caution on lap 34. Burton spent the next 50 laps battling in the top 15 while fighting a tight-handling race car, making occasional pit stops for fresh tires, fuel and slight chassis adjustments as the laps wound down. Many teams opted to pit during a lap-113 caution period, but the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet stayed out on the track and restarted second when green-flag racing resumed on lap 116.

The team made their final pit stop of the day under green-flag conditions on lap 130, taking on four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. Burton was running 30th following the pit stop and ready to make a forward ascent as other teams prepared to make green flag pit stops when, with 20 laps remaining, he suddenly reported to his team that the No. 31 Chevrolet lost power briefly before returning to full power. Burton slowed dramatically on the track as power continued to fade in and out of the car until the car shut down completely and Burton retired to the garage area on lap 152 of 160, eight laps down and in 35th position.

JEFF BURTON: "The finish does not show our performance today. We had a fast Caterpillar Chevrolet throughout the race, but during the closing laps I kept losing power. I switched from the primary ignition box to the secondary box and then power would restore. Then, I would switch back the primary box and everything would be fine for a few laps until it happened again. It was like there was a loose wire somewhere. I'm disappointed but happy for RCR and Paul Menard. Congratulations to him on his victory."

***

Bowyer Battles the Heat, Brings Home 13th-Place Finish at Indianapolis

Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet team brought home a 13th-place finish in the Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After qualifying 26th on Saturday, the Richard Childress Racing driver started off the hot and sunny day at "The Brickyard" with a fast Chevrolet Impala, but found it hard to pass other competitors on the track when he caught up to them. By lap 30, the Emporia, Kan., native moved inside the top 15, but noticed that the voltage meter on his dashboard was unusually low for his battery power. At that point, crew chief Shane Wilson instructed Bowyer to turn off all fans and switches that keep his car cool only while the field ran under caution.

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

Bowyer continued on throughout the next 80 laps, with multiple stops for service by the "Helping Hands" pit crew, running inside the top 15 despite the battery concerns until pit strategy came into play on a lap-115 pit stop. On that stop, Wilson called for two fresh Goodyear tires and Sunoco E15 fuel while most of the 43-car field took four tires. The strategy worked in Bowyer's favor and the four-time Sprint Cup Series race winner restarted eighth where he would continue to run until the final caution of the day, which was displayed four laps later on lap 121. Bowyer and Company chose not to come down for service under that caution that resulted in a fourth-place restart position. That decision also forced Bowyer to turn off all switches in his car, including his air conditioning unit in 120+ degree heat, for the remainder of the 160-lap event.

On the final restart of the day, Bowyer would climb through the field with ease by passing competitors with older tires and eventually worked his way into the lead on lap 131, earning a championship driver point in the process. He remained in the point position for two laps before making his final green-flag pit stop of the day on lap 133 for four fresh tires and chassis adjustment, slipping to 27th position upon return to the racing surface. However, the RCR driver would charge through the field and pass 14 cars over the next 26 laps to bring home a 13th-place finish. Bowyer remains 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings with only six races remaining before the cutoff for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and is currently 32 points out of the top 10.

CLINT BOWYER: "Our No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet was actually strong today. We were better than a 13th-place showing. It's just so hard to pass here and track position means everything. We just can't seem to catch a break in these fuel mileage races."

By: richard childress racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags bowyer, brickyard 400, burton, chevrolet, childress, harvick, indianapolis, menard, nascar, nscs, sprint cup