Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race Notes:
RCR in Thunder Valley ... In 122 Sprint Cup Series starts at Bristol, RCR boasts nine wins - seven with Dale Earnhardt, one with Kevin Harvick and one with Jeff Burton - three poles, 31 top-five and 54 top-10 finishes. RCR-prepared race cars swept the top three positions in the 2008 Food City 500 when Burton drove to Victory Lane, Harvick finished second and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top three.
The Collective RCR ... Over the season's first three races, RCR's four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries have notched one top-five and two top-10 finishes. The No. 31 team kicked off the 2011 season with a win in the second Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. RCR-prepared Chevrolets have also completed 2,757 out of 3,148 total laps (87.6 percent) with drivers Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard, who have led a combined 57 laps. At least one RCR driver has led laps in the season's first three events.
Get to the Points ... Following race weekend in Las Vegas, three of RCR's four Sprint Cup Series teams climbed the ranks in the point standings. Menard gained four spots, to sixth, while Bowyer notched three positions and Harvick advanced two spots, to 18th and 20th, respectively. Burton maintained the 32nd position despite sitting 21 markers in arrears to cracking the top 20.
Catch the Action ... FOX's live coverage of the Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City begins Sunday, March 20 at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. Qualifying for the fourth points-paying event on the Sprint Cup Series calendar will air live on SPEED on Friday, March 18 at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Paul Menard No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet Impala Race Notes and Quotes
This Week's CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 326 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala is a brand new addition to the RCR fleet, and will see its first laps on the race track during Friday's practice session at the 0.533-mile concrete oval.
Menard at Bristol ... In his seven previous starts at the "World's Fastest Half Mile," a bullring that is notorious for sheet metal carnage, Menard has finished each of his contested races and completed 99.6 percent of his laps (3,494 of 3,509). He has an average starting position of 27.3 and an average finishing position of 22.9, with his best finish of 16th coming in the August 2008 event. His best start at the Bristol, Tenn.-based track came in March 2010 and was repeated again in August of that same year when he took the green flag at both events from the 12th position.
Race Rewind ... Two weeks ago, Menard earned his best result at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he and the No. 27 team brought home a 12th-place finish. Menard heads to "Thunder Valley" sitting sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
PAUL MENARD QUOTES:
What do you think about Bristol being the first real short track race?
"Phoenix is kind of a short track; a lot of the same things will apply. The average speed for both tracks is pretty similar, but at Bristol you have a lot more load with the banking. It's a fun race track. Since they repaved it, you can drive just about anywhere that you want on the track which makes racing there a lot of fun for us drivers. We probably won't have the wrecks that you've seen in the past, so I think that the jury is kind of out for what the fans will prefer - the old style or new style - but it's a lot of fun for us to race on. We learned some things at Phoenix that will apply to Bristol, too."
How tight is it really when you're running two-by-two and someone sneaks in to try and make it three-wide?
"Actually, it seems like the corners are wider than the straightaways. You can run three-wide in the corners, not easily, but you can. But, then, when you come out of the corner, it really narrows up, so someone has to give. That's where you see all the action, in the exit of the corners, especially if someone sticks their nose in. You just have to be careful because things can get hairy pretty quick there. You can kind of pick and choose where you want to be while you race, but when trouble does happen, it happens fast, so you have to stay on your toes."
You said you have a lot of fun at Bristol, but as far as finishes, that track hasn't been that good to you.
"We've had some really good runs there but, unfortunately the finishes don't show that. Racing at Bristol is kind of like a restrictor plate race where anything can happen there. We've had good runs that should have been a couple top 10's, but I just haven't sealed the deal yet."
Kevin Harvick No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala Race Notes and Quotes
This Week's Budweiser Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway ... Kevin Harvick will pilot chassis No.304 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. He raced this Chevrolet four times in 2010 and collected three top-10 finishes, including third at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in May, fifth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June and ninth at Richmond International Raceway in September.
Former Winner ... Harvick is no stranger to Bristol's Winner Circle, spraying champagne on six different occasions - five in NASCAR's Nationwide Series (August 2000, August 2001, March 2003, March 2007 and March 2009 ) and once in NASCAR's premier division (March 2005).
Bristol Notes ... In 20 starts at the Bristol, Tenn., facility, Harvick has earned one win, nine top fives and 11 top-10 finishes. In addition, the Bakersfield, Calif., native has completed 97.8 percent (9,791 of 10,013) total laps and has led a total of 390 laps. Harvick has an average starting position of 18.5 and an average finishing position of 12.3 at the track.
In the Loop at Bristol ... The Bakersfield, Calif., native owns some pretty impressive loop data statistics, heading into this weekend's Jeff Byrd 500: third in Green-Flag Passes (552), fourth in Fastest Divers in a Late Run, seventh in Green-Flag Speed, seventh in Closers, seventh in Average Running Position (14.2), eighth in Fastest Drivers in an Early Run and eighth in Driver Rating (89.8).
