Monday, March 19, 2012

In The Hunt with RCR: Week Four- It's Bristol, Baby Otis!



The Richard Childress Racing teams performed well in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday, with all teams finishing the race relatively intact. Jeff Burton finished best of the four drivers ending up in sixth. Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick finished in 10th and 11th, part-timer Brendan Gaughan in 22nd. Those solid finishes translated to a good points day with all three of the full-time teams heading to California sitting in the top 11 in driver points.

Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/
Getty Images for NASCAR
 
Jeff Burton No. 31 BB&T Chevrolet Impala     
Intro song "Ring of Fire"
Started: 33rd
Finished: 6th 
11th in points

Jeff Burton knows his way around the track at Bristol. Sunday was his 37th start at the .533 mile track. He won the 2008 Food City 500 and looked as if he could challenge for the win this week, but he complained of losing grip in the rear tires on long green-flag runs. The 2012 Food City 500 had plenty of green-flag laps with only 5 cautions for a total of 49 laps.

Burton ran as high as third in the BB & T Chevy after working his way up from 31st. His solid finish moved him up four spots to 11th overall.

Burton said, “I really couldn’t be any more proud of the guys working on this BB&T Chevrolet. We qualified poorly on Friday and worked hard to get the car where it needed to be for a top-five run today. It just shows how important track position really is at a place like Bristol.”

Photo by Geoff Burke/
Getty Images for NASCAR
 
Paul Menard No. 27 Moen/Menards Chevrolet Impala 
Intro song: "Paranoid"
Started 11th
Finished 10th
10th in points


Popular Twitter pundit @nascarcasm ‏neatly summed up the No. 27’s season so far: “Paul Menard is a ninja - he has 3 top-10 finishes and is top-10 in points...and yet he's done it so quietly that no one has noticed. #nascar

Starting in 11th position, the Eau Claire, Wisconsin native didn’t vary by many positions throughout the 500 laps in Thunder Valley. Crew Chief Slugger Labbe “called an audible” as they say and went with a two-tire stop rather than take four with 129 to go, holding on to valuable track position. The No. 27 didn’t pose any real challenge to the race leaders, but he did manage to hold position despite wearing down the right rear in the last segment. After the race, Labbe told Menard, “I love it, you’re out of breath, you drove your ass off out there.” Childress himself chimed in, “Good job Slugger, we’re going to get one of these things soon.”

Menard's take: “Track position was everything today. We stayed out of trouble for 500 laps, but struggled to make it out of the top-15. The Moen/Menards team did a great job in the pits today, too. The last pit stop moved us into the top 10 and I thought we had enough to get into the top five, but the car tightened up a lot at the very end. Still, a top 10 is a solid finish, especially in the points.”
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR 
Kevin Harvick,  No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet Impala 
Intro song: ""Save Water Drink Beer'"
Started 14th
Finished 11th
2nd in points 

It may have been Bristol, baby, but Kevin Harvick must have brought some luck with him from Vegas. It took nine pit stops to get the Budweiser Chevy back into race trim after being unable to avoid the pileup on Lap 24, but Kevin Harvick steadily worked his way back up to an 11th place finish—his second in a row, and his second week in a row in second place in the points.

Harvick tweeted after the race, “Lucky on the first wreck because I never really saw it... Boys did a great great [job] piecing it all back together for an 11th. Can't complain.” Wife DeLana observed during the race (via Twitter, of course): Biggest issue was nose had a big gaping gash in it, 29 guys did a great job."

And at the end, the ever-entertaining Mrs. Harvick tweeted, "@DeLanaHarvick And that folks is how the 29 team makes chicken salad outta chicken s**t... Solid 11th place for finish! Great recovery!!!! #OneGoal"

Harvick's official quote: "All in all, I think we had a fairly decent day considering all the damage. We hung onto the lead lap all day and finished 11th. I think everybody did a good job and I've just got to thank everybody on my No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team for fixing the car up and doing the best we could with a wrecked car."

Brendan Gaughan No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Impala
Intro song "The Theme from the Godfather"
Started 32nd
Finished 22nd
34th in points
Credit: Todd Warshaw/
Getty Images for NASCAR

In his next-to-last race for RCR, and only his fourth Cup race since 2004, Brendan Gaughan almost managed to avoid most of the pitfalls that are part and parcel of short-track racing. Starting back in 32, he improved to run as high as 7th, staying in the top 15 for 79 laps. However, on Lap 478, Gaughan hit Tony Stewart and though the television broadcast didn’t cover the incident in detail, Gaughan took to Twitter post-race to explain.

@BrendanGaughan62: Had some good things happen today, my best driver rating yet & stayed out of trouble until the end. Brakes went to the floor,” He went on to mention that he’d talked to Stewart and explained, saying that Stewart knew something must have happened to precipitate the contact. Gaughan tweeted, “Starting to feel better in the Cup car, got one more chance at it next week Appreciate the guys from @StewartHaasRcng gotta lot of old friends there and bummed we cost them a top 10, but glad we were able to finish”

“I hate that our day ended that way. We lost our front brakes there toward the end of the race and got into the No. 14 car, which I hate for their team.," Gaughan said. "We had a good day on track and in the pits. Thanks to Gil (Martin), Richard Childress and the entire No. 33 team. I’m looking forward to heading to Fontana next week for our last race on the schedule in the No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. “

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