By Richard Childress Racing
RCR Rocks Daytona ... Dating back to 1986, RCR has won seven poles and owns 30 total victories at the most storied race track on the circuit. RCR owns two Daytona 500 wins (Dale Earnhardt - 1998, Kevin Harvick - 2007), three Coke Zero 400 trophies (Earnhardt - 1990, 1993 and Harvick - 2010) and 14 qualifying races, including 10 straight victories with Earnhardt (1990 - 1999) and the most recent coming with Jeff Burton earlier this year. Harvick became the fourth driver to win back-to-back Budweiser Shootout titles (2009 and 2010) and it marked the seventh win in the exhibition race for RCR, more than any other organization. In addition to Harvick's victories, Earnhardt won the event five times (1986, '88, '91, '93, and '95). Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Feb. 2002 and 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Daytona, driving cars fielded by RCR. Harvick drove to Victory Lane in the 2007 NNS opener in the No. 21 Chevrolet and Clint Bowyer won the July 2009 NNS race at the "World Center of Racing."
The Collective RCR ... Over the season's first 16 races, RCR's four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries have notched three wins, 12 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes. The No. 31 team kicked off the 2011 season with a non-points win in the second Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. The No. 29 team visited Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway in March and backed that up with a win the following weekend at Martinsville Speedway. In May, Harvick and the No. 29 team visited Winner's Circle at Charlotte Motor Speedway, claiming the checkers in one of NASCAR's marquee events - the Coca-Cola 600. RCR-prepared Chevrolets have also completed 18,685 out of 19,432 total laps (96.2 percent) with drivers Bowyer, Burton, Harvick and Paul Menard, who have led a combined 452 laps. At least one RCR driver has led laps in each of the season's first 16 events with the lone exceptions being Kansas and Pocono.
Get to the Points ... Following the Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma, Harvick maintains his second-place position where he sits 25 markers in arrears to current point leader Carl Edwards. Bowyer advanced two spots, to eighth, and is 40 points outside the top five. Menard slid to 17th in the standings and is 46 markers in arrears to the top 10 while Burton gained one spot, to 24th, sitting 42 markers in arrears to the top 20.
Paul Menard No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet Impala
This Week's Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 338 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 the track at Talladega Superspeedway when Menard brought home a 12th-place result after starting from the fifth position. Menard also drove this racer at DIS in February, where he turned the fourth-fastest lap during qualifying for the Duel 150's. He started on the front row for the first of the two qualifier races and finished ninth. He then started 19th in the 53rd running of the famed Daytona 500 and finished ninth, his career-best finish at Daytona.
Starting up front at Daytona ... Menard earned his one career NSCS pole position at Daytona International Speedway. In 2008, he claimed the pole award for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona (July). The following year, he started the Budweiser Shootout from the pole position when he drew the top spot during Budweiser's annual Shootout Draw Party.
Daytona Tidbits ...
You had a great run in this year's Daytona 500. How do you feel about going back to Daytona (International Speedway), and will the things you learned in February carry over to the July race? "I think you are going to see a repeat of the (Daytona) 500 as far as the two-car drafts are concerned. It's going to be hotter, but the track has so much grip that it won't really matter. There will still be two-car breakaways and we'll manage that the best we can. I am definitely looking forward to returning with power that the ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing) engines give us."
Do you like the two-car breakaway? "I like it a lot better than the pack drafting. There's a lot more control in the driver's hands. Restrictor-plate racing still isn't my favorite type of racing. It is a total crapshoot once you're out there."
Describe what it's like to push someone at 200 mph. Is there a feeling of lack of control? "Yeah, you really can't see anything. You can see more once you get to the corners because you can kind of look up through the top of the windshield over the car in front of you. When you're going down the straightaway, you really have no idea where he's going. You have to take a snap shot of what's happening in front of you when you go through the corner because you can see then. You have to work off that picture in your mind when you're going down the front and back stretch."
By Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500, does that give people confidence that if you hit on something and keep persevering, anyone can win the race? "Honestly, it's restrictor-plate racing and anything can happen. You always have some wrecks where good cars get taken out early. That opens the door for some guys that may not be able to compete every week for wins. Trevor had a really strong car in February and the end of the race played in his favor. I am very confident that we'll have a strong car this weekend when we go back to Daytona. It's anyone's ball game there."
Kevin Harvick No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet
This Week's Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 343 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Harvick has competed in this car twice so far in 2011: he led five laps before finishing 42nd when the car's engine expired at Daytona in February and scored a fifth-place finish at Talladega in April.
How do you have to approach Daytona with the two-car drafting? "I think as a team we have a set strategy that we're going to go into that race with this week and see how it works. Whether that's right or wrong, I don't know. We've talked about it for a couple weeks now and have a good plan."
Do you like the racing at Daytona now? "The racing would be the same way that it is now if the race tracks - the worst thing in the world that happens to this sport is repaving race tracks. That is the absolute worst thing you can do to make the racing bad is to pave a race track. You look at some of the race tracks that have been paved for five or six years now and I don't know if it's the type of asphalt or whatever they're doing, but the racing isn't the same that it was and the race tracks just don't get bad. Basically, if Daytona and Talladega would have been paved like they are now, however many years ago and everybody would have figured out how to do - that car would have done what we do now, it's just that there's enough grip on the race track with the way that the asphalt is to allow you to do that. There's really no way to fix it as far as I'm concerned. Unless you just say, go back to the no bump drafting in the corners. That's the only way you can really fix it until the grip goes away. Paving the race tracks are a killer for the racing."