Last Time Around ... Harvick and RCR's No. 29 team struggled with their setup during most of the 500-lap showdown at the Bristol bullring last August, but they persevered and salvaged a 14th-place result at the conclusion of the event. While spending the first half of the race running in and around the 20th position, a pit stop just past halfway brought his machine to life, and Harvick was able to crack the top 15 before the checkered flag waved.
Doubling Up ... In addition to his driving duties with the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team, Harvick, a 37-time race winner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, will drive Kevin Harvick Incorporated's No. 33 Chevrolet in Saturday's Scotts EZ Seed 300. The race will air live on ESPN beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The race will also be broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius Satellite Radio.
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTES:
What do you think of Bristol being the first short track race of the year?
"Well, technically, we consider it the second because we consider Phoenix a short track. I think Bristol is the first full-contact, short track race that we're going to go to. It's obviously a lot different complexion than it used to be. You can race all over the race track, and you have to really work on your car to get it to turn sooner into the corner. You never know whether you're going to end up at the top or the bottom. It's become an interesting track."
At Bristol, we never know what kind of weather we're going to get. Does that track change with the weather?
"I think with the concrete surface it's a lot more consistent than a lot of the other race tracks. It allows you to not have to worry about the inconsistency with the weather. I think it's a lot more consistent than a lot of places that we go to."
Talk a little bit about racing at Bristol.
"Well, you get the side-by-side (racing) and you get the bump and run, but you have to keep the fenders on at Bristol now. You have long stretches of green-flag runs. I can remember we ran 100 or 150 laps straight the last time we were there, so it's different than it used to be.
"Bristol's a lot better than it used to be. There's a lot of room and a lot of long green-flag runs. It's a much easier track to drive on than it used to be. You have to take care of your car a lot more than you used to, to be able to keep up. It's a fun place to race. You'll see when you get there if it's high or low as far as the groove goes. You have a lot of options as a driver."
Jeff Burton No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala Race Notes and Quotes
This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway ... Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 317 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's Jeff Byrd 500. Built new for the 2010 season, Burton drove this Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala to an eighth-place finish at Pocono Raceway in August before piloting this No. 31 racer to a 24th-place result at Michigan International Speedway two weeks later. Before going through offseason modifications, this RCR entry last competed at Auto Club Speedway in October where Burton was credited with a 23rd-place finish.
Bristol Details ... In 34 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Burton owns one win, eight top-five and 14 top-10 finishes. Since joining RCR in August 2004, he has four top-five and seven top-10 efforts at the 0.533-mile race track in 13 starts. The South Boston, Va., native won the 2008 Food City 500, leading the final two laps and RCR teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer to the line. The win gave RCR its first ever one-two-three finish.
Burton Loopy in Bristol ... According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Burton is the sport's fourth-best Green-Flag Passer, making 532 passes under green-flag conditions in the last 12 races at the Bristol bullring. The veteran driver is also the fifth-best Quality Passer, overtaking 285 positions while running in the top 15, and the fifth-best Closer where he has improved 13 positions during the final 10 percent of laps in each race. At the same time, Burton ranks ninth amongst his competitors in the most laps run in the top 15 with 60.9 percent (3,659 of 6,013 laps).
A Streak Looking to End ... Burton currently owns an 80-race winless streak that he hopes to break in this weekend's 500-lap showdown. The Caterpillar driver's last visit to Winner's Circle was in October 2008 when he led the final 57 laps en route to his 21st Sprint Cup Series career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Jeff Burton Live ... As part of Food City Family Race night at the Worlds Fastest Half Mile, Burton will participate in question-and-answer session, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, March 18. The event is free to the public and will take place at the Food City Stage in Bristol Motor Speedway's hospitality village, located outside turn four. For more information log on to www.foodcity.com/racing.
JEFF BURTON QUOTES:
Mark Martin said that the winless streak actually motivates him every week. Is that the same for you?
"A little bit. Honestly, if you ask me how many races it's been since I won, I couldn't tell you. It's not something I look at. I just figure that when we come to the race track every week and do the best we can, eventually, it will happen. I think when it does happen, it will happen a lot. You never know when you're last win is coming. Surely, I hope I didn't have my last win. I feel like we're very competitive and really fast. That's what I focus on. I make sure we can do those things because if we can do those things, it'll come. I really come to the track motivated to win this race, not because I didn't win the last race, but that's why we show up every week."
A lot of people look at this team and say 'they're too good not to get to Victory Lane this year.'
"I felt like that last year. I feel like this is a really good race team. It's been really frustrating, there's no question about that. If you look at this year, we ran really well in the (Daytona) 500, but had a problem. We ran really well in Phoenix and had a problem. What I have to analyze is what my contributions were to those things - good and bad. I have to focus on that, and when I focus on the two events this year, I honestly wouldn't have done anything different. There are other times when I should have done things different, but in these two events, I don't. That's what I have to do. Mark Martin didn't finish a race in the first three races about two years ago. He was 35th in points, or something like that, and everyone said 'oh my gosh, Mark Martin's out of it.' He went on to win a bunch of races, finished second in points and had a real shot at the championship. Those kinds of things you have to pay attention to. This team can turn it on. I really feel like it."
