Monday, June 4, 2012
Sunday afternoon the 2012 FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway saw the Richard Childress Racing teams not having as many handling issues as in weeks past and even a little speed. Kevin Harvick's day went well, Jeff Burton's day went well until it went south, and Paul Menard...well, Menard didn't blow up, he didn't have any pit road issues, and he didn't crack the top 15.
Here's the rundown:
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Jimmy John's
Start - 6
Finish - 2
Laps Led - 0
Points Start - 7
Points Finish - 7
Finally, The Closer has come back to the racetrack.
Well, almost. Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Jimmy John's team scored their first top-five finish since Fontana in March, one of only three this season. At least he was in sight of the leader much of the race and had he not made a critical error in the pits, Harvick might have had something for the Hendrick boys. On Lap 225 he overshot his pit stall and restarted in 19th. "I was having trouble all day, the pit stall was on the corner and I was having trouble picking up my mark and I tried to get too much in between the timing lines there and just over shot the pit," he explained.
But by Lap 334 he'd worked his way back up to 6th, and by Lap 353 to second. The No. 29 just wasn't fast enough to catch the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson.
“Yeah, I’m just glad we had a Jimmy John’s Chevrolet that was capable of keeping up today. To be able to make up that much track position says a lot about the distance that we have made up on the cars," Harvick said. "We fixed a lot of problems, driver made the biggest mistake today. We fixed the pit crew, we fixed a lot of things and we are right on the verge of having enough speed to win races.”
Jeff Burton, No. 31 BB&T Chevrolet
Start - 15
Finish - 22
Laps Led - 0
Points Start - 17
Points Finish - 18
In Jeff Burton's own words, "Well, first of all, we had a good car today. The BB&T Chevrolet was fast. We had a solid top-10 car easy. And I thought on the long run, we had a top-5 car. So that’s the good thing."
Until it blew up, that is.
Burton qualified 15th, slid back a bit in the beginning but by Lap 93 worked his way back to 15th, then on up through the field. Just when the No. 31 BB&T made it into the top ten, the engine gave out on Lap 370, sending Burton to the garage with a 22nd place finish. This season NASCAR Sprint Cup racing hasn't been kind to guys named Jeff.
"I feel like we’re starting to get our big track program turned around. We’re getting some stuff in the cars. It feels good to me and it’s showing so that’s the main thing, " Burton stated. "We broke an engine here, but it just is what it is. The monkey is on us right now. It will get off one day but it seems like for the past year and a half or so, it’s been on us pretty hard. We’ll keep digging. I've never quit anything in my life and I won’t quit this.”
Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards / Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet
Start - 20
Finish - 17
Laps Led - 0
Points Start - 14
Points Finish - 15
Paul Menard's performance at the Monster Mile didn't distinguish itself from most of his other performances this season. He qualified middle of the pack, ran middle of the pack, and finished just barely above the middle of the pack in 17th.
On the plus side, that means he didn't have any major difficulties but on the minus side it means he dropped another spot in the points standings and at this point seems to have little hope of winning a race, much less earning the wild card spot in the Chase, much less make it in outright. Slugger Labbe and the No. 27 team works hard, but without much to show for it.