Welcome Back ... Following a one-year hiatus, RCR returns full time to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2012 after announcing a merger with Kevin Harvick Inc last season. In addition to RCR's 56 NNS victories, KHI earned 41 victories as an organization from 2004 through 2011.
The Starting Line-up ... Elliott Sadler (No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet) and Austin Dillon (No. 3 AdvoCare/American Ethanol/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) will compete fulltime for RCR in the NNS this season while Kevin Harvick, Brendan Gaughan, Paul Menard and Max Papis will share driving duties in the No. 33 Menards/South Point/Hunt Brothers/Armour/Fast Fixin's/One Main Financial Chevrolet. Tony Stewart is driving the No. 33 Oreo 100th Birthday/Ritz Crackers Chevrolet at Daytona this weekend.
Elliott Sadler No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet Impala
This Week's OneMain Financial Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet team will utilize Chassis No. 499 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series shop. Sadler drove this superspeedway chassis in 2011 at Kevin Harvick Inc., earning a pole award and fifth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway and an eighth-place finish in the July race at Daytona.
Fond Memories ... Sadler has competed at Daytona in the Nationwide Series five times with a best finish of eighth in July 2011 and has led 61 laps around the 2.5-mile track. He also has experience at the superspeedway across two other NASCAR series, making 24 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with four top-five and nine top-10 finishes. He also made two starts at the Daytona Beach, Fla., track in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with one top-five finish and 56 laps led.
One Goal with OneMain Financial ... In 2011, Sadler claimed five poles, 12 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes in the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet for KHI but came up 45 points shy of winning the series driver's point championship. This season, Sadler returns to the cockpit once again with sponsorship from OneMain Financial, this time with his new team at RCR. It may be a new team, but the driver has the same goal in mind: to win the Nationwide Series championship.
New Faces ... Sadler joins the RCR stable as the new driver on the block, joining the organization after the 2011 merger with Kevin Harvick Inc. Luke Lambert will serve as the crew chief on the No. 2 Chevrolet, transitioning from the interim crew chief position on the No. 31 Sprint Cup Series team to serve on top of the OneMain Financial pit box.
Last Time By ... In the first event of the season at Daytona International Speedway in 2011, bad luck struck Sadler on lap 24 as his car sustained heavy front-end damage in a crash. The team was relegated to a 38th-place finish. Sadler returned to Daytona for the July event, leading 31 laps before a fiery incident on the last lap resulted in an eighth-place finish.
Top of the Board ... Daytona International Speedway is the location of Sadler's first-career Nationwide Series pole in 1997.
Double-Duty ... The Emporia, Va., native will be a busy man this weekend, competing in the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series events. Following the Nationwide Series event Saturday, Sadler will take the helm of RCR's No. 33 General Mills/Kroger Chevrolet for the 54th running of the Daytona 500.
ELLIOTT SADLER QUOTES:
What did you learn running for the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship? "I can tell you the first couple of weeks after Homestead, I was 'hungover' pretty bad as far as not winning the championship. That's what our goal was when we started the season. Now, I'm more into dissecting things that I can do better that I didn't do as well last year to give me a better chance of winning the championship this season."
What progress was made in the off-season at RCR? "We kind of had an idea of where we needed to be and should be this off season as a race team, and we feel that we have made some gains this year with downforce, side force and the weight of the car. There are a lot of the little things that add up. I really feel like we have made big gains where we needed to this off season."
How important is it to get off on the right foot at Daytona? "It seems like momentum feeds off Daytona. I think since you are down there for so long, up to two weeks, it adds to the anticipation. There is so much effort that goes into the off-season, so much wind tunnel time. If you get to Daytona and you don't have the start that you wanted, a little air goes out of your balloon. I think going to Daytona and getting started on the right foot means a lot to a race team and to a driver as far as his confidence. I feel as if I am a good restrictor-plate driver, so I am feeling good going into the race."
What does it mean to have Tony Stewart a as teammate at RCR for the race at Daytona? "Tony Stewart is remarkable on restrictor plate races. I know that he has never won the Daytona 500, but he is so good there in the July races. People want to draft with him, and that's a big advantage when you are in the field and people are looking for you to draft. You 100 percent have a drafting partner to help. He's going to be the guy to beat. I know how fast his car is. I know what one he's got. He's got a good engine, plus, he's Tony Stewart."
Will you points race or race for the win at Daytona? "That's a good question. I feel like I points raced too much last season. I raced to not lose a point rather than to try to gain an extra point. I'm going to Daytona, and I want to win the race. If it gets me in trouble, it gets me in trouble. We have the rest of the season to points race and make it back up."
Austin Dillon No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet Impala
This Week's AdvoCare Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Austin Dillon will pilot Chassis No. 478 in the Drive 4COPD from the Richard Childress Racing stable Nationwide Series Stable. This former Kevin Harvick Inc. chassis was driven by Clint Bowyer at Daytona in Feb. 2011, where he earned the pole and finished second, and at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2011, where he started second but finished 22nd after being involved in a multi-car incident.
Dillon at Daytona ... Dillon has had unfavorable results at Daytona International Speedway despite running well. One year ago at the World Center of Racing he earned the pole award and spent much of the 250-mile NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race running in the top-three but posted a disappointing 20th-place finish after a multi- truck incident while running third with just two laps remaining took him out of contention early. In 2010, Dillon made his first-career start at Daytona, where a lap-one incident left the team playing catch up for the duration of the race, resulting in a 26th-place finish after starting third. This weekend's Drive 4COPD will mark his first restrictor-plate race in the Nationwide Series.