Bristol is, technically, the first real short track race of the season. How do you think your team will fare?
"Well, Phoenix was a good test for us. It's so different from Daytona to Phoenix to Vegas. The racing at Phoenix is so different. So, we've had a little bit of that, but there's nothing like Bristol. Bristol is an animal all on its own. We're running it a little earlier this year than we typically run it. Early in the year, everyone is full of energy and wants to prove to the world what they can do. Those things don't usually work well at Bristol. I think for us, we really have to pay attention to what we're doing. It's been a good track for us. I feel like we can go there and be real competitive."
After you won the spring race at Bristol in 2008, that place has been brutal on you since then.
"Yeah, but that's Bristol. That's just how it is. There's a lot of opportunity for mistakes. There are a lot of opportunities to get caught up in things that other people cause. There's stuff easy for you to cause. I'm real comfortable at Bristol. It's one of my favorite race tracks, but it is a track where you can have a lot of problems. Darrell Waltrip has won a lot of races there, but he's been in a lot of wrecks there, too. That's just the nature of Bristol."
Clint Bowyer No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet Race Notes and Quotes
This Week's BB&T Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway ... Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 310 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This chassis was utilized during two races last season where Bowyer scored two top-10 finishes - the first at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he finished fourth, and Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he scored a seventh-place finish.
Career Bristol Stats ... The Jeff Byrd 500 marks Bowyer's 185th NSCS start.
In 10 NSCS starts at the half-mile oval, Bowyer owns three top-five and five top-10 finishes. He has completed 89.3 percent (4,479 of 5,013) of the total laps contested at BMS during his career. The Emporia, Kan., native has led 82 total laps at BMS. Bowyer owns an average starting position of 19.9 and average finishing position of 16.6. His best efforts at the Tennessee facility are two third-place finishes in the August 2007 and March 2008 events. Welcome Back BB&T ... For the third time in the last three races, the No. 33 Chevrolet will sport a new paint scheme as longtime RCR partner, BB&T, adorns the car. Bowyer last ran the maroon and yellow paint scheme during last year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Talladega Superspeedway, bringing home the checkered flag just ahead of RCR teammate Kevin Harvick.
Last Time Around ... Bowyer racked up a top-five finish, bringing home his No. 33 Chevrolet in fourth place last August at BMS. He started the event in the 24th position.
Sin City ... Bowyer and the No. 33 Wheaties FUEL Chevrolet team fought changing track conditions and a loose-handling race car to bring home a 15th-place finish in the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With the finish, Bowyer improved three positions in Sprint Cup Series point standings to 18th.
Food CityRace Night ... Bowyer will participate in Food City Race Night at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 18 with other Sprint Cup Series drivers including RCR teammate Jeff Burton. The event is free to the public and will take place at the Food City Stage in Bristol Motor Speedway's hospitality village, located outside turn four. For more information log on to www.foodcity.com/racing.
CLINT BOWYER QUOTES:
What do you think overall about Bristol being the first true short track of the year? Kind of like throwing you guys to the wolves all at once.
"I'm looking forward to it. I love Bristol; it's one of my favorite race tracks. I don't care when it is. It's a fun, wild, energetic and action-packed race. You never know the outcome until the last lap. We're looking forward to it."
In the spring, you never know what the weather is going to be like at Bristol. You've run in the Nationwide race when it was delayed for snow, and went back racing 20 minutes later. Does weather make any difference in how you prepare for that race?
"Not really. It's the same for everyone. Obviously, weather plays a big role no matter where you go. Track conditions change with the shift in weather. You just have to play it by ear, see what you have for weather and go from there."
You finished 40th last year after you blew an engine. What do you do after? Do you hang out? Go home?
"You have to go home and it's not much fun. Funny story - I was driving and on my way home I about ripped the leather off the steering wheel because I was so mad. I pulled in to get gas down the road and the cashier had a little TV behind the counter watching the race. I told him how much money I put in and he looked at me, looked at the TV, looked at me again and said 'why are you here?' I said 'long story; don't ask.' It was actually pretty funny."
So, were you home by the time the race ended?
"I actually was. That's how sad it was. I drove home and was on the couch to watch the last 30 or 40 laps. It was not good."
Still bummed out?
"Yes. I still remember it and probably won't forget it."
You've led some laps there. You've finished in the top five. You won in the Nationwide race. How do you feel running there in a Cup car?
"We've run well at Bristol. It's one of my good tracks. I really do think someday we are going to win a Sprint Cup Series race there. Hopefully, it's this year. It's a fun track. It's an endurance thing. You have to get to the end of the race with the fenders still on that thing. You have to keep good track position, not abuse your equipment and also not make mistakes on pit road. If you can do all that, you're going to have a shot at winning."