Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In The Hunt with RCR: Sprint Cup at Pocono




In the wake of the tragedy following the Pennsylvania 400 Sunday afternoon, it almost seems profane to discuss who finished where and how they ran. The storms that abruptly ended the race provided a solemn reminder of just fragile life is by taking the life of one race fan and injuring nine others. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Brian Zimmerman, and my prayers are with those who are injured.

It's with deepest respect that I recap the RCR Cup teams performance.

Paul Menard, No. 27  Menards / Serta Chevrolet
Start - 3
Finish - 11 
Laps Led - 0
Points Start - 15
Points Finish - 16

Paul Menard hit the wall hard in Friday practice and the team pulled out a backup car. Crew chief Slugger Labbe said during a SiriusXM conversation that a radiator hose blew, causing the accident. He thanked NASCAR for safety innovations such as the SAFER Barrier, which he said was dented from the impact. The backup car was as good as the primary car, though, as evidenced by Menard's third-place qualifying effort. ""Having good stuff on the truck is key." Labbe said.

With such a good starting spot the team had high hopes for the day but those pesky handling issues reared their ugly heads again and Menard dropped out of the top ten by Lap 11. The crew worked hard and used creative pit strategy to try to get back to the front but time ran out when the rains came and ended the race.

“The No. 27 Serta/Menards team worked extremely hard this weekend. We pulled out the backup at the end of first practice on Friday after something broke and I hit the wall hard." Menard said. "We shook it out in final practice and qualified third, which is a tribute to how hard this team works and the equipment at RCR. We tried a slightly different pit strategy at the end of the race today (Sunday) and if the race had gone a little longer, we would have definitely been up there in the top 10."

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet
Start - 21
Finish - 16
Laps Led - 0
Points Start - 6
Points Finish - 9 

Kevin Harvick's weekend at Pocono Raceway differed from his previous few races only in the length of the race. As hard as crew chief Shane Wilson and the No. 29 Budweiser crew work, they just can't seem to get a car adjusted and running consistently well. Harvick started 21st with a loose car, Wilson called for adjustments and Harvick moved up to 14th. The car got tight, Wilson called for adjustments and Harvick stayed near the top 16. On the final restart before the red flag, NASCAR put Harvick in 17th, but Wilson and Richard Childress protested. Upon review, the restart order was changed and Harvick placed in 16th, which is where he ended because of the rain-shortened race.

Harvick slid three spots in the championship points standings to ninth.

 "This was not the result we were hoping for today." Harvick said. "Unfortunately we struggled all weekend to find the right setup for the Budweiser Chevrolet, but we fought hard and salvaged a 16th-place finish. We just ran out of laps before the storms hit.”


Jeff Burton, No. 31 EnerSys / Odyssey Battery Chevrolet
Start - 23
Finish - 22 
Laps Led - 0
Points Start - 20
Points Finish - 20 

Jeff Burton spent Saturday afternoon in the SPEED booth providing color commentary for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 125 after qualifying in 23rd place for the Pennsylvania 400. He had a much easier time on air than he did on track. With new sponsor EnerSys/ Odyssey Battery on board, the No. 31 team hoped to have a good finish, but alas, time ran out before Burton could work his way to the front.

“We hit on something with the adjustments early on with the EnerSys/ODYESSY Battery Chevrolet and thought we were going to be able to turn it into a good finish." Burton explained. "When weather is approaching everyone is trying to utilize different strategies or stretch fuel mileage to get up front and it makes it difficult to make up any ground. I thought we were going to be in a good position, but were caught up in the mess in turn one on that last restart. We’ll regroup head to Watkins Glen next week.”

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