RCR Race Preview: Auto Club Speedway

Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway… Richard Childress Racing has made 93 overall NASCAR Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway, tallying one win – a thrilling victory by Kevin Harvick in 2011. RCR has earned three pole awards at the California track, led by Austin Dillon (2016 and 2019) and Mike Skinner (2000), along with 12 top-five and 30 top-10 finishes. 


Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Auto Club Speedway… In 62 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the 2.0-mile speedway, RCR has captured two victories with drivers Jeff Burton (2007) and Austin Dillon (2016) and won five pole positions (Kevin Harvick – 2003, Clint Bowyer – 2005, 2006, Burton – 2008, Tyler Reddick – 2019). The Welcome, N.C., based organization has racked up 20 top-five and 38 top-10 finishes. 


Catch the Action… The NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway will be televised live Saturday, Feb. 25 beginning at 5 p.m. ET on FS1 and will be broadcast live on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.


The NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 will be televised live Sunday, Feb. 26 beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and will be broadcast live on the MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

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Austin Dillon and the No. 3 Dow Coatings Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Auto Club Speedway… Austin Dillon has eight previous NASCAR Cup Series starts to his credit at Auto Club Speedway, earning back-to-back top-10 finishes in 2018 and 2019. He is a two-time pole award winner at the 2.0-mile track (2016 and 2019). Last February, Dillon started 16th and finished second at the California speedway.


Dow brings a science and engineering crew who is driven by limitless curiosity to the RCR Team… Dillon and the RCR team are again supported by Dow’s materials science expertise and technologies this season. Backed by the power of data analysis and virtual modeling, Dow develops and manufactures high-performance components and materials custom-made for the No. 3 car. Dow and RCR’s partnership have expedited innovation and shortened testing time in the automotive industry by recreating in the lab one of the most extreme environments – the racetrack. After 10 years of collaboration, Dow scientists and RCR engineers are continuing to work together to make the No. 3 car faster, safer, and more precise. Stay up to date with Dow’s exciting developments at www.dow.com/sports and follow us on Twitter @DowSports.


Welcome, Dow Coating Materials… Dow Coating Materials is the most innovative coatings raw material supplier in the world, driving fundamental shifts in the coatings industry and moving the market as the expert’s expert in coatings solutions. Through its mission of collaboration, inspiration, innovation, and growth, the business provides material products, science, technology, and manufacturing solutions to the architectural and industrial coatings industry worldwide. Dow Coating Materials manufacturing and R&D footprint spans across all major geographic markets where Dow does business. For more information, please visit https://www.dow.com/en-us/industries/consumer/paints-and-coatings. 


Double-Duty Dillon… Dillon returns to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, piloting the No. 10 Chevrolet Camaro SS for Kauliq Racing on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway. The 2013 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion has five previous starts in the series at the 2.0-mile oval, capturing one win in 2016 and four top-five finishes.



What are your thoughts on racing at Auto Club Speedway?

“I enjoy the West Coast swing and can’t wait to kick it off at Auto Club Speedway. It gives us the chance to see where we’re at compared to the competition because the tracks are so different. We get three completely different tracks with a big, two-mile oval at Auto Club Speedway, a traditional 1.5-mile speedway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and a short track at Phoenix Raceway. Because the tracks are so different, the West Coast swing gives us a chance to really evaluate our overall program and see how we compare it to the competition. Last year at Auto Club Speedway, we finished second in the Dow Coatings Chevrolet, and my teammate also had a strong run and led a lot of laps. I’m hoping we can add one spot to that on Sunday and get the trophy. Auto Club Speedway is a fun place to race. There’s a lot you can do with that track with the multiple lanes you can race. Kyle Busch is good there and he will bring something to the table this weekend to help RCR as a whole.”


Describe the racing at Auto Club Speedway.

“Tire wear is the biggest part. You’re running all the way against the fence, and all the way against the bottom. There’s a good mixture. You have to have speed at the beginning of a run and then hold it for a long run. If you can’t take off, you get beat on the restarts and if you can’t hold on, they’re going to lap you at the end of a run. You have to have a good balance between the short and the long run. If you can do that, you’ll be pretty good. We’ve done pretty well in the past there, including a second-place finish last year. I love the track and feel pretty good about it. The fans are amazing at Auto Club Speedway. Actually, the fans are amazing at all of the races during this West Coast stretch so I’m looking forward to getting out there.”


Where does Auto Club Speedway rank for you among the West Coast swing races?

“I think my favorites now are between Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway. I like Phoenix Raceway, too, but between Vegas and Fontana it’s a tight race.”


Kyle Busch and the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Auto Club Speedway… Kyle Busch has four NASCAR Cup Series wins in 23 starts at Auto Club Speedway, most recently visiting Victory Lane in 2019. He also scored back-to-back victories at the track in 2013 and 2014. Busch earned his first Cup Series victory at the Fontana, Calif., facility in 2005 when he rallied from a 25th-place starting position to lead a race-high 95 laps and hold off Greg Biffle in NASCAR Overtime. Busch won his first-career NASCAR Cup Series pole position at Auto Club Speedway in 2005 in his eighth career start. He also has six NASCAR Xfinity Series victories and two NASCAR Truck Series victories at the 2.0-mile speedway.     


