In 128 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Richard Childress Racing teams have earned six points-paying victories. Four wins were claimed by Dale Earnhardt, while Jeff Burton added to that total with a win in the October 2008 race and, most recently, Kevin Harvick took home the trophy in one of NASCAR’s marquee events – the Coca-Cola 600 – in May 2011. Harvick also recorded an impressive win in the 2007 Sprint All-Star Race to go along with Earnhardt’s three victories in the annual all-star showcase, giving RCR 10 total Sprint Cup Series checkered flags at CMS. Additionally, RCR boasts 20 top-five and 42 top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile track with seven different drivers including Clint Bowyer, Burton, Earnhardt, Harvick, Ricky Rudd and Mike Skinner. Richard Childress, a former driver on NASCAR’s senior circuit, contributed two of those top-10 finishes from 1978-1979. The Welcome, N.C.-based organization has led a combined 1,112 laps at the Charlotte facility.
Paul Menard #27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet
This Week’s Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 351 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Charlotte 500. This Chevrolet was last raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September, where Menard started 18th and finished eighth. This chassis was also 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).
By the Numbers at CMS … In his 10 previous starts at the Concord, N.C.-based facility, Menard has completed 94.7 percent of his laps (3,318 of 3,502). He has an average starting position of 22.8 and an average finishing position of 23.7. Menard made his best Sprint Cup Series start of fifth at the 1.5-mile speedway during the October 2010 event and claimed his best finish of eighth in May of that same year.
By the Numbers in 2012 … With 30 points-paying events of the 2012 season complete, Menard sits 16th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings on the merit of seven top-10 and 17 top-15 finishes. In his sophomore season with RCR, Menard has an average starting position of 16.1, an average finishing position of 15.6, maintains an Average Running Position of 17.141 and has completed 99.7 percent of his laps (8,393 of 8,419), the fourth-best of all drivers.
Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3 … Menard and the No. 27 team are scheduled to test at Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 9 – 10. They will utilize chassis No. 402 from the RCR stable, a newly-built 2013 Chevrolet. The Eau Claire, Wis., native will answer questions from members of the press during a NASCAR media availability following the Tuesday session.
Race Rewind … Menard started the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet from the seventh position in the 2011 Sprint Cup Series fall race under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and finished 17th despite getting caught laps down to the leader with ill-timed caution periods falling immediately after green-flag pit stops.
In the Rearview Mirror: Talladega Superspeedway … Menard and the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards team were relegated to a 28th-place finish in Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 after getting caught up in the “Big One” on the final lap of the race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Is Charlotte Motor Speedway starting to get racy like Atlanta Motor Speedway? “The Charlotte (Motor Speedway) surface is still in really good shape. It has a lot of grip and the tire compound we use there is still hard. The groove does open up and you can run all over the place now. Last year we saw guys qualify against the wall. It all depends on how your car is handling, but you can move around a lot.”
You finished 15th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. Can you remember how you performed and what you can do to make it even better this time? “We’ve hit on a lot of things since then. The Coca-Cola 600 seems like a long time ago and there’s been a lot of development in the race car. We’ll pretty much look at what we did at Charlotte (Motor Speedway) in May and throw it out the window because the cars are totally different right now.”
How do you feel about the No. 27 team’s 1.5 program? “We feel pretty good about our 1.5-mile program. We’ve had some of our best runs at 1.5-mile race tracks and Charlotte (Motor Speedway) has been a good track for us.”
With Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Chevrolet team in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, how can you help him as his Richard Childress Racing teammate? “We don’t really change the way we’ve worked together all year. We share information like always. It’s not like we’re testing anything for them and they’re not trying anything out of the box, either. We just go about our business the same way as we have.”
What is unique about Charlotte Motor Speedway? How do you make a fast lap there? “Turns one and two (at Charlotte Motor Speedway) are different from turns three and four. The angles are different and the banking feels different. You have to be able to get back on the gas early and hard when you exit the turns in order to get around there fast. There’s a lot of grip and the tires are usually hard, so the key is getting the car to point off of the corners and get on the throttle hard.”
Kevin Harvick # 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet
This Week’s Jimmy John’s Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway … Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No.404 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the Charlotte 500. Built new for competition in 2012, this Chevrolet will make its first competitive laps this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Statistically Speaking … This weekend’s event at Charlotte Motor Speedway marks Harvick’s 425th career start in the Sprint Cup Series and 24th at the 1.5-mile track. Since 2001, the 36-year-old driver has collected one win (2011 Coca-Cola 600), two top-five and seven top-10 finishes. The Bakersfield, Calif., native maintains an average starting position of 19.3 coupled with an average finishing position of 18.1. Harvick has completed 7,953 of 8,184 (97.2 percent) of the laps contested and is credited with six laps led.
