Team owner Richard Childress has three victories, tying him with Robert Yates for third on the all-time car owner victories list at the Avondale, Ariz.-based facility. In 76 races at Phoenix International Raceway, RCR has earned three wins, including Kevin Harvick’s sweep of both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events in 2006. Prior to that, Dale Earnhardt won the Checker 500 on Nov. 4, 1990. The Welcome, N.C.-based organization collectively owns 14 top-five and 33 top-10 finishes.
Get to the Points … Following the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Harvick, who represents RCR in the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, is ranked 11th, 101 points out of the top spot. Menard currently sits 16th in the driver championship point standings, while Burton is ranked 19th.
Catch the Action … ESPN’s live coverage of the AdvoCare 500 begins Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Qualifying for the 35th points-paying event of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season will be broadcast live on SPEED Friday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. ET.
Paul Menard #27 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet
This Week’s Rheem/Menards Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 380 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s AdvoCare 500. This Chevrolet was last raced at Richmond International Raceway in September where Menard drove it to a 23rd-place finish. This chassis was also utilized at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July where Menard earned a 14th-place finish after starting from the eighth position.
Phoenix Facts … In his 11 previous starts at the one-mile raceway, Menard completed 99.3 percent of his laps (3,476 of 3,499). He owns an average starting position of 19.8 and an average finishing position of 23.7, with his best finish of ninth coming in the November 2011 event. His best start at the Avondale, Ariz. track came in April 2009 when the Eau Claire, Wis., native took the green flag in the seventh position.
By the Numbers in 2012 … With 34 points-paying events of the 2012 season complete, Menard sits 16th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings on the merit of one top-five and eight top-10 finishes. In his sophomore season with RCR, Menard has an average starting position of 16.4, an average finishing position of 15.8, maintains an Average Running Position of 17.692 and has completed 99.6 percent of his laps (9,820 of 9,856), ranking him second for laps completed among all drivers.
Race Rewind to 2011 … Menard recorded his best finish at Phoenix International Raceway taking the checkered flag in the ninth position in the 2011 Kobalt Tools 500 after starting from the 11th spot and battling a loose-handling condition throughout the event.
In the Rearview Mirror: Texas Motor Speedway … Menard started the 34th points-paying Sprint Cup Series event of the 2012 season from the 27th position and immediately reported a loose-handling condition on the neon yellow and green machine. The Slugger Labbe-led team took every possible opportunity to make aggressive air pressure and chassis adjustments to the Richard Childress Racing entry in hopes of improving the car’s balance. Menard continued to wrestle the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet around the 1.5-mile Fort Worth, Texas-based speedway, ultimately taking the checkered flag in the 27th position.
You finished 31st at Phoenix International Raceway in the spring. Can you talk about that race? “We ran well at Phoenix (International Raceway) last fall and we were on our way to a top-10 finish in March when three of us got together coming off of turn four and we wound up wrecking. I feel good about the track. We’ve run strong on the newly resurfaced tracks this year and last, and I feel good about it.”
What’s the maturing process of Phoenix International Raceway going through since it was repaved last year and how do you expect it to affect the racing this fall? “From when we tested out there (at Phoenix International Raceway) to when we went back to race it was a lot better. PIR had some racing school cars run on the surface which put more rubber down. Then it sat over the winter and when we came back in the spring it was better yet. I think that when we got back there this fall it will be even better after sitting through the 110-degree summer heat in Phoenix every day.”
A year ago you got your first top-10 finish at Phoenix International Raceway. What do you remember about that race? “I really don’t remember a lot about the fall race (at Phoenix International Raceway) last year. It was kind of an uneventful day, which is usually a good day.”
How deep are you into preparing for the 2013 season by the time we head to Phoenix International Raceway, which is the second-to-last race of the 2012 season? “We have a new car next year and that’s where a lot of our engineering focus is right now. The deeper we get into this year, less time will be spent on the 2012 cars and there will be more focus on the 2013 cars.”
Kevin Harvick #29 Budweiser Chevrolet
This Week’s Budweiser Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No.383 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in the AdvoCare 500. Harvick raced this chassis at Phoenix International Raceway in March and Dover International Speedway in June, collecting second-place finishes in both events. The Bakersfield, Calif., native also drove this Chevrolet to a 15th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway in August and to a 13th-place result at Dover in September.
