RCR Post Race Report -- Save Mart 350

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Monday, 25 June 2012 13:54
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Race Highlights:        
Richard Childress Racing teammates finished 11th (Jeff Burton), 16th (Kevin Harvick) and 20th (Paul Menard).
Harvick ranks sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, 64 points behind Matt Kenseth's lead, while Menard ranks 14th and Burton ranks 19th.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics, Burton made 67 green-flag passes during the annual road-course event at Sonoma.
Burton passed six competitors over the final 11 laps, ranking him third in the Closers category.
Burton took home NASCAR's official USG "Improving the Finish" Award by gaining 24 positions over the course of the 112-lap event.
Harvick ranked sixth in the Closer category, gaining four positions within the last 10 percent (11 laps) of the race. He was also the seventh-Fastest Driver Late in a Run with an average speed of 89.515 seconds and ranked 10th in Speed in Traffic (89.018 seconds).   
Menard made 68 Green-Flag Passes, ranking him 10th in the NASCAR Loop Data statistics category.
Menard ran as high as ninth and maintained a 20.018 average running position en route to a 20th-place finish in the Save Mart 350.
Clint Bowyer earned his first Sprint Cup Series win of the season and was followed to the finish line by Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers and Jimmy Johnson.
The next scheduled Sprint Cup Series race is the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, June 30. The race is scheduled to be televised live on TNT beginning at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Late-Race Spin Relegates Paul Menard and the No. 27 Moen/Menards Team to 20th-Place Finish at Sonoma
Paul Menard and the No. 27 Moen/Menards team battled for track position throughout the Save Mart 350, but it was a late-race spin that left them with a 20th-place finish at Sonoma. After starting the 16th points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the 2012 season from the 23rd position, the Eau Claire, Wis., native drove into the top 20 by lap 18. During the team's first two routine green-flag pit stops of the event, crew chief Slugger Labbe called for fresh Goodyear tires, air pressure adjustments and a spring rubber removed from the left rear in an effort to provide the No. 27 Chevrolet with additional grip. Following another pit stop on lap 83 for four tires and fuel while under caution, Menard reported that the car's handling was a lot looser during the ensuing run due to an increased fuel load but with the additional fuel, the team was able to complete the race without making another pit stop. The 2011 Brickyard 400 winner drove to the 17th position, but reported concern of a left-front tire going down. As he maneuvered through the turns, he slowed and the Menards Chevrolet was hit from behind and sent spinning in turn seven, bringing out the second and final caution on lap 108 to set the stage for a green-white-checkered finish. After visiting pit road one final time, the No. 27 Chevrolet was equipped with four new tires and Menard drove to a 20th-place result at Sonoma.
Start - 23             Finish - 20               Laps Led - 0                Points - 14
"We had a car capable of a better finish, but we battled track position all day with the long green-flag runs. You really need to unload well when qualifying is scheduled for Friday because after only one practice session we weren't quite there this week. The team worked hard during Saturday's practices and we learned a lot. I'm not sure what caused the tire to go down in those last laps, and I hate that the No. 27 Moen/Menards Chevrolet was spun and caused that last caution. We'll look ahead to Kentucky Speedway next weekend."

Kevin Harvick Finishes 16th at Sonoma
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem team settled for a 16th-place finish in the Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Sunday afternoon after running out of fuel during a mid-race run. The Bakersfield, Calif., native started the race from the 26th position and worked his way into the top 10 by lap 61. As the field was approaching a second round of green-flag pit stops just after the halfway point of the race, crew chief Shane Wilson instructed his driver to conserve fuel so the team would only need to make one more pit stop. Just as Harvick was about to drive to pit road, the Rheem Chevrolet ran out of fuel, causing the team to lose several positions on track as he made his way to pit road. After stopping for fuel, tires and an air pressure adjustment, the No, 29 Rheem Chevrolet returned to the track in the 27th position, one lap down to the leader. A lap-83 caution provided Harvick with the "Lucky Dog" Award, placing him back on the lead lap in the 23rd position for the lap-87 restart. Harvick battled to make up ground during the final runs of the scheduled 110-lap event, ultimately crossing the finish line in the 16th position. Harvick remains sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point championship standings, 64 points behind the leader.   
Start - 26                                          Finish - 16                                      Laps Led - 0                Points - 6
"This was not that day the Rheem team was hoping for. We had a top-10 car easily, but unfortunately didn't have the finish to show for it. It's really disappointing, but we will regroup this week and get back at it next weekend in Kentucky."

Burton Gains Two Positions in Driver Championship Point Standings with 11th-Place Finish at Sonoma
After starting deep in the field, Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet team persevered to an 11th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma. Burton started the scheduled 110-lap affair in the 35th position and immediately started his climb up the leaderboard, joining the top 25 by lap 15. After a long green-flag run, Burton radioed to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer that his Wheaties Chevrolet needed more rear grip, prompting the No. 31 pit crew to make air pressure adjustments during routine green-flag pit stops. Burton continued picking off competitors one at a time and eventually cracked the top 20 by lap 88. Over the last 11 laps, Burton gained six positions by avoiding trouble on wild restarts and a green-white-checkered finish to bring home the No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet in the 11th position. Burton gained two spots in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings and now sits 19th.
Start-35            Finish-11          Laps Led-0       Points-19
"I couldn't be happier with the effort from this Wheaties team. I messed up in qualifying and we had to start in the back, but these guys never gave up. To escape these crazy road-course restarts and bring home an 11th-place finish shows that this team is ready to turn the corner."

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Steven B. Wilson

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