RCR Post Race Report — Auto Club Speedway
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
RACE: Auto Club 400
TRACK: Auto Club Speedway
Richard Childress Racing teammates finished fourth (Kevin Harvick), 19th (Paul Menard), 22nd (Jeff Burton) and 43rd (Brendan Gaughan). According to NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics, Harvick led the field in Quality Passes (passing a car running in the top 15 while under green-flag conditions) with 35 and was one of eight drivers who did not fall outside of the top 15 during the race. Harvick was the fourth-fastest driver in NASCAR’s Loop Data Category for Fastest Drivers Late in a Run. Menard tied for third in NASCAR’s Loop Data category for Closers, gaining four positions in the final 20 laps (10 percent) of the event. Menard ranked eighth among all drivers in NASCAR’s Loop Data category for Green Flag Passes, with 65 recorded. Burton made 72 green-flag passes during the 129-lap race, third-most in the 43-car field. The event at Auto Club Speedway served as Gaughan’s 41st-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his fourth of four races with the Welcome, N.C.-based organization. Tony Stewart scored the win in Sunday’s rain-shortened race at Auto Club Speedway. Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards completed the top five. The next Sprint Cup Series race is the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 1, televised live on FOX beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio beginning at 12 p.m. EST.
Paul Menard and the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards Team Earn 19th-Place Finish at Auto Club Speedway
Rain halted the Auto Club 400 early with Paul Menard and the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards team earning a 19th-place result at Auto Club Speedway. Starting from the 27th position, Menard battled track position and a loose-handling condition early in the event. Without caution periods to use pit strategy to their advantage, the Slugger Labbe-led team made chassis adjustments under green-flag pit stops and remained in the 23rd position for the majority of the race. Rain began to fall on lap 125, resulting in the only yellow flag of the day. After some discussion, the decision was made to remain on track while some teams chose to come to pit road for service. Four laps later, the red flag was displayed, requiring the drivers to bring their cars to pit road and shortly after, NASCAR officials declared the race complete. The 19th-place result placed Menard 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings. .
Start – 27 Finish – 19 Laps Led – 0 Points – 11
PAUL MENARD QUOTE:
“Unfortunately with starting 27th and not having a caution during the race, we just couldn’t gain any ground today. For some reason this track keeps us scratching our heads. At least we stayed out when the rain began to fall and gained a little to finish 19th.”
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Jimmy John’s Team Use Pit Strategy to Finish Fourth at Auto Club Speedway
Richard Childress Racing’s Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Jimmy John’s team ran strong throughout the Auto Club 400 and then used pit strategy to improve their position and earn a fourth-place finish in the rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway. With weather forecasts predicting rain on Sunday afternoon, Harvick and crew chief Shane Wilson made plans for a rain-shortened race long before ominous weather set in at the two-mile speedway. Starting from the seventh position in front of an estimated crowd of 90,000 people, Harvick battled various issues on the No. 29 Chevrolet throughout the race, including a lack of grip and difficulty on restarts with fresh tires. The Bakersfield, Calif. native was scored in the sixth position when the caution flag was displayed for rain at lap 123. With several teams opting to pit, the No. 29 team remained on the racetrack, moving up to fourth in the running order. Shortly thereafter, the red flag was displayed and the field was stopped on pit road. Following a short period and continued rain in the area, NASCAR officials declared the race complete and Harvick was credited with the fourth-place finish. He remains second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Start – 7 Finish – 4 Laps Led – 0 Points – 2
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTES:
“I think that was the right call at the end there, to stay out and not pit. It got us a fourth-place finish. Our biggest battle today was that the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet did not take off well at the beginning of a run and then we spent the rest of the time making up track position. Shane Wilson and the guys made changes on the car throughout the race and towards the end the handling was really good.”
Burton Earns 22nd-Place Finish in Rain-Shortened Auto Club 400
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team finished 22nd in the Auto Club 400 after NASCAR officials shortened the scheduled 200-lap event to 129 laps due to rain. The South Boston, Va. native started Sunday’s race in the 19th position and worked his way up to 13th by lap 50. After making a four-tire green-flag pit stop for chassis and air pressure adjustments to help gain rear grip on the machine, Burton maintained the 17th position before bringing his car down to pit road again to the attention of the CAT Racing team. The 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner remained in the top 20 before the caution flag was displayed at lap 125 for rain. Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer called the 44-year-old driver to pit road for another pit stop to improve the car’s handling in the corners and Burton returned to the track in the 22nd position. Persistent rain showers forced NASCAR officials to display the red flag five laps later and eventually declare the race complete 129 laps into the 200-lap event. Burton was credited with a 22nd-place finish and is now 15th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, just 13 points out of the final Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup spot.
Start – 19 Finish – 22 Laps Led – 0 Points – 15
JEFF BURTON QUOTE:
“The car was lacking rear grip all day in the corners and we also had to recover from some of the adjustments we made early in the event. We knew the rain was coming, but I didn’t think it was going to be heavy enough to cancel it.”
Early Exit for Brendan Gaughan at Auto Club Speedway
Brendan Gaughan finished 43rd in the Auto Club 400 on Sunday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway after the engine expired on the No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet. Gaughan and the No. 33 team utilized three practice sessions to work on the handling on the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet before the 200-lap affair Sunday. Qualifying the black and gold machine 37th, Gaughan took the green flag under grey skies and quickly reported a problem as he missed a shift at the start. The Las Vegas native radioed to crew chief Gil Martin that his Chevrolet had lost power, and he was coasting around the two-mile race track. Gaughan brought the No. 33 South Point Hotel & Casino race car to the attention of the pit crew to learn the engine had expired before lap one was completed.
Start – 37 Finish – 43 Laps Led – 0 Points – n/a
BRENDAN GAUGHAN QUOTE:
“I appreciate the opportunity Mr. Childress gave me. Unfortunately, I didn’t take advantage of it today. I made a mistake on the start and broke the motor. ECR makes phenomenal engines, but you can’t expect it to survive a missed shift and handle the high RPMs . I just have to stay focused on the rest of the opportunities that I have at RCR and make sure I take full advantage of them.”