Charlotte Motor Speedway
RCR at CMS ... In 117 starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, RCR has earned five points-paying victories. Four of those were won by Dale Earnhardt, while Jeff Burton added to that total with a win in the October 2008 race. Kevin Harvick also recorded an impressive win at the 2007 Sprint All-Star Race to go along with Earnhardt's three victories in the annual all-star showcase, giving RCR nine total Sprint Cup Series checkered flags at CMS. Additionally, RCR boasts 19 top-five and 39 top-10 finishes at CMS with seven different drivers including Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd, Mike Skinner, Harvick, Burton and Clint Bowyer. Richard Childress, a former driver on NASCAR's senior circuit, contributed two of those top 10s from 1978-1979. The Welcome, N.C.-based organization has led a combined 1,103 laps at the Charlotte facility.
The Collective RCR ... Over the season's first 11 races, RCR's four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries have notched two wins, eight top-five and 13 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. RCR-prepared Chevrolets have also completed 13,992out of 14,716 total laps (95.1 percent)with drivers Bowyer, Burton, Harvick and Paul Menard, who have led a combined 435 laps. At least one RCR driver has led laps in each of the season's first 11 events.
Get to the Points ... Following the Cup Series race at Dover, Harvick remains fifth in the point standings where he is 54 markers in arrears to the top spot. Bowyer advanced one position, to eighth, placing he and the No. 33 team 26 points in arrears to cracking the top five. Menard is now 17th in the standings, 37 points outside the top 10 while Burton is 23rd, sitting 33 markers in arrears to Menard's tally.
This Week's Moen/Menards Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 356 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 track at CMS.
By the Numbers at Charlotte ... In his eight previous starts at CMS, Menard completed 94.1 percent of his laps (2,602 of 2,766). He has an average starting position of 25.6 and an average finishing position of 23.9. The last time around (October 2010), Menard made his best start of fifth and finished 24th. His best finish of eighth was claimed in last year's May affair at the 1.5-mile speedway.
Race Rewind ... Last weekend, Menard and the No. 27 team battled it out in the Sprint Showdown, hoping to earn a first- or second-place result to transfer into the Sprint All-Star Race. Starting from the third spot, Menard quickly drove the Moen/Menards Chevrolet into second, where he finished the first of two 20-lap segments. During the second segment, while running in second place, Menard was tagged from behind on a restart and sent sideways. He lost valuable positions on track and a shot at the All-Star million and was relegated to an 11th-place finish.
PAUL MENARD QUOTES: You had a good run last year at the Coca-Cola 600 with an eighth-place finish. How satisfying was it for you to come through such a long race and finish in the top 10? "If I remember right, that was a pretty uneventful night for us. We, basically, ran in the back half of the top 10 all night. We just kind of stayed there and stayed out of trouble, but that usually turns out to be good races."
How much do you feel those extra 66 laps? "I don't really feel much of a difference at all. I'm sure the fans in the stands feel it a lot more having to sit there a little bit longer, but for us drivers, it goes by really quick."
Do you like to look up at the (scoring) pylon and see what lap you're on? "I always keep track of what lap we're on for fuel mileage and whatnot. It's good to know when you're next stop is going to be. It's just stuff you need to know. After you drive 500 (miles), another 100 isn't a big deal."
What is the hardest part about the 600? "Well, with running the extra laps, you're faced with more restarts and additional mileage on the engines. The key part is just trying to stay out of trouble for an extra 100 miles."
This Week's Budweiser Armed Forces Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway ... Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 353 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This is a brand new No. 29 chassis that will make its on-track debut this weekend.
Charlotte Notes ... In 20 starts in the Coca-Cola 600, Harvick has earned one top five and four top-10 finishes. Combined, he's led three laps, has an average starting position of 19.4 and an average finishing position of 20.1. Harvick has also completed 96.7 percent (6,817 of 7,048) of the laps run at Charlotte in the past 10 years.
You can make it better or you can dial yourself way out.
