Seven Shootout Wins for RCR ... RCR has earned seven checkered flags in the Budweiser Shootout (1986, 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 with driver Dale Earnhardt and 2009 and 2010 with driver Kevin Harvick) and has had an entry in 25 of the 33 races.
Three to Get Ready ... RCR will field entries for Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard in this year's exhibition event. This is the fourth consecutive season that the Welcome, N.C.-based organization has had multiple entries in the Budweiser Shootout's 33-race history.
Play by the Rules ... Burton, Harvick and Menard became eligible for the 34th annual season-opening event by being one of the 25 highest-ranked competitors in the 2011 Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings or by being a previous race winner at Daytona. All three RCR drivers finished inside the top 25 in last season's final points rundown (Harvick - third, Menard - 17th and Burton - 20th). In addition, Burton owns the 2000 Coke Zero 400 trophy and Harvick captured the 2007 Daytona 500 checkered flag before winning back-to-back Budweiser Shootout finishes in 2009 and 2010. The star-studded field will compete in two segments, 25 and 50 laps, with a 10-minute pit stop between to allow teams to visit pit road should they elect to change tires, add fuel and make chassis adjustments.
Qualifying Draw ... Budweiser's annual Draw Party will take place Friday, February 17 at the SPEED stage located outside of the Turn 4 tunnel. All three RCR drivers, along with other eligible competitors, will draw their respective starting position for Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout. This year's Draw Party will be televised on SPEED beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Paul Menard No. 27 PEAK/Menards Chevrolet Impala
The PEAK/Menards Chevrolet in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 335 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season and was last seen on track at Talladega Superspeedway in October, where Menard started seventh and finished 12th.
Grab Some Buds! ... On Saturday night, Menard will make his second Budweiser Shootout appearance. In July 2008, Menard earned the pole award at DIS, qualifying him for the 2009 Budweiser Shootout. He started from the pole position when he drew the top spot during Budweiser's annual Shootout Draw Party and finished the two-segment event 12th.
New Faces on the No. 27 team ... Three new faces will sport the signature neon yellow this season, joining the veteran No. 27 Peak/Menards team. Clint Almquist was a member of the No. 29 RCR team in 2011 and joins the No. 27 crew as a road mechanic. During the week, the Blythe, Calif., native is an RCR fabricator. Statesville, N.C.'s Josh Threatte joins as an engineer. When he's not crunching numbers you can find this extreme athlete sky diving, rock climbing and mountain biking. On race day, newcomer Matt Kreuter will be fueling the No. 27 Chevrolet Impala. Kreuter joins from the No. 33 RCR team and was named NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge Rear Tire Carrier Individual Champion in both 2010 and 2011.
When You PEAK, You Win.™ ... When you want maximum protection for your car, you want to reach for PEAK Performance products. Whatever you drive, PEAK can take it on. PEAK offers products for all of your needs under the hood, as well as products to clean, dry and polish your vehicle. From antifreeze, to motor oil, to truck bed liners, PEAK has you covered.
In the Rearview Mirror: 2011 ... Menard and the No. 27 Chevrolet team closed the 2011 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway enduring a series of rain showers and a persistent tight-handling condition to finish 16th. On the strength of one win, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes, Menard finished a career-high 17th in the NSCS driver championship point standings.
You are qualified for the Budweiser Shootout this year by virtue of your points finish in 2011. Does participating in that race help knock off some of the competitive rust? "It will help us for both the 150s and the Daytona 500. With the rules changes that have been made in an effort to break up the tandem draft, racing in the Budweiser Shootout will give us the chance to see what the cars are going to do with the new package. It will be a big test session. Obviously, we want to win, but we're going to try to learn as much as possible as well."
Were you comfortable with the two-car drafting? There's no arguing that it increased lead changes. What did you think of it? "We set records for lead changes and for the number of different leaders with the two-car draft. We had close finishes and I think it's safer. Honestly, I didn't see anything wrong with it. What's racing when you think about it? Lead changes, different leaders, close finishes and safety - we had all that covered."