Stating the Stats … Harvick will make his429th career Sprint Cup Series start and 20th appearance at the one-mile track. The 36-year-old driver swept both events in 2006 and has accumulated five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in his past performances. Harvick maintains a 19.1 average starting position coupled with a 13.5 average finishing position, has completed 99.6 percent (5,976 of 5,998) of the laps contested and is credited with 405 laps led.
Going for a Loop in the Grand Canyon State … Since the inception of NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics in 2006, Harvick has made 15 starts at the Avondale, Ariz.-based facility. The RCR driver is the third-Fastest Driver Early In a Run and is credited with 405 Laps Led, ranking him third amongst all competitors. Harvick has earned the fifth-best Average Running Position (11.497), is the fifth-Fastest on Restarts and has spent 3,460 Laps in the Top 15, ranking him fifth in the Loop Data category.
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup … Following the eighth Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event, Harvick remains in the 11th position, 101 markers behind the leader.
2011 Race Rewind … Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team finished 19th in the 2011 Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway after late-race pit strategy didn’t play out in their favor.
In the Rearview Mirror: Texas Motor Speedway … Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem team salvaged a ninth-place finish in the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday afternoon after battling handling issues for the majority of the Sprint Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway.
What were you able to learn from the March race at Phoenix International Raceway? “In the spring our car was faster on two tires than it was on four tires. Our weakness was the restarts and getting grip, but we were better on the restart with grip on two tires than we were with four. The track stayed pretty consistent, and for the first two races now with the new layout I think it’s put on pretty good shows.”
What are your thoughts on the Phoenix International Raceway after the repave? “They did a great job of getting the track (Phoenix International Raceway) prepared and I think both races we’ve run there so far were really good races. The race track really widened out as we went through the races, the groove widened out a lot. They took the fans into consideration, and everybody can see what’s going on around the race track. The track is very racy, as well.”
How is Phoenix International Raceway’s present layout different from the old configuration? “The entrance into turn one (at Phoenix International Raceway) reminds me of the old configuration. The center and the exit are a lot different just because of the banking. The back straightaway is the biggest difference just for the fact that it has a lot of banking and a-pretty sharp turn going into turn three. As we’ve run more laps there, I think everybody has gotten braver with using the apron, but turn three and four reminded me of the old race track the most.”
Jeff Burton #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
This Week’s No. 31 Chevrolet at Phoenix International Raceway … Jeff Burton will race Chassis No. 355 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 31 Chevrolet was utilized three times last season at Darlington Raceway (start-24th, finish-33rd), Kansas Speedway (start-16th, finish-25th) and Chicagoland Speedway (start-22nd, finish-15th). Its only appearance of the 2012 season came at the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May where Burton scored a top-10 finish (eighth) after posting a top-five qualifying effort.
Career Phoenix Stats … Sunday’s event marks Burton’s 27th start at the “The Desert Jewel” and 654th-career Sprint Cup Series entry. He has amassed two wins, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes and led 222 laps at the one-mile oval.
Getting Loopy in the Desert … Burton has garnered some impressive NASCAR Loop Data statistics at Phoenix International Raceway. He leads all active drivers with 778 Green Flag Passes and is fourth in Quality Passes (passing a car running in the top 15 under green-flag conditions) with 408 passes. He also has spent 2,907 Laps in the Top 15, ranking him 11th amongst his competitors.
No Stranger to Victory Lane … Burton has scored two victories at the one-mile desert oval, bringing home back-to-back trophies from Phoenix International Raceway in 2000 and 2001 and leading more than 100 laps in both events.
Rewind to Last Year … Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Global Mining team continued their late-season run of strong finishes with a fourth-place showing in the Kobalt Tools 500 at PIR.
Rewind to Last Week … Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team battled back to finish 19th at Texas Motor Speedway after untimely caution-flag periods trapped them multiple laps down to the leader.
Points Racing … After the 34th points-paying event of the 36-race Sprint Cup Series season, Burton has scored 827 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 2,964 Laps in the Top 15 and made 3,313 Green Flag Passes thus far this season.
Talk about how much you are looking forward to going back to Phoenix International Raceway. “Phoenix International Race has been a really good track for me. Every time I go there we run well and have been in position to win the race. We’ve even won it several times. It’s just been a good track. When we go there, I’m very comfortable and feel like we know what it takes to win.”