Richard Childress is tied for second place for number of car owner victories at Chicagoland Speedway with two wins out of the 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events. Kevin Harvick scored back-to-back wins for RCR in the 2001 and 2002 Tropicana 400. In 35 starts at the 1.5-mile suburban Chicago tri-oval, Richard Childress Racing teams have combined for eight top-five and 17 top-10 finishes with ten different drivers including Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Robby Gordon, Jeff Green, Harvick, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Steve Park and Mike Skinner.
Paul Menard #27 Libman/Menards Chevrolet
This Week’s Libman/Menards Chevrolet at Chicagoland Speedway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 371 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the GEICO 400. This Chevrolet was utilized as a No. 29 racer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July where RCR teammate Kevin Harvick drove it to a 13th-place finish, and was used in 2011 competition as the No. 33 entry at Texas Motor Speedway (November-finished ninth), Kansas Speedway (October-finished seventh) and Chicagoland Speedway (September-finished seventh).
By the Numbers in 2012 … With 26 points-paying events of the 2012 season complete, Menard sits 17th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings on the merit of seven top-10 and 15 top-15 finishes. In his sophomore season with RCR, Menard has an average starting position of 16.6, a 15th-place average finishing position, maintains an Average Running Position of 17.351, and has completed 99.7 percent of his laps (7,242 of 7,264), the fourth-best of all drivers.
Double Duty Weekend … In addition to his driving duties with RCR’s No. 27 team, Menard will drive the No. 33 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet in Saturday’s 300-mile NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland. The race will air live on ESPN beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Race Rewind … After inclement weather postponed the first race in the Chase for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup to the following day, Menard and the Zecol/Menards team started the GEICO 400 from the second position and were a mainstay in the top 10 until a fuel mileage gamble left the No. 27 Chevrolet one lap shy of the fuel needed to take the checkered flag under full power, forcing the team to coast to a 20th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.
In the Rearview Mirror: Richmond International Raceway … Menard and the No. 27 Moen/Menards Chevrolet team were plagued with handling issues throughout the 400-lap race that extended into the early Sunday morning hours under the lights of Richmond International Raceway, resulting in a 23rd-place finish.
You’ve qualified well recently at Chicagoland Speedway; what does it take to get around there fast? “There’s no trick to it. You need to bring a fast car to Chicagoland Speedway. You do the best you can during the week, and when you unload on Friday morning, you hope that what you did to prepare was the right thing.”
You finished in the 20th position in last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. What do you remember about that event? “I honestly don’t remember that much about the race. It was pretty uneventful. Since we were out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, we were going for wins in those final 10 races and we took a gamble on fuel mileage that cost us on the final lap.”
How much different is the racing at Chicagoland Speedway compared to its sister track, Kansas Speedway? “The groove at Chicagoland (Speedway) is a little wider right now than it has been in years past. It seems like it keeps getting wider. Kansas Speedway was recently repaved, so we don’t know how that will race now. The old Kansas and Chicagoland were very similar. There’s a little more banking and it’s a little faster at Chicagoland. The backstretch there is slightly curved, but it doesn’t affect the car a lot. You’re turning left, but you’re not turning left much. It’s still a straightaway.”
Kevin Harvick #29 Budweiser Chevrolet
This Week’s Budweiser Chevrolet at Chicagoland Speedway … Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 396 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s GEICO 400. Built new for competition during the 2012 season, this RCR racer was utilized by Austin Dillon at Michigan International Speedway where he captured a 24th-place finish in his lone 2012 Sprint Cup Series start and by Harvick at Pocono Raceway in August where he finished 14th.
Just the Stats … This weekend’s event at Chicagoland Speedway marks Harvick’s 421st career start in the Sprint Cup Series and 11th at the 1.5-mile track Since 2001, the 36-year-old driver has collected two wins (2001 and 2002), six top-five and seven top-10 finishes at Chicagoland Speedway. Harvick maintains a 17.4 average starting position, an average finishing position of 10.4, has completed 99.4 percent (2,923 of 2,940) of laps contested and is credited with 282 laps led.
Going for a Loop in the Windy City … Harvick has made seven Sprint Cup Series starts at the Joliet, Ill.-based facility since the inception of NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics in 2006. The Bakersfield, Calif., native ranks third in Speed in Traffic (167.657 mph) and Fastest Driver Late in a Run (167.206 mph). Harvick has spent 1,361 Laps in the Top 15 and averages a Green Flag Speed of 168.538 mph positioning him fourth in each category. The RCR driver has the fifth-fastest Average Running Position (11.246) and has earned a Driver Rating of 98.5 positioning him fifth amongst his fellow competitors.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Begins … Sunday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway kicks off the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick starts the Chase seeded ninth in the standings. He’s 12 points back from the top spot and just six markers out of the top five.
Chase Across America … As the top 12 drivers head to different markets this week as part of NASCAR’s “Chase Across America” program, Harvick will visit Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Tuesday, Sept. 11 to help promote next month’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500. After “Painting Talladega Pink” he will travel to Chicago where he and the other Chase for The Sprint Cup drivers will participate in media interviews and the NASCAR Contenders Live fan event on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at the Chicago House of Blues. Fans can purchase tickets to the event for $10, with proceeds benefiting the NASCAR Foundation. SPEED will air a special one-hour television broadcast of the event on Thursday, Sept.13 at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. For additional information, please visit NASCAR.com/ContendersLive.
