Richard Childress Racing ready for Martinsville II

Richard Childress Racing press release

Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing
Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

This week's Richmond/Menards Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway ... Paul Menard will pilot chassis No. 349 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 Martinsville Speedway in April, where Menard started 16th and was forced to settle for a 38th-place result after on-track damages caused the motor to expire, prematurely ending the day for the team.


What makes Martinsville Speedway so tough? "It's really hard to pass there. Track position is really important at a short track like Martinsville (Speedway). It's stressful on the crew chiefs when they have to decide when to take tires and when to stay out because you can typically run 130 laps on one tank of fuel. The crew chiefs have their hands full for sure."

What does it take to be successful at Martinsville Speedway? "Martinsville (Speedway) requires a lot of skilled racing. A lot of us have grown up racing short tracks practicing that skill. It's good to get back to the roots of where you started. It's a hard place to pass so it's important to have the right pit strategy. Track position is definitely key."

Because Martinsville Speedway is so small, does it always feel like you're in a traffic jam? "The restarts are pretty crazy because the bottom line always gets stacked up with everyone fighting to get on the bottom. It's like bumper cars at the beginning, but once it gets strung out, you have a little more room to race."


This Week's Budweiser Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway ... Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 332 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. It is the same chassis Harvick drove to his first NSCS win at Martinsville Speedway in April. The No. 29 team has utilized this Chevrolet a total of six times so far in 2011 earning two wins (Martinsville and Richmond International Raceway) and three top-five finishes. Harvick finished 12th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the team's most recent race with this car.

Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography


Coming into Martinsville Speedway, you've won there in NASCAR Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series competition. What is it about Martinsville that works for you? "I think because it's a short track and when you go back to the roots of where we all grew up racing it was on the short tracks. Over the first several years we didn't get a lot of the finishes that we probably deserved, whether it was from a mistake on the race track or just dumb luck. The last couple of years we've gotten good finishes and our cars have run fast. To finally get that check mark in the win box was important for us."

It seems like we've had a number of long green-flag runs the last couple years at Martinsville (Speedway). Does that change how you attack a 500-lap race there? "You can't depend on it for sure. I guess you could say it's dumb luck as to how it's going to go. You can guess all you want, but it's never going to be right. It seems as you go through the years we've been there and just had a ton of cautions and lately we've had some long stretches where we've pitted under green. A lot of it depends on what tire they bring as to what kind of racing you see."

What is it that you had to learn about Martinsville (Speedway) to run in the top 10 as you have so many times? "Martinsville is just one of those places where we could not put a whole day together for a long time. The first couple of years I just crashed. Actually I think the first year, I got black flagged for spinning Bobby Hamilton out with about 10 laps to go, but I think Martinsville is just one of those places on the Sprint Cup Series circuit that just takes some time to figure out exactly why you do not need to charge the corners so hard and let the car roll and work on your car up off the corner. After the first couple of years I felt like we were able to, I don't know, just kind of figure out what we needed to do set-up wise but we never could put the whole day together to get the finishes. Over the last couple of years I've felt like we are finally running fairly well."

Is there a difference in mentality coming into Martinsville (Speedway) this weekend after winning the spring race at the track? "I think any time after you finally do something that you've been trying to do for a while and you finally accomplish that, it definitely eases your mind and you remember those situations and you remember the things you did to make it happen that day. In my opinion, that's what's great about our team. I feel like even when the cards are stacked against us or even when people count us out, I feel like we can always rebound and we can always do things that surprise people, whether it's lead one lap or half a lap or 500 laps. Martinsville has been one of those places where we had never had all the circumstances work out for us on a whole day. I feel like we've run well enough to race for wins there, but just never made it happen until the spring."

Martinsville (Speedway) is the only short track in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Having grown up racing on short tracks, do you think there needs to be more short tracks on the schedule? "With the schedule, NASCAR is really in control of that. I enjoy the short tracks and I enjoy going to Martinsville. I think it's a great addition to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. This sport was built on the short tracks though, so more short tracks definitely wouldn't hurt things."

Why do you think Martinsville (Speedway) is a track that's kept a foothold in our sport while NASCAR has branched out to other tracks across the country? "You have to remember where your roots come from and Martinsville is a good example of that. We all grew up on short tracks and Martinsville keeps that in our sport. All of us drivers like the short-track feel that we grew up racing on, so we're looking forward to it. It's kind of a hometown race for us. I live about 35 minutes from the track and it's always a fun weekend for us."


Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway ... Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 317 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 31 Chevrolet has seen on-track action on three previous occasions this season. The first competitive laps came at Bristol Motor Speedway in March where Burton started 20th and finished in the 17th position. The South Boston, Va., native drove this RCR entry to an 11th-place finish at Dover International Speedway in May and a 33rd-place finish at Pocono Raceway in June.


Being from South Boston (Va.), how cool was it to win the Sprint Cup Series race in 1997 at your home track? "I was really sick when we won that race. I was really struggling and could hardly stand up. That's one of the most gratifying wins I've ever had because I passed Rusty (Wallace) on the outside before there was an outside (lane) to take the lead. We made a pit stop and he beat us out of the pits. There were a few cautions after that and each time, he kept jumping the restart and NASCAR warned him about that. Well, he did it again and they black flagged him. So, there I am leading the race and here comes Bobby Hamilton. He was on the inside and I was on the outside and I wanted to beat him. It was a really rewarding race because I had to work hard for it. Nothing came easy on that day."

You started 22nd and finished 34th in the spring race at Martinsville Speedway. Was it just one of those races where nothing went right? "We were actually really fast. We drove up through the field and led a portion of the race. We pitted and a car blew a tire and stopped on the race track. We went through the pits to stay on the lead lap but the caution never came out, so when we got done, we were four laps down. Everything just unraveled from there, but we had a really fast car as we've had the last few races at Martinsville. The spring race there last year was another one that we had locked up, but Denny (Hamlin) won the race because we cut a tire. Martinsville is a track that I feel really, really good about. I think we can go there and win that race."

It just seems your finishes don't reassemble how you ran throughout the races at Martinsville Speedway? "That shows more at Martinsville than any other track that we visit. If you look at the loop data, the No. 31 has been in the top of all the categories of the last three races at Martinsville."

Getting a win at Martinsville Speedway would obviously not surprise you or your team, but might it be seen as an upset to other people? "I think that people in the garage know because they've been watching. We know when we go to Kansas Speedway or Chicagoland Speedway the teams that have been performing well at those tracks. That includes the teams that haven't been running well over the duration of the season, but they're still good at those tracks so you know you'll have to contend with them. I think that if people in the garage looked and said who the favorites were at Martinsville, we would probably be on their list."

What do you think about (Kevin) Harvick beating Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. in the closing laps of the spring race at Martinsville Speedway? "That was a good race. It was interesting because Harvick has been really fast at Martinsville recently too, and he actually struggled more at that race than he had the last two years at Martinsville. They just got it right at the right time and he went and won that race. It was a good battle and that was a sign there of never giving up. The first 200 to 300 laps of that race, you would never have thought that Harvick was going to win that race, but they went on to win. That's a great example of a team and driver that doesn't quit. Those kinds of races are the ones that are the most fun to win because you had to put it up on your shoulders and make something happen."


Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

This Week's American Ethanol Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway ... Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 324 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new in 2010, accumulated two top-10 finishes during the in 2010 NSCS season at Auto Club Speedway (started-13th, finished-second) and Texas Motor Speedway (started-7th, finished-7th). The five-time Sprint Cup Series race winner also drove this racer twice in 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (started-28th, finished-15th) and most recently at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when Bowyer ran out of gas while leading with two laps remaining, settling for a 26th-place finish.


Does racing at Martinsville Speedway feel hectic to you like you're always in a traffic jam? "Oh yeah, without a doubt Martinsville Speedway is just a long drawn-out traffic jam. Martinsville is a very demanding and difficult track to get around. You have to learn how to get around that place, but you still need to have good equipment that makes good grip and has good forward bite."

No one ever figures out Martinsville Speedway overnight. Why do you think that's the case? "There were two tracks in my first year, Darlington Raceway and Martinsville Speedway. I thought that with my short track background, Martinsville was going to be one of my favorite race tracks, one that I took to the quickest, but it took a good two or three years before I had good runs at Martinsville."

Is it hard to find a good balance in using enough brake to go fast, but not enough to burn them up? "That's the thing, charging the corner too quick or lifting early, your natural tendencies you want to do to go faster, they (the brakes) don't work. You have to pace yourself. You have to discipline yourself. You have to lift early and let the car roll through the corner and get into the gas as soon as you can. You say you have to do all those things, but you need a car that allows you to do that. It needs to roll freely and not come out from underneath of you."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Bobby Hamilton , Kevin Harvick , Paul Menard , Clint Bowyer
Teams Richard Childress Racing
Tags bowyer, burton, chevrolet, childress, harvick, menard