Here's to the Heroes ... The No. 29 Budweiser Armed Forces Chevrolet that Kevin Harvick will race in Sunday's 600-mile event features a "stealth" flat-black paint scheme, complete with flat sponsor and contingency decals. The special scheme is a part of Budweiser's "Here's to the Heroes" campaign that benefits the Folds of Honor Foundation (FHF), which provides post-secondary educational scholarships for families of U.S. military personnel killed or disabled while serving their country. In addition to the No. 29 Budweiser Armed Forces Chevrolet, Budweiser is donating $100 for every home run hit during the 2011 Major League Baseball season to FHF. Budweiser is also donating a portion of all sales in the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July in an effort to raise as much as $2 million for FHF.
Last Time Around ... Harvick and RCR's No. 29 team started 23rd and finished 11th in last year's Coca-Cola 600.
Back to Double Duty ... In addition to competing in the No. 29 Budweiser Armed Forces Chevrolet this weekend, Harvick will drive the No. 33 Rheem Tankless Water Heaters Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTES:
How much do you have to adjust the race car throughout the race from afternoon to night and how easy is it to go the wrong way on adjustments? "You can definitely do it either way. You can make it better or you can dial yourself way out. I've been a part of that race several times where you start the race really good and by the time its dark you are in big trouble. So, you definitely have to have some past history as far as what the race track does and that's one reason why the All-Star Race was so important. Just for the fact that everything you do in that race is at night and the (Coca-Cola) 600 is going to end at night; you have to take what happens in the All-Star Race and then what you do in the day time practices and mix those two together. You also have to rely on a lot of past notes and things to try to have a setup that's adjustable. A lot of adjustments made during the race are out of past theories and past experiences. If your car is not doing something and it's getting dark rapidly, you are going to have to make a change on the fly without your car doing something. You are just going to have to trust it's the right change and just make it if the time is right as far as the sun going down and when the darkness is coming."
How big of a deal is that extra 66 laps in the 600? "I think, as a driver, you are mentally prepared and kind of just know how long a 500-mile or 400-mile race is, but I think the people who worry about it the most are the engine guys just because everything they do is set off of 500 miles, so they probably worry about it a lot more than we do."
This is the longest race of the year, mileage-wise. Does it feel that way? "You go into this race knowing it's an extra 100 miles, so it always just seems like it's longer. You start in broad daylight and end up with it being pitch black outside, so it just seems like you're in there all day. The race definitely feels longer to me."
This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway ... Jeff Burton will pilot chassis No. 359 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. This Caterpillar Impala will be put through its first paces of competition this weekend.
The Charlotte Report ... In 17 previous 600-milers, Burton boasts two wins (1999 and 2001), three top-five and six top-10 finishes. Over 34 career starts at the 1.5-mile tri oval, the 18-year veteran driver owns three victories, eight top-five and 15 top-10 efforts. At the same time, he has logged a 23rd-place starting average coupled with a 15.2 finishing average and has led 429 laps of competition.
Right Mix at CMS ... Since joining RCR in August 2004, Burton has run 13 races at CMS, garnering a 13.3 average finish on the strength of one win, three top fives and five top 10s. Over those 13 races, he has only finished outside the top 20 four times.
A Stat Looking to Break ... Burton currently owns an 88-race winless streak that he hopes to break in this weekend's 600 miler. 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.
Rear View Mirror ... After starting fifth, a tight-handling No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet coupled with bottlenecked restarts moved Burton and the Todd Berrier-led team to a ninth-place result in the annual Sprint Showdown held Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Meet the Driver ... On behalf of Chevrolet, Burton will participate in a question-and-answer session at Food Lion Speedstreets' Chevy Stage in downtown Charlotte on Friday, May 27 from 7 - 7:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. He will then move to the Coca-Cola stage from 8 - 9 p.m. EDT where he will answer questions from fans in attendance.
JEFF BURTON QUOTES:
Talk about how big of a deal it is for you to have won the (Coca-Cola) 600 twice in your career? "Well, to me, the (Coca-Cola) 600 is a big deal. I sat in the grandstands one time, it rained, the sun came out, it rained and the sun came out again. Cale Yarborough was leading the race and blew a motor late in the run, and every time I think about the (Coca-Cola) 600, that's what I think about. That was a long day sitting in the grandstands. For me, this race has a lot of meaning because I remember going to those races when I was younger and watching them. It's one of the most fun races we do all year. It's a long race. It's a tough race, but that's why it's fun."
