In 123 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Richard Childress Racing has earned three pole awards and nine wins, including Kevin Harvick’s emotional victory in the Cracker Barrel 500 on March 11, 2001. Dale Earnhardt won eight times at the Hampton, Ga.-based track under the RCR banner. Additionally, RCR boasts 28 top-five and 52 top-10 finishes at AMS and RCR-prepared Chevrolets have led 2,834 laps at the ultra-fast 1.54-mile oval. Richard Childress, a former driver on NASCAR’s senior circuit, recorded his best finish at AMS, ninth, in the Atlanta Journal 500 on Nov. 2, 1980.
Catch the Action … ESPN’s live coverage of the AdvoCare 500 begins Sunday, September 2 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Qualifying for the 25th points-paying event on the Sprint Cup Series will be broadcast live on SPEED on Friday, August 31 at 6 p.m. ET.
Paul Menard #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet
This Week’s Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 351 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the AdvoCare 500. This No. 27 Chevrolet will be used for the first time in 2012 competition at AMS. It has been utilized in numerous test sessions this year and was raced last season at Texas Motor Speedway (April – started 19th/finished fifth), Kansas Speedway (June – started ninth/finished 19th) and Dover International Speedway (October – started third/ finished 16th).
Slightly different colors on the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet in the Peach State … The No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet will sport a different look this weekend when the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Atlanta Motor Speedway, carrying a special paint scheme of “Quaker State green” and “Menards yellow.”
Back to the beginning for Menard at Atlanta … After making two starts in the Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen International (2003 and 2005), Menard made his oval track debut in NASCAR’s premier series at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2006. At that appearance, he started 22nd and finished an impressive seventh. In 10 total NSCS starts at Hampton, Ga.-based facility, he has one top-five and two top-10 finishes, completed 97.7 percent of the contested laps (3,200 of 3,275) and has led for two circuits. The Eau Claire, Wis., native has an average starting position of 26.6 coupled with a 21.6 average finishing position. His best start of 19th came in September 2010, and his best finish of fifth came in March of that same year.
By the Numbers in 2012 … With 24 points-paying events of the 2012 season complete, Menard sits 17th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, 72 points out of the final Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup spot on the merit of six top-10 and 14 top-15 finishes. In his sophomore season with RCR, Menard has an average starting position of 16.2, a 15th-place average finishing position, maintains an Average Running Position of 17.256, and has completed 99.7 percent of his laps (6,517 of 6,537), the fourth-best of all drivers.
Race Rewind … After persistent rain postponed the 2011 AdvoCare 500, Sprint Cup Series teams returned to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday morning for the 325-lap race. Menard and the Quaker State/Menards team started 22nd but battled track position, additional inclement weather and inconsistent track conditions to bring the No. 27 Chevrolet home in the 18th position.
In the Rearview Mirror: Bristol Motor Speedway … Menard started the No. 27 Schrock/Menards Chevrolet from the seventh position in the Saturday night Sprint Cup Series race under the lights of Bristol Motor Speedway and overcame a number of challenges to earn a top-10 finish in the IRWIN Tools Night Race.
You’ve finished as high as fifth at Atlanta Motor Speedway. How comfortable are you at that track? “Atlanta (Motor Speedway) is one of my favorite tracks. It races really well and it’s a lot of fun, especially with it being a night race now. The race track itself with the old pavement that is hard on tires makes it a lot of fun. It’s kind of a throw-back track that we all enjoy going to.”
You talk about how racey Atlanta Motor Speedway is. Is it better than most on the Sprint Cup Series schedule? “It’s probably the best right now. It used to be between Atlanta (Motor Speedway) and Michigan (International Speedway), but now I think it is hands down the raciest, which makes it a lot of fun. When tires drop off you have good races.”
Where do you feel the Richard Childress Racing intermediate speedway program is right now? “I think we are pretty even across the board with all the track sizes. We can run in the top 10 pretty much everywhere if we get everything right, but we need a little bit more in order to challenge for the wins. That’s where the gambling comes into play.”
You talked about the tires wearing down at Atlanta Motor Speedway. How do you go about finding the fastest way around the 1.5-mile track when that does happen? “That’s the hard part. You just have to go where your car wants to go. You’re always searching around for the best line for your car.”
Kevin Harvick #29 Rheem Chevrolet
This Week’s Rheem Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway … Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 378 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s AdvoCare 500. Harvick drove this Chevrolet at Kansas Speedway in April and Michigan International Speedway in June finishing sixth and 10th, respectively. This chassis was also used in competition twice during the 2011 season when Harvick captured a sixth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in October and a second-place finish Chicagoland Speedway in September.
Racing in Hotlanta … This weekend’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway marks Harvick’s 419th Sprint Cup Series career start. Throughout the last 11 seasons, the 36-year-old driver has made 21 starts at the 1.54-mile oval and collected one win (2001), four top-five and seven top-10 finishes. Harvick maintains an 18.5 average starting position, an average finishing position of 19.9, has completed 97.4 percent (6,600 or 6,773) of laps contested and is credited with 136 laps led.
