Sunday, July 8, 2012

In The Hunt with RCR: Daytona






Breaking news: The RCR family has a new member: Keelan Paul Harvick, born Sunday, July 8. According to the proud father, both mother and baby are doing well. Congratulations to the Harvicks! 

Drama and Daytona go together like the Fourth of July and fireworks, and the July visit to the
 "World Center of Racing" didn't lack for drama in either the Sprint Cup or the Nationwide Series.

In the NNS, Austin Dillon's roller-coaster ride continued when his pole-winning qualifying time was disallowed because of  a loose cooling hose and the No. 3 had to start at the back of the field. However, as was the case in the Cup race, starting in the rear of the field proved almost to be an advantage at Daytona. Dillon survived a wreckfest to finish fourth, with Elliott Sadler just two spots behind. Sadler retains the points lead over Dillon, currently by four points but that could change on Monday when penalties are assessed for the No. 3 team.

The Sprint Cup race ran smoothly and caution-free until just after the halfway point, but tensions built lap by lap and 23 of the remaining 80 laps were run under caution, including the final one. Despite their previously vocal disdain for the tactic, Team RCR dropped to the back early to try to make it to the end in one piece.

Jeff Burton, No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet

Start - 20
Finish - 2 
Laps Led - 0 
Points Start - 20
Points Finish - 18

The drop-back strategy worked for Jeff Burton, who came home in second, his best finish of the season and only his second top five of 2012.  He reminded fans that he does still have incredible car-control skills when he kept the No 31 Wheaties Chevy from wrecking as Harvick pushed him toward the finish line. The tandems of Tony Stewart - Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth - Greg Biffle filled the track when suddenly Kahne and Stewart broke apart and Burton had to take evasive measures. In doing so he lost his drafting partner in Harvick. but the dodge allowed him to shoot through on the top side, avoiding the pileup.

"We've had a miserable year, and to come -- to get out of Daytona with a second place finish, we ought to be happy." Burton said in his first post-race visit to the media center this season. "We finished fifth here in the 500 and second tonight, so two top 5s down here is probably more than I can expect with all the wrecks and stuff. Hopefully it's something that'll kick start our year a little bit. It's been a difficult year, and hopefully we can build on this."

"It feels good to finish good here tonight, but my biggest concern is how we're going to go to New Hampshire and run and how we're going to use our off week to improve so we can go to Indy and run well and go to Michigan and run well. That's my largest concern."

Paul Menard, No. 27 Quaker State/Menards  Chevrolet

Start - 13
Finish - 14
Laps Led - 0 
Points Start - 13
Points Finish - 13

Slugger Labbe called a two-tire stop to get Paul Menard track position under the Lap 124 caution and he restarted in 11th and drove into the top ten. Unfortunately the No. 27 got caught up in the Lap 153 multi-car wreck, but was able to get back on the track after several pit stops under caution. When the "Big One" broke out, Menard picked his way through the wreckage to wind up in 14th. 

"It's frustrating to have to ride around in the back and wait until the end to drive to the front, but that's what we had to do to keep the temperatures on our Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet at a safe level," Menard stated. "The big wrecks happened with 10 laps to go, and we got caught up in the first one. Fortunately, the damage wasn't too bad and the guys on the No. 27 team did a great job making repairs on pit road. Luckily, that put us in the back for the restart and we stayed out of the last big mess to finish in the top 15."


Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet

Start - 11
Finish - 23
Laps Led - 0
Points Start - 6
Points Finish - 6

Despite having to fly wife DeLana home Saturday morning, Harvick focused on the race and managed to avoid trouble until the end of the race. By Lap 150 the No. 29 made it to the top ten, pushing the No. 31, but the two got separated. Moments later, the last-lap melee broke out and Harvick got caught in it. The Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevy wound up in 23rd for the night, but maintains his points position.

Kenny Wallace stood by in case Harvick needed to go to his wife, but Baby Otis, as Keelan's been called for months now, managed to wait until Sunday to make his debut.

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