What's the hardest part of the (Coca-Cola) 600? "A lot is talked about going from day to night, but I, personally, think that's overblown. I've won that race. Never before have I run horrible during the day and, all of a sudden, taken off and run well at night. I think you have to run well both during the day and at night. Most of the drivers who win run well during the day and the night. It's hard comparing day practices to a night race - there's no question about that. But, that's the same for everyone."
How do you feel about the extra 66 laps? "Well, it changes the game. A lot can happen in those 66 laps. You're looking at an extra pit stop. A plethora of things can happen - engine fatigue, part fatigue and driver fatigue."
Since winning in (October) 2008, the last few years have been tough for you guys. Do you know any reason why that is? "We've run well. We just haven't finished well. In 2009, we didn't run well at all. We struggled. The spring race last year, we ran really well. We just didn't finish well."
This Week's Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway ... Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 350 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new for the 2011 season, last saw action in April at Texas Motor Speedway when Bowyer led 44 laps en route to a runner-up finish.
Things always seem to happen to us at Charlotte.
Red and Yellow ... For the first time in five races, the familiar Cheerios/Hamburger Helper paint scheme will return to Bowyer's No. 33 Chevrolet.
Happy Birthday Clint ... The Emporia Kan., native turns 32 on Memorial Day (Monday, May 30).
Memorial Day BBQ ... On Friday, May 27 at 10:30 a.m., Bowyer will take part in the Coca-Cola Family Track Walk and Summer Celebration Cookout at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Walk will feature a Summer Celebration Cookout hosted by CMS and Coca-Cola with live entertainment, simulators and fun for the whole family. In support of their 'Live Positively' campaign, Coca-Cola is hosting a series of five Track Walks at NASCAR sanctioned tracks throughout the season. The purpose of the Walk is to encourage fans to get active by taking the first lap of the day on foot. Free food and plenty of ice-cold Coca-Cola will be available for all fans in attendance.
Speed Street ...While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes a day off from track activity on Friday, May 27, Bowyer and the No. 33 "Helping Hands" over-the-wall pit crew will be making appearances at Food Lion Speed Street in Uptown Charlotte, N.C. The No. 33 pit crew kicks off the autograph session at 3:30 p.m. followed by Bowyer at 5:00 p.m.
All-Star Night ... After starting from the front row, Bowyer and the No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet team finished 16th in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Points Racing ... Bowyer gained a spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings after a top-10 finish in the circuit's last points-paying event at Dover. He now sits eighth in points, 80 markers out of first.
CLINT BOWYER QUOTES:
You finished seventh last year in the Coca-Cola 600 and led some laps. Did you think you had a shot to win it? "Not really. We didn't have a car capable of winning, but we were gaining momentum at a track where we normally struggle at. We're a hit-or-miss team at Charlotte big time. That's a track where we can go lead some laps and have some time in the sun, or we can go there, be in the clouds all day long and never be able to see the light of day."
Do you consider Charlotte a bragging rights kind of track? "It is, but it's always been a tough difficult track for me to get a good finish at. I've had some hard hits there along with some bad runs and bad luck. Things always seem to happen to us at Charlotte. It's just not one of my good tracks. However, our cars are running well right now. Everything changes when your stuff is running well and you're going down a path where everyone's on board and comfortable. It doesn't matter what your history is at that track, if your cars are running well and you're on a roll, you can keep it going, no matter where you're at."
What is the hardest part about the 600 miles at Charlotte? "Oh man, you just need to keep getting track position and keep everything in good shape. Everything has to be good the entire night. Everyone has to hit their marks. Pit stops have to go well. Transitioning the setup into the night has to be smooth. Everything has to be good for such a long period of time."
Do you feel the extra 66 laps help at all? "Not really. It just depends on how your day is going. Now, if you're miserable and have already gotten into the fence or got into some sort of accident and you're running bad or a couple laps down, it's the longest 66 laps of your life. If not, it doesn't feel much different than any other race."