Getting Loopy in the Peach State … Harvick has made 13 Sprint Cup Series starts at the Hampton, Ga.-based facility since the inception of NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics in 2006. The Bakersfield, Calif., native holds an average running position of 16.8 and has spent 2,099 laps running in the top 15. Harvick is the seventh-Fastest Driver Late In a Run (168.821 mph) and has made 762 Green Flag Passes positioning him 10th among his competitors.
Points Racing … With 24 point-paying events in the books, Harvick ranks ninth in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, 82 markers behind the leader. Harvick has collected three top-five and nine top-10 finishes thus far this season, completing 99.72 percent (6,364 of 6,347) of the laps contested.
Double Duty … In addition to competing in the AdvoCare 500 Sunday evening, Harvick will also drive RCR’s No. 33 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event Saturday night. The race is scheduled to air live on ESPN2 beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The Last Time By … After rain and strong storms delayed the start of the 2011 AdvoCare 500 for two days, Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet team took home a seventh-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, to lock in a top-10 position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
In the Rearview Mirror: Bristol Motor Speedway … Harvick drove Richard Childress Racing’s No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet to a 15th-place finish Saturday night in the IRWIN Tools Night Race under the lights of Bristol Motor Speedway.
Atlanta Motor Speedway has been a good track for you. Five of the last seven starts have resulted in a top-10 finish, including a runner-up finish. “Atlanta (Motor Speedway) has been a pretty good track for the Rheem team. We had a runner-up finish recently, where we dominated the race all day. It came down to a late-race restart and we lost it in the last five or six laps. We did a tire test at the track several years ago, found some things that worked from the driver side and it’s been a good track for us ever since.”
How crucial is it that Atlanta Motor Speedway is the last 1.5-mile track before the chase, and what kinds of things will your team look to learn? “You really can’t learn anything at Atlanta (Motor Speedway) because it is so worn out and so rough, it doesn’t really apply to anything that we do at any of the other race tracks. So it’s a lot different than most of the 1.5-mile tracks.”
What are the characteristics that make Atlanta Motor Speedway different than any of the other 1.5-mile tracks? “On new tires, Atlanta (Motor Speedway) carries a lot of speed all around the race track. You can get a lot of speed out of the tires for one or two laps, but after that the pace slows down as we go through a run. It’s definitely fast, but it slows down quite a bit as the tires wear out and you slide around and bounce all over the place.”
Jeff Burton #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
This Weekend’s No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway … Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 393 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s AdvoCare 500. This No. 31 Chevrolet, has been utilized three times this season at Auto Club Speedway in March (started-19th, finished-22nd), Darlington Raceway in May (started-10th, finished-18th) and Michigan International Speedway in June (started-33rd, finished-21st).
Career Atlanta Stats … This weekend’s 500-mile event marks Burton’s 35th start at the Hampton, Ga.-based facility and his 644th-career Sprint Cup Series entry. Burton has garnered eight top-five and 14 top-10 finishes at the track and led 104 laps at the 1.54-mile oval.
Getting Loopy in Hotlanta … Burton has accrued impressive NASCAR Loop Data Statistics at Atlanta Motor Speedway since its inception in 2006. Of all drivers entering the event, he has the seventh-most Green Flag Passes (806) with 368 coming while running in the top 15 and spent 2,624 laps running in the top 15 (10th-most).
Race Rewind: Bristol Motor Speedway … A multi-car accident on lap 192 collected Burton’s No. 31 CAT Global Mining Chevrolet in the IRWIN Tools Night Race and relegated the team to 33rd-place finish, spoiling a solid effort from the Richard Childress Racing driver under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend.
Points Racing … Burton sits 20th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings. After 24 points-paying events of the 36-race Sprint Cup Series season, Burton has two top-five and four top-10 finishes. The veteran RCR driver has spent 2,058 laps running in the top 15 and has made 2,263 green-flag passes.
Why do you think the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway is always a competitive race? “Atlanta Motor Speedway is so slick. It is the slickest race track in the world. It reminds me so much of the old Darlington Raceway. It’s just so rough and slick, an unbelievably difficult track. You would think that on those kinds of conditions that the racing would get away, but it doesn’t. There always seems to be good finishes there.”
Do you consider Atlanta Motor Speedway a fun track? Talk about how crazy it gets towards the end of a long green-flag run. “It is a huge challenge, but if you are running well, Atlanta Motor Speedway is a lot of fun. It is a handful. It’s not like Michigan (International Speedway) or Pocono Raceway where you are in the gas a lot. It’s a lot about car control and about having overall grip. Some guys can make really good speed at places like Pocono Charlotte (Motor Speedway) and Michigan, but they have trouble at Atlanta. We’ve lost a lot of slick tracks due to repaving projects so this track definitely gets us back into that.”
This is the second year that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will only go to Atlanta Motor Speedway once a season. Is that starting to feel normal? “I’m comfortable going there once. For me personally, I liked going there twice a year because it is close to home and easy to get to. As an overall sport, it looks like it makes sense to go there once a year now. Honestly, the attendance was down and having only one race has increased attendance and enthusiasm. There are several places I think we should reconsider going to twice a season. If you can’t pack the fans in for two races a year, you get one taken away.”