Richard Childress Racing teammates finished first (Kevin Harvick), ninth (Paul Menard) and 13th (Jeff Burton). Harvick ranks eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, 86 points shy of Brad Keselowski’s lead, while Menard sits 16th in the standings and Burton holds onto the 19th position. Kevin Harvick led 15 laps, the third-most of seven different drivers, en-route to his first victory of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Harvick broke a 44-race winless streak, crossing the finish line ahead of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman. The next scheduled Sprint Cup Series race is the Homestead 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 18. The 36th and final race of the 2012 season is scheduled to be televised live on ESPN beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on Motor Racing Network.
Menard and the Rheem/Menards Team Salvage Top-10 Finish at Phoenix International Raceway
Paul Menard drove the No. 27 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish in the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway despite being collected in a multi-car accident as the neon yellow machine took the checkered flag Sunday afternoon. Menard started the scheduled 312-lap event from the seventh position and immediately drove into the top five, where he remained for the first 166 laps of the race. Climbing to high as second, Menard reported that the car was handling well. During the lap-166 caution period, crew chief Slugger Labbe called the Eau Claire, Wis., native to pit road for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment in anticipation of track changes as the sun began to dip in the Arizona sky. With teams following varied pit strategies, Menard restarted from the seventh position and began to fall in the running order citing a tight-center and loose-exit handling condition. The Rheem/Menards team lost additional ground following a two-tire pit stop on lap 236 and subsequent four-tire pit stop on lap 273, as Menard continued to battle handling challenges and fell to the 19th position. Persevering through a number of restarts in the closing laps, Menard climbed to the 11th position before a lap-311 incident required NASCAR to display the red flag and set the stage for a green-white-checkered finish. In the final dash to the checkered flag, the 32-year-old driver gained two additional positions before crossing the finish line and simultaneously being collected in a multi-car accident that caused severe damage to the No. 27 Chevrolet. The ninth-place result tied Menard’s previous best finish at the one-mile Avondale, Ariz.-based race track.
Start – 7 Finish – 9 Laps Led – 0 Points – 16th
PAUL MENARD QUOTE: “We had a pretty solid Rheem/Menards Chevrolet throughout the first half of the race, but made the wrong decision on a couple of adjustments and lost track position. We were able to make it back into the top 10 before the checkered flag. It was a crazy end to the race. I’ll have to look at the replay to see what exactly happened, but I’m glad that everyone is ok. Thank you to the No. 27 team for a great car this weekend. We’ve been strong here the last three races and have made a lot of improvements.”
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Team Win Big at Phoenix International Raceway
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team captured their first victory of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season after starting from the 19th position and battling a tight-handling condition during the early laps of the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. After rolling off the starting grid from the 19th position, the Bakersfield, Calif., native maintained a position near the top 20 as he battled a tight-handling Chevrolet during the early portion of the scheduled 312-lap affair. The Gil Martin-led pit crew made adjustments to the black and red machine during scheduled pit stops on laps 18 and 53 to correct the handling issues that challenged Harvick. Following the lap-53 visit to pit road, Harvick returned to the track in the seventh spot. Martin continued to use pit strategy to improve track position, allowing Harvick to break into the top five following a two-tire pit stop on lap 168. As the final laps ticked away, the 36-year-old driver survived multiple caution periods and continued to work his way toward the front of the field, taking over the lead on lap 305. Harvick endured a green-white-checkered finish to capture his first victory of the 2012 season, ending a 44-race winless streak. The win moved Harvick up three positions in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, to eighth, 86 markers behind the leader.
Start – 19 Finish – 1 Laps Led – 15 Points – 8th
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE: “It was an interesting day to say the least, but Gil (Martin, crew chief) did a great job of keeping us in the track position game and made our car better all day. The further we got towards the front of the field, the better the car handled. The Budweiser crew made good adjustments today. At the end, we had a couple restarts and Kyle (Busch) chose the bottom line and we were able to drive around the topside of him and get control of the race and drive to Victory Lane. It was great to be back in Victory Lane and to have Keelan there for our first victory celebration as a family.”
Jeff Burton Finishes 13th at Phoenix International Raceway
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team finished 13th at Phoenix International Raceway after driving from the rear of the field in the AdvoCare 500. The No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team started from the 43rd position due to multiple accidents in Friday and Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions. Working his way into the top 25 by lap 40, Burton reported to crew chief Shane Wilson that his yellow and black machine handled tight in the middle of the 10-degree banked corners of the one-mile desert oval. After making adjustments on the first pit stop of the day to alleviate the tight-handling condition, Wilson played pit strategy on a lap-54 pit stop by calling for two Goodyear tires to be changed, placing the South Boston, Va., native in the top five. The Richard Childress Racing driver maintained a top-15 running position for the remainder of the race, wrestling the tight-handling Chevrolet before advancing to 13th position by the end of the 319-lap event which featured a wild green-white-checkered finish. With the top-15 effort, Burton remains 19th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Start – 33 Finish – 13 Laps Led – 0 Points – 19th
JEFF BURTON QUOTE: “Just a solid effort this entire weekend from this No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team. We wrecked two cars on Friday and Saturday and for these guys to come back and give this kind of effort was amazing.”