AUSTIN DILLON QUOTES:
The guys in the shop at RCR have been working hard all winter and it seems like they are ready to start racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. "All of the guys are ready to get to the track. Everybody is looking forward to getting to Daytona and to get the first race behind us. Once we get the first race behind us we have three races in a row, so that's something new for me. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series you get a month off, but in the Nationwide Series we are going racing. It will be fun. We're prepared and ready to go."
How has racing at Volusia Speedway Park helped you prepare for the Nationwide Series at Daytona? "My brother Ty and I have been racing in the DirtCar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park since the 14th. We race every night. We will each take one night off and then we finish up on Tuesday night before heading to the big track. Racing dirt is huge for us. It's about getting your confidence up and getting in shape. I saw Tony Stewart out there practicing his Sprint car and I think racing dirt is helpful to a lot of guys. That's what we love about it. You go night-to- night and day-to-day and it keeps you focused. But, we know what our ultimate goal is and that's running good in the Nationwide car. It's just a fun time of year to come out here and run, especially when the weather is nice. The track has been really good, also."
Does your grandfather, Richard Childress, come out to watch you at the dirt track? "Pop Pop and Nana both come. Of course, my parents are there every night. It's my favorite time of the year. It's so much fun. When you come out there you realize how much fun everybody is having. It's a huge family of dirt racers and its so much fun to hang out after the races and talk about racing with all of those racers. I saw Kenny Schrader there and Kenny Wallace was there, too. It's just a blast and to me it reminds me of the old days and how people helped each other out and raced against each other. It's just fun."
Tony Stewart No. 33 Oreo 100th Birthday/Ritz Crackers Chevrolet Impala
This Week's Oreo/Ritz Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Tony Stewart will pilot Chassis No. 520 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series stable. This is a brand new racer that will be put through its first competitive pace in this weekend's DRIVE4COPD 300.
Daytona Nuggets ... Stewart has competed at Daytona International Speedway in NASCAR's junior division 12 times and boasts six wins, seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes. The defending race winner has also led 184 laps, completed 99.1 percent of laps contested and has been running at the end of every race with the lone exception being the event in Feb. 1998.
Going for Five ... The 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will try to score his fifth consecutive Nationwide Series victory at DIS when he takes the green flag on Saturday. The defending race winner also scored back-to-back wins at DIS in 2005 and 2006.
Tying a Legend ... The Columbus, Ind., native could tie NASCAR legendary driver Dale Earnhardt's Nationwide Series win record this weekend should he take the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway. Earnhardt is the Nationwide Series' winningest driver with seven victories at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway - Feb. 1982, 1986, 1990 through 1994.
TONY STEWART QUOTES:
You've won the first race of the Nationwide Series season six times, including the last four. How nice is it to start the year with a win, and how much confidence does it give you going into the Daytona 500? "The good thing is I'm probably the happiest guy going into the Daytona 500 if we get a win on Saturday. It shows that we can win, and it's just a matter of whether the cards play out for you on Sunday. It's always a bonus when you can win on Saturday before going into the biggest race of the year on Sunday. Getting a Nationwide win there, that's how you like to go to bed the night before the Daytona 500, knowing that you've got that trophy sitting out there on your desk from what you did Saturday afternoon."
This season, you are running the Nationwide Series race with a different car owner - Richard Childress Racing. What kind of difference does that make? "There's really no difference. In fact, a lot of the guys on the team are the same guys who had worked on my KHI cars that I have run in the past since Kevin and DeLana (Harvick) essentially sold their team to Richard (Childress). So, I already have a comfort level and a relationship with the guys. Ernie (Cope, crew chief) and I have worked together in the past, too, so that's a plus because we already are familiar with each other. As for driving my first race for Richard (Childress), I'm pretty pumped about that. Richard is an icon in our sport and someone I have admired. It's definitely an honor to be on his team at Daytona. When you think of Daytona, I think people automatically think of Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt. Hopefully, I can add to Richard's list of accomplishments in Daytona."
Speaking of Dale Earnhardt, should you win the race on Saturday, you would tie his record for most wins in the Nationwide Series at Daytona with seven. What would being tied with Earnhardt for the record mean to you? "That's a pretty cool feeling to know we've closed in on something he's done at Daytona. To me, that was his playground. You just watched him play with the guys here. He was the best at that place. To even be remotely close to him in the record books, in anything at Daytona, is very humbling."
How difficult is it to win one race at Daytona, never mind five in a row? "Restrictor-plate races at Daytona are always a wild-card race. You never know who's going to win. We were fortunate enough to win one and then back it up the next year. To do it back-to-back-to-back-to-back is something we're really proud of. We've won six out of the last seven here, and none of them have been the same. It's been different cars, different teams and different pavement. There wasn't one of the six in that scenario that have been even remotely been close to the same. To me, that's the part that's ironic. You think, 'Man, the scenario has to double up, eventually.' Six wins here and none of them have been alike. It really shows that you can't predict what's going to happen. It's impossible to even try to do that."
What makes you so successful at Daytona, particularly in the season-opening Nationwide Series race? "I don't know. I've had a lot of luck there. A lot of it has just been being at the right place at the right time, and making calls that were a little edgy on pit strategy to put ourselves in position at the end. I've had great cars to drive every time there. We've just been one of those guys everybody knows that when we're out there, we're a threat in that division. So, when it comes to the end of it, we've had some pretty good help."
What does it mean to you to represent Oreo, especially with a car celebrating Oreo's 100th birthday? "It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that I have always been a big Oreo fan. I remember eating Oreo cookies after school as a kid, and I'm proud to represent them as an adult on the racetrack. Since I'm a big kid, I guess you could say we're a pretty good fit for each other because Oreo cookies definitely bring out the kid in everyone. Turning 100 is a pretty big deal, so to honor that with a special racecar, celebrating their birthday, is pretty cool. And, I can't think of a better way to help them celebrate such a big birthday than to get a big win at Daytona on Saturday."