Jeff Burton No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala
This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Jeff Burton will race Chassis No. 331 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's Coke Zero 400. Built new for the 2011 season, this No. 31 racer first competed in the second Duel 150 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway where Burton drove it to victory. He then raced this Caterpillar Chevrolet in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 that ended eight laps shy of the halfway mark when the engine suddenly expired, crediting the No. 31 team with a 36th-place finish. Burton also drove this RCR racer to a 16th-place result at Talladega Superspeedway after starting 27th earlier this season.
Did you make too quick of an exit from the Daytona 500 to experience what you're going to see in July? "No. We ran almost half of the race and being that I've ran at Daytona multiple times so we'll be fine. I feel really good about our (restrictor) plate program. We led a lot of laps at those races this year. You have to approach Daytona much more like Talladega now. I think that will be the same for the Coke Zero 400. I don't see any possible way that the track has lost enough grip that you wouldn't approach it like a Talladega race. You're going to expect a lot more bump drafting and a lot of the two-car break-a-ways."
How comfortable are you with the two-car breakaway and two-car draft? "I'm really comfortable with it. I like it a lot. I don't have any issue with it. It's difficult to see when you're the guy pushing. There are a lot of challenges and some of it gets your attention. We adapted to that pretty quickly. We worked real hard at it practicing for the (Daytona) 500. By the time the race came around, I feel like we had adapted to it pretty well. I'm pretty comfortable with it."
Explain what it's like to be pushing someone at 200 mph. "Well, you literally can't see. The only thing that you can see is if you're approaching turn one and you look out of the side window, you can see the middle of (turns) one and two. But, you can't see anything in front of you. You have no idea what you're catching. You're totally committed to that guy in front of you. He's communicating with you - telling you what's going on. You're committed to your spotter. It's truly blind racing."
What did you think of Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500? "It's always cool to see someone new in the sport have success. It's always cool to see a team like the Wood Brothers have success. You had both of them there. The (Daytona) 500 has turned into what would almost be a wild card race today. The only thing that has been disappointing for me about the (Daytona) 500 in modern history is it used to be that the greats of the sport won the race. With the (restrictor) plate races being so different than it's ever been before, that's opened the door for people that may not have had success at other places have success at the (Daytona) 500. That's good and bad. It's good because it propelled Trevor Bayne, someone new to our sport for spectators to say 'wow, a rookie won the Daytona 500.' That's good for our sport. On the other hand, it's a little odd because we have people winning races that haven't had much success anywhere else. It's two fold. I thought it was cool for both Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers. But, for the Wood Brothers in particular and their history in the sport, it was pretty cool to see the No. 21 back in Victory Lane."
Clint Bowyer No. 33 Wheaties FUEL Chevrolet
This Week's Wheaties FUEL Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway ... Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 294 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built in 2010 specifically for restrictor-place racing, has seen action at four races over the last two seasons, never finishing outside of the top 10. This includes a trip to Talladega Superspeedway's Victory Lane last October, a fourth-place finish in the 2010 Daytona 500 and a ninth-place finish in this year's edition of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. Most recently, it was on track for a second-place effort in the April Talladega event where Bowyer finished a record-tying 0.002 seconds behind race winner Jimmie Johnson.
Points Racing ... With his strong top-five run last weekend, Bowyer jumped two positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings to eighth. He now sits just 77 markers out of first and 40 points out of the top five.
Did the new pavement really change the racing surface at Daytona? "Yeah, it really did. Our 17th-place finish in the Daytona 500 didn't really show our efforts there. With five or six laps to go, we were one of six cars that were going to have a shot at winning. It was a three, two-car break-a-way at the end and we were one of them. We just got wiped out. Someone got turned down low and ran us into the wall. We made it a lot longer than most of them. We just didn't make it as long as Trevor Bayne did."
Are you on terms with two-car drafting? "Oh yeah, I like it. I really do. It gives you something to focus on and work on all race long instead of just riding along. With so much on the line, you need to get yourself a good finish and give yourself the best odds. Before, I would go to the back, ride for awhile to stay out of trouble and let that big wreck to happen if it's going happen. After that, you would put yourself in position at the end to win the thing. That was the smart thing to do. Now, you can kind of prevent that from happening. You can get latched onto a teammate that you know you're on common ground with. You know him and what he's going to do. On top of that, you're talking to him back and forth on the radio. I just like that situation better. You can kind of control your destiny a little bit more. If you're running well and want to stay up front, why not lead laps and be on TV for your fans and your sponsors? If not, go to the back because, together, you know you can get right back up there when it's time."
Can you explain what it is like to push someone at 200 mph when visibility is a problem? "You know, it's not really that big of a deal as some people think it is. The biggest thing you have to figure out is how to push him the longest and keep your car cool. It's about moving out to the left side and getting some air in your grill and doing it at the right time so you don't loose time. As soon as you duck out, you're pushing a lot bigger hole through the air and the cars behind you have that much more air to suck up onto. You really have to be careful when to pull out and cool your car and when not to. At the end, you need to have that thing cooled down so you can stay single file and tight up to him. That way, you can have a shot at winning."
What did you think about Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500? "He's a super kid. I'm very happy for him. Obviously, I'm really happy for the Wood Brothers. That win turned their whole program around. They've had sponsorship and been to the track in a lot bigger fashion, but now they've had a lot bigger excitement around their team and that's because of Trevor Bayne and the wonderful job he did. I don't know if he paid his dues quite yet, but certainly happy for him and everyone involved. That was a huge win."