The Last Time By … Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team earned a runner-up finish in the 2011, rain-delayed, GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway after starting the race from the 30th position.
In the Rearview Mirror: Richmond International Raceway … Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team brought home a 10th-place finish in the rain-delayed Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night. The Richard Childress Racing driver started the 400-lap event from the 13th position and alerted his crew he was battling a loose-handling condition as he traveled around the 0.75-mile race track during the early laps of the final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick worked his way to as high as the fourth position following a 51-minute mid-race rain delay, but continued to battle the loose-handling issue and ultimately crossed the finish line 10th.
Thirty years ago Anheuser-Busch launched the company’s first national responsible drinking campaign. What does it mean to you to carry the “Designate a Driver” message on your No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet at Chicagoland Speedway? “First of all I think it’s a privilege to drink a Budweiser and I think we all share the responsibility. I think Anheuser-Busch recognized that there’s a huge responsibility that comes with drinking. To carry the Designate a Driver scheme on the car at Chicagoland (Speedway), I look at it as something that sends a great message to the people in the grandstands and on TV to drink responsibly, because it is a privilege to drink. Anytime you are drinking you need to designate a driver and do it responsibly.”
How do you guys attack the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year? “We don’t have anything to lose. The last few years we’ve been expected to race for a championship. This year the expectations are low going in because of the mediocre year we’ve had. Even though we’ve had a mediocre year, we’re still here talking about being in the Chase and racing for a championship so I think that says a lot about the team and the organization, and just getting in there and making the most out of our days.”
What are your thoughts going into this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup? “It’s all about momentum. In this sport we’ve seen it and in other sports we’ve seen it. We saw it with Tony (Stewart) last year. We just don’t know. We don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. We’ve got to go race some races and I know I feel a lot better about where we are the last few weeks than I did three months ago.”
Are there any unknowns for you with tracks coming up that we’ve haven’t raced at this year? “Well, I feel like even though the year hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, at the beginning we ran decent. We ran well at Dover (International Speedway) and decent at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Charlotte (Motor Speedway). There are a lot of tracks in the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) that we have a pretty good notebook for. Hopefully when we apply some of the things that we feel like we needed to do different over the last few weeks, everything will keep clicking and we’ll keep moving forward. Everybody’s confidence is up right now and we know that things are getting back to the way they need to be.”
What is more important to you – consistency or wins? “You don’t know how this whole thing is going to play out. You don’t go in expecting to win five races and win the (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver) championship, so it’s one of those deals where it could be a Chase where someone does that again or it could be a Chase where someone goes and has top five finishes every week and doesn’t make a mistake and wins the championship. You’ve got to get into it and see how it all plays out.”
Jeff Burton #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet at Chicagoland Speedway … Jeff Burton will race Chassis No. 367 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable this weekend. This No. 31 Chevrolet has been utilized three times this season at Kansas Speedway in April (started-12th, finished-22nd), Pocono Raceway in June (started-20th, finished-15th) and Michigan International Speedway in August (started-32nd, finished-19th).
Career Chicago Stats … The GEICO 400 marks Burton’s 12th start at the 1.5-mile facility and 646th-career Sprint Cup Series entry. He has amassed one top-five and four top-10 finishes along with one pole award (2006) at the track while leading 60 laps.
Getting Loopy in the Windy City … Burton has garnered impressive NASCAR Loop Data statistics at Chicagoland Speedway since the inception of NASCAR Loop Data Statistics in 2006. Of all drivers entering the 400-mile event, he has the seventh-most Green Flag Passes (386), 140 Quality Passes (passes made while running in the top 15) and has spent 832 Laps in the Top 15.
Race Rewind: Top-10 Finish in Richmond … Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team persevered through the rain-delayed Sprint Cup Series race under the lights at Richmond International Raceway and brought home a sixth-place finish in the Federated Auto Parts 400.
Points Racing … Burton sits 19th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings. After 26 points-paying events of the 36-race Sprint Cup Series season, Burton has two top-five and five top-10 finishes. The veteran RCR driver has spent 2,528 laps running in the top 15 and has made 832 green-flag passes.
What are your thoughts on heading to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend? “Chicagoland Speedway is an up and down track for us. We’ve run well there, but never great. We’ve struggled at 1.5-mile tracks throughout the season, but have made gains and had a good run at Atlanta (Motor Speedway). We are definitely headed in the right direction. While it isn’t our best track, we need to go in this weekend and work on improving our 1.5-mile program.”
The No. 31 team’s 1.5-mile program has progressed over the course of the season. Why is that? “We are definitely starting to see a consistent improvement with our cars everywhere. It really started at Bristol (Motor Speedway and continued through Atlanta (Motor Speedway) and Richmond (International Raceway). We have put a lot emphasis on the program this year with testing. The rules packages continue to change and it definitely complicates the matter. We ran a certain rules package and NASCAR officials ended up changing it again. Trying to keep up with evolving rules is difficult. We didn’t know some of the things they were approving for other teams and didn’t realize they would allow teams to do that. It was so out of the box from what they normally do and we were shocked when they approved our setup when we submitted it. However, we are back to where we started because NASCAR stopped approving it for all teams. There are a lot of questions this late in the season on what is legal and what isn’t legal which is unusual. We are fighting that a little bit, but it is on us to make it happen.”