Paul Menard took what he learned of the new track surface at Kansas Speedway during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday and, with crew chief Slugger Labbe back on top of the pit box after a six-week hiatus, turned it into a very strong third-place finish in the Kansas 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Menard qualified 14th Friday afternoon and ran in the top 20 for the first 116 laps of the 267-lap event. It was then that green-flag pit stops began but Labbe decided to keep his driver out for as many laps as possible. The turning point of the race for the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards team occurred on lap 122 when the fifth of the day's 14 caution flags waved. Menard came down pit road two laps later in the fifth position and a strong effort by the No. 27 pit crew picked up two positions for Menard when green-flag racing resumed on lap 128. He moved into second on lap 147 and took the top spot for six laps beginning on lap 212. Menard dropped back to fourth after pitting during the 13th caution, moved to second by lap 223 and then to third place four laps later, where he remained for the final 40 laps.
"We kind of hit on something yesterday (Saturday) morning that we liked, thought was promising, and stuck with it. Obviously running the (NASCAR) Nationwide (Series) car on a new surface, we learned a lot about tire pressures, what grooves come in. The second groove came in a hell of a lot better than I think anybody thought. You could make lap time and pass cars."
"Overall, I'm just really happy with the weekend and the repave. The track came in real well and it's just going to keep getting better. I'm real proud of my Menards guys."
Kevin Harvick and the Budweiser Team Bring Home an 11th-Place Finish at Kansas Speedway
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team earned an 11th-place finish at Kansas Speedway after spending much of the 267-lap affair running in the top 20 while battling handling issues. The Richard Childress Racing driver started the Kansas 400 from the 10th position and alerted crew chief Gil Martin that he was battling a loose-handling condition on the black and red Chevrolet during the early laps. The Martin-led pit crew made several two and four-tire pit stops throughout the 400-mile event as they worked to improve the handling of the Budweiser Chevrolet. As the race progressed, Harvick informed the team that the car's handling improved during longer green-flag runs, but with less than 70 laps remaining he reported the loose-handling condition returned. The pit crew made one final attempt to alleviate the handling issue Harvick was battling during their final pit stop on lap 218 making a chassis adjustment and taking four tires and fuel. The Bakersfield, Calif., native returned to the 1.5-mile track in the 12th position for the ensuing restart and was able to pick up one spot, crossing the finish line in the11th position.
Harvick remains 10th in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, 59 points out of the lead.
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE: "We weren't sure exactly what to expect coming into this race with the repave, and we did struggle a bit, but we were able to figure a few things out as the race went on. This wasn't the finish we were really looking for, but we figured out a few things that worked and a few that didn't. Next week is another race, so we'll move on and switch our focus to Martinsville (Speedway)."
Mid-Race Accident Relegates Jeff Burton to 28th-Place Finish at Kansas Speedway
Contact with another competitor on lap 84 sent Jeff Burton's No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet spinning into the outside retaining wall and relegated the team to a 28th-place finish at Kansas Speedway. The South Boston Va., native started the race from the rear of the field as engine concerns forced the No. 31 team to replace the motor in the car after Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice. From the beginning of the 267-lap race, the No. 31 Chevrolet showed speed with Burton immediately climbing 15 positions in the first 10 laps. After a caution-flag period on lap 32, Burton reported that his Richard Childress Racing machine was handling tight in the 17-degree banked corners of the newly-repaved 1.5-mile facility. Burton found himself running in the top 20 and turning competitive lap times when bad luck struck on lap 84. Hard contact from another competitor sent the No. 31 machine spinning into the outside retaining wall, causing significant damage to the right-front fender. The damage to the black and gold machine was significant enough to force the team to make repairs in the garage with Burton eventually returning to track in the 33rd position on lap 137, 53 laps down to the leader. The No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team completed the remainder of the race running competitive lap times and gained five positions in the process to finish in the 28th position. Burton remains 19th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: "I'm not exactly thrilled about what happened today on the track and if the roles were reversed that accident would've never happened. I am proud of the CAT crew for working hard to get me back out on the track to finish the race for the second straight weekend. I can't say enough about their never-give-up attitudes. I love short-track racing so Martinsville Speedway couldn't come at a better time next weekend."
Source: Richard Childress Racing