Getting Loopy in CLT … Since the inception of NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics in 2006, Harvick has made 15 Sprint Cup Series starts at the Concord, N.C.-based facility. The RCR driver has advanced an average of 1.7 spots during the last 10 percent of laps ranking him second in the Closers category. Harvick has also completed 1,153 Green Flag Passes positioning him sixth amongst all competitors.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup … Following the fourth Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Talladega Superspeedway, Harvick sits 10th in the standings, 49 markers behind the leader.
Double Duty … In addition to competing in the Charlotte 500 Saturday evening, Harvick will also drive RCR’s No. 33 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 Friday night. The race is scheduled to air live on ESPN beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and will be broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The Last Time By … Harvick and the No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet team avoided trouble in the 2011 Charlotte 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and brought home a sixth-place finish to maintain the second position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings.
In the Rearview Mirror: Talladega Superspeedway … Harvick drove Richard Childress Racing’s No. 29 Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish in the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 after being involved in a final-lap incident at Talladega Superspeedway.
What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway? “Charlotte (Motor Speedway) is a track where we haven’t excelled performance-wise in the past. We won the May race there last season, but overall I just never had a great feel for that track. There is nothing wrong with the surface or the shape of the track; we just haven’t gotten the consistent results we would have liked there.”
Compare the difference of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in fall to the spring. “The main difference is the temperature change. Once night falls during the October race, Charlotte (Motor Speedway) becomes completely different than what we practice on during the day. You can bet on the fact that the track will be really fast as the temperature drops and we’ll gain a lot of grip.”
You’ve made it known before that Charlotte Motor Speedway isn’t one of your favorite tracks. What is it that you don’t like about the track? “It has nothing to do with the facility or the people or anything like that. Charlotte (Motor Speedway) is just a place that’s been tough for me to totally understand the feel that I need in the car to make it go fast and be competitive. We’ve continued to make improvements in our performance each time we go back and have collected some decent finishes, including our 2011 Coca-Cola 600 win.”
Jeff Burton #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
This Week’s No. 31 Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway … Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 359 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This No. 31 Chevrolet has been utilized twice during the 2012 NSCS season at Bristol Motor Speedway in March where Burton piloted the RCR machine to a top-10 finish (sixth-place) and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where a broken brake rotor late in the race relegating the team to a 32nd-place finish.
Career Charlotte Stats … This weekend’s event marks Burton’s 38th start at the 1.5-mile facility and his 649th-career Sprint Cup Series entry. Burton notched his last Sprint Cup Series victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October 2008. Throughout the years, he has amassed three wins, eight top-five and 15 top-10 finishes at the track, leading 435 laps.
No Stranger to Victory Lane … Burton has made six previous visits to Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane across Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series competition. He owns two Coca-Cola 600 race trophies from wins in 1999 and 2001, the 2008 Charlotte 500 race trophy, hardware from three Nationwide Series victories (2000, 2002 and 2007) and one Nationwide Series pole award (2001).
Getting Loopy in “the heart of NASCAR” … Burton has garnered impressive NASCAR Loop Data statistics at Charlotte Motor Speedway since its inception in 2006. Of all drivers entering the 500-mile event, he has the fifth-most Green Flag Passes (1,166) with 546 coming while running in the top 15 (Quality Passes). Burton has spent 2,888 Laps in the Top 15, which ranks him 10th amongst his competitors. He also has the 10th-best Average Running Position (15.363) and an 84.4 Driver Rating at the Concord, N.C.-based facility.
Race Rewind: Talladega Superspeedway … Burton survived a multi-car accident on the final turn of the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 and piloted a battered No. 31 DriveCAT.com Chevrolet to a top-10 finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega Superspeedway.
Points Racing … After 30 points-paying events of the 36-race Sprint Cup Series season, Burton has scored 748 points and sits in the 19th position in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings. The veteran RCR driver has two top-five and six top-10 finishes, has spent 2,789 laps running in the top 15 and made 3,050 green-flag passes thus far this season.
Has Charlotte Motor Speedway become racier since the repave in 2005? “The October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last year was so fast that it became a one-groove race track. The temperatures were so cold and the tires made so much grip that you couldn’t run anywhere except for the bottom groove. That, to me, was a real surprise and we didn’t see it in either of the May races. Sometimes you go to Charlotte and have tons of grip and sometimes you don’t. To me, it hasn’t become as racy as it was before the repave. It is getting closer, but it still hasn’t come back yet.”
How did the No. 31 team finish in the Sprint Showdown and Coca-Cola 600 in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway? “Charlotte Motor Speedway is a place where we have gone and run well in the past, but at this year’s Sprint Showdown and Coca-Cola 600 we just didn’t perform well. I get really frustrated when we don’t run well at Charlotte. I love that race track and normally run well there. It is somewhere we need to run well every time we go there.”
How do you get better at Charlotte Motor Speedway? “Over the last two weeks, we’ve done an extreme amount of testing and feel like we understand a lot more about why we haven’t run well at places like Charlotte Motor Speedway. We’ll see if all that works.”
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