Kevin Harvick No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala
This Week's Budweiser Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... The No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team will utilize Chassis No. 295 in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout. Harvick drove this car to Victory Lane in the 2010 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway and also scored a seventh-place finish with it in that year's Daytona 500.
Shootout Details ... Harvick has made seven previous starts in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. He raced his No. 29 Chevrolet to back-to-back wins in the 2009 and 2010 Budweiser Shootout races and has earned four top-five and six top-10 finishes in the event. He's led a total of 43 laps and completed 88.8 percent of the laps run (454 of 511) in the races he competed in. Harvick's average finish in the Budweiser Shootout is 6.6.
Grab Some Buds ... On Thursday evening, Harvick, team owner Richard Childress and the No. 29 team will join Budweiser Brewmaster George Reisch and host a private Budweiser Beer School in Daytona Beach for members of the media and the NASCAR industry. Reisch, a fifth-generation brewmaster, will teach the crowd about what goes into brewing the King of Beers.
Off Season? ... During the off season, Harvick enjoyed a variety of activities. He started the New Year off by serving as an honorary coach for the Virginia Tech Hokies wrestling team as they took on the University of Maryland Terrapins in Blacksburg, Va., on Jan. 8. A couple weeks later he and New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera presented Gene Monahan, former head athletic trainer for the Yankees, with the William J. Slocum-Jack Lang award for long and meritorious service at the annual Baseball Writers' Association of America dinner held in Manhattan on Jan. 21.
Hometown Hall of Famer ... On Wednesday, Feb. 1, Harvick became the fourth driver inducted into the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, off-road champion Roger Mears and Indy 500 competitor George Snider are also enshrined there.
Move Over Harvick, LO's Going to be a Superstar ... Harvick and his wife, DeLana, will tape a segment for National Geographic's "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan," with their Chihuahua, Little One (LO), during the Budweiser Shootout weekend. The air date will be announced at a later time.
Meet the Press ... Harvick will be available to members of the media outside Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, Feb. 16 for NASCAR's annual Media Day.
After the winter off season, is it good to run in the Budweiser Shootout and knock some of the rust off? "I think so. I think anytime you can get on the race track in a competitive environment, it gives you a better idea of what you're going to have. I think it enables us to kind of knock some of that rust off. As fast as the cars are and as many unknowns as there are, the Budweiser Shootout is definitely something that we're all looking forward to."
Is the Budweiser Shootout going to be a good indicator as to what you guys can and can't do in relation to the two-car pushing after NASCAR has made the rule changes? "To a certain degree; obviously, there's probably going to be a huge temperature change from when we run the Daytona 500 in the afternoon to what we do on the night of the Budweiser Shootout. Mother Nature will definitely play a huge hand in the true effect of things, but the Budweiser Shootout is the closest you'll get up until the (Daytona) 500."
How different was this past off season for you? "It's been really good. (DeLana and I) went on vacation a few times and that's something we haven't had the chance to do a lot before. It's been very relaxing. I was really kind of worried about being bored, but we've been anything but bored. It seems like you can always find something to do. Aside from my driving duties and the responsibilities that come with that, there's no longer an absolute deadline and there's not a 100 questions that you have to answer every day. It's been very relaxing and good to recharge the batteries."
What does that do for you going into the new season when you've had that type of an off season for the first time? "I think it's one of those things where we, including myself and everyone at RCR, have made more changes this year than we ever have. I think that's the type of aggressiveness that you're going to have to have within the company and the teams, and the kind of mindset that you're going to have to have to get the championship. We've been close the last couple of years. Nobody really did anything wrong, we just needed to get better. In order for the No. 29 to get better, the Nos. 27 and 31 have to get better, too, in order to keep driving the performance to where it needs to be. As a company, I think the attitude and the enthusiasm is good. With the Nationwide Series shop being here there's just more information, there's more people and there's more stuff flowing and that was always something we had in the past when we were winning a lot of races. Right now everything is going good and we'll just keep plugging away."
