Monday, June 18, 2012

In The Hunt with RCR: Michigan




Just another week of frustration for Team RCR. Some other teams started the Quicken Loans 400 unsatisfied with their handle on the last-minute tire change, yet they adjusted and ended up in the top five, such as race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. and second-place Tony Stewart. Then there were teams who didn't. The RCR group again fought all day and had varying degrees of success. The cars have shown some speed in the last two weeks, which is a relief, but handling issues continue to plague everyone. 

Kevin Harvick, No. 29  Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet
Start - 2               
Finish - 10
Laps Led - 0  
Points Start -  6
Points Finish - 6


Kevin Harvick qualified on the front row, so he knew he had a fast car but the change in tires and track conditions caused the old Two-Niner to be really loose. During the first competition caution Harvick had a part fall off the car that most viewers probably didn't know existed: the wheel dust cap, so they came back into the pits a second time to take tires and be sure the cap was tight, so he restarted 39th.

Harvick and his team, headed by crew chief Shane Wilson, worked to get the car right and Harvick managed to pull out a 10th-place finish.

"It wasn't a pretty day, but we'll take it. The Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet was just too loose all day long, but the crew worked hard and we were able to pull out a 10th-place finish."


Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
Start -  33
Finish - 21
Laps Led - 1
Points Start -  18
Points Finish - 20


Jeff Burton's No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy was loose in, loose off and plowed through the middle. They also had issue with tires blistering, which made for difficult handling. The car also suffered nose damage in the Lap 126 accident involving Joey Logano that also collected the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne and David Gilliland in the No. 38. Burton made two stops under caution to repair the damage and restarted in 19th, but just couldn't get the car handling well enough to get anywhere near the front. Under the final caution, Burton did stay out long enough to lead Lap 170 and get a bonus point, yet he fell two spots in the points to 20th. With the luck Burton's had this season so far, he'll be doing well to finish in the top 20 for the season.

 "This was a tough day for the No. 31 Caterpillar team,"Burton said. "We couldn't get the handling of the car where we wanted; it just kept getting tighter as the race went on. Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) and the entire crew worked hard today, I wish we had a better finish to show for it."


Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Duracell Chevrolet
Start -  18   
Finish - 22  
Laps Led - 0  
Points Start -  13
Points Finish - 14

Paul Menard's No. 27 Menards/Duracell Chevrolet stayed loose almost all day. Crew chief Slugger Labbe threw everything but the kitchen sink at the car but to little avail. Still, Menard hung in the top 15 until fuel conservation caused him to sacrifice track position and yet he still ran out of fuel and  took checkered flag on pit road.

“This certainly was an interesting weekend. We were definitely a lot looser on the new left-side tires that Goodyear brought us on Saturday morning, but we were on our way to a top-15 finish until we ran out of fuel. We’ll learn from what happened and move forward to Sonoma next weekend.”

Austin Dillon, No. 33  American Ethanol Chevrolet
Start -  22
Finish - 24 


Even Austin Dillon, making just his second Sprint Cup start, wasn't immune to bad luck. While the grandson of the team owner sat on the pole and came home fifth in Saturday's Nationwide race, in the Cup race he went a lap down early because a caution came out during green flag pits stops. Then his radio stopped working and that took an extra stop so he missed the wave-around. Still, at the end of the race his times were consistent with those of the top ten cars.

Dillon said, “We had a really strong  American Ethanol Chevrolet during the race today. Gil Martin did an awesome job knowing what I needed in the car as a rookie. He made the car tight enough at the beginning of the race for me. The radio in the car broke and it caused us to go one lap down. If it wasn’t for that, we would have had a chance at a top 15 finish.”

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