What's your outlook going into this year? How long do you think it'll take to develop chemistry with your new crew chief Shane Wilson? "From here forward the only thing that's acceptable is to win a championship. Obviously, the goal is to go out and win races, but the championship is really what we're after. We've made the changes that we think are going to be better. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't, but we had to do something to make the whole organization better. Shane and I have worked together in the past and I don't really have a timeframe in mind for the chemistry to work in. I expect it to work right off the bat. We're going to plug along as hard as we can. We've got some good plans and had some well-organized tests. I expect to go to Daytona and have a chance to win."
Jeff Burton No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 343 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable.This chassis, built in 2011 for RCR's No. 29 entry with driver Kevin Harvick, competed in three superspeedway events last season including first the Daytona 500 where Harvick finished 42nd after retiring early due to engine failure. Harvick also guided this machine to a top-five finish at Talladega Superspeedway in April (started-38th, finished-fifth) and a top-10 finish in July in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway (started-31st, finished-seventh).
Career Budweiser Shootout Stats ... This marks Burton's seventh start in the annual preseason, non-points event.In six starts in the 75-lap shootout, Burton owns one top-five and three top-10 finishes and has led a total of nine times for 32 laps.His best effort in the Budweiser Shootout was a fifth-place finish in the 2001 event.
No Stranger to Victory Lane ... Although he has yet to capture a victory in the season opening, no-holds barred race, the South Boston, Va., native has two Daytona race trophies on his mantle. The first is from the 2000 Coke Zero 400 and most recently from last season's Duel 150 qualifying race.
Welcome Drew Blick ... During the off season, RCR named Drew Blickensderfer as the crew chief on the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season. Blickensderfer spent the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season as crew chief of Roush Fenway Racing's flagship No. 6 team with driver David Ragan, winning two pole awards and bringing home the checkered flag in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in July. The 35-year-old Decatur, Ill.-native is best known for kicking off his Sprint Cup Series crew chief career in grand fashion in 2009 winning his first outing in the Daytona 500 with Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 team. The duo also won the following weekend at Auto Cub Speedway making Blickensderfer one of the only crew chiefs in history to win his first two races in NASCAR's elite division. Blickensderfer also enjoyed success in Roush Fenway's NASCAR Nationwide Series program with such drivers as: Carl Edwards, Danny O'Quinn and Kenseth.
Last Time Around ... Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar team led the most laps and gained valuable information despite finishing eighth in the 2011 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. Burton was pushed to the lead by RCR teammate Kevin Harvick, completing the initial 25-lap segment of the 75-lap event running 1-2. After a routine four-tire pit stop during the event's 10-minute break, the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner returned to competition for the final 50 laps. Despite being separated from Harvick at the restart, he hooked up with then RCR stablemate Clint Bowyer. The new duo drafted to the lead before competitor tandems would join them, moving Burton to eighth in the closing laps where he remained when the checkered flag fell.
How important is it to be able to run in the Budweiser Shootout and knock some of the winter rust off? "I think it is really important. Anytime you can race, it is a good thing. Running the Bud Shootout is a good educational experience and we'll learn a tremendous amount about what we can and can't do with the new rules package. I think the Bud Shootout can be very valuable."
What do you plan to learn during the Budweiser Shootout as far as two-car tandem drafting is concerned? "We don't know what is going to happen with the new rules package. The Bud Shootout event gives us a practice right off the bat that we otherwise wouldn't have. We will race that Saturday night and help build an idea of what is going to happen. We'll be that much smarter at the end of the race. I think it is a great way to learn."
Do you feel like the Budweiser Shootout will give you a good idea of what you can do or not do in the Daytona 500? "The only difference is that track and air temperatures at the Bud Shootout will be cooler than the Daytona 500. Temperature matters so much with running in the pack or the two-car tandem racing. The ambient temperature makes a big difference on what you can and can't do so it's not a complete indicator of what to expect, but it does give you a hint of what could happen."