Lucas Oil’s Role as a Technical and Development Powerhouse in Motorsports at RCR and ECR… Lucas Oil has contributed first-hand to the many on-track successes of one of NASCAR’s legendary race teams since 2014. Lucas Oil’s resources and expertise, including R&D, technical development and support, have provided a competitive on-track advantage that has equated to RCR’s more than 20 trips to Victory Lane over the past decade. All RCR NASCAR Cup and ECR engines rely on the best performance motor oil in NASCAR: a direct result of joint research and development. The same success that Lucas Oil and RCR/ECR have found at the highest levels of motorsports, has been successfully transferred to grassroots racing efforts throughout the country. And all team operations rely on the full line of Lucas Slick Mist appearance products – from metal polish to speed wax and detailers – to keep all types of vehicles looking their best. To learn more about Lucas Oil, visit lucasoil.com.



This will be the final race on the superspeedway configuration at Auto Club Speedway. How special would it be to win this race?

“I love Auto Club Speedway. I’ve known it as California Speedway for a long, long time. I obviously love the layout. I like the two-mile oval. I think it’s unique. I think it’s special. I would certainly love to win the last one on the big track. That would be awesome. I was the last one to win on the Bristol surface before they redid it in 2008.” 


You won your first Cup race and pole at Auto Club Speedway. What about that track has suited your driving style so well?

“I think Auto Club Speedway has been a really good track for me over the years because I like the track. I like going out there, I like the west coast, it’s a fun track. It’s a driver’s track. You can really move around. There’s five lanes and you can run all of them but one of my favorite lines to run is obviously up against the wall, that fifth lane. It’s a really cool track to be able to do that and you’re always trying to set yourself as fast as you can right up against the wall as close as you can and that’s where you get to make your most time. It’s really a fun track for the drivers.”


Why does the worn out pavement at Auto Club Speedway make for such good racing?

“A worn-out surface is fun for drivers because you get a chance to work the track and find different grooves and lines that your car will work in. You can change the balance of your car, and make it tighter or looser by moving in different grooves and going higher in the turns or coming off lower in the turns. It’s a guessing game, really. Sometimes where your car will work best changes throughout the run, whether it’s the beginning of the run you run low and at the end of the run you run high. That’s typical. Sometimes I’ve been fast or been able to be fast right up along the wall or in lane four right off the get-go on new tires.”


Sheldon Creed and the No. 2 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Camaro SS at Auto Club Speedway… Sheldon Creed has one career NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Auto Club Speedway, coming last season behind the wheel of the No. 2 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet. After starting from the ninth position, Creed was involved in an accident with just a handful of laps to go, relegating the rookie driver to a 32nd-place finish.


California Kid… Creed, a native of Alpine, California, is returning to his home state this weekend. Outside of San Diego, Alpine, California is less than two hours away from Auto Club Speedway.


Meet Creed… On Saturday, February 25 at 11:45 a.m. ET, Creed is scheduled to sign autographs at the RCR Merchandise Trailer located in the Fan Zone at Auto Club Speedway. Stop by to meet the California native and purchase new gear. This appearance is weather permitting.


About Whelen Engineering… Whelen Engineering is a family-owned company with a pioneering spirit and a passion to protect the lives of those who protect and serve others. The company mission is to provide industry-defining safety solutions around the world, while creating a community of problem-solvers who are inspired to push boundaries and continue our legacy of delivering ground-breaking innovation. As a global leader in the emergency warning industry, Whelen has been trusted to perform since 1952, when George Whelen III invented the first rotating aviation beacon. Whelen now encompasses two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Connecticut and New Hampshire with over 750,000 square feet of engineering and manufacturing space and the largest design staff in the industry. Every part of every Whelen product is proudly designed and manufactured in America. We embrace quality as our foundation, we celebrate innovative engineering in every product we produce.



Describe your thoughts heading into Auto Club Speedway.

“The forecast isn’t looking great, but I’m excited to get back to California. It’s my home track, growing up about an hour and a half south of Fontana. The track itself is fun to drive at and running the high line really fits my driving style. I have a lot of confidence in our car and team after the test in Charlotte with how the car drove there. Hopefully, we have gained on that some already after Daytona and can go have a good run in our Whelen Engineering Chevrolet.”


What are your expectations for the race? Where do you expect to run and make speed?

“We are going to run high, but I think you’re going to run right up against the fence. Especially now with less rear grip, you are going to need to run right up against the fence early in runs. You’re probably going to be tight to start runs to be good. I think our No. 2 team has a good balance in the simulator, so we will see how it translates.”


Austin Hill and the No. 21 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet Camaro SS at Auto Club Speedway… Austin Hill has made two career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Auto Club Speedway, earning a best finish of 16th in 2020 with Hattori Enterprises. Last season while piloting the No. 21 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, Hill qualified in the eighth position and was involved in a multi-car accident in the early stages of the event.


Back-to-Back Winner at Daytona… After earning the pole, leading 39 laps, and capturing the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway last week, Hill is now the back-to-back victor of the season opening event in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. With the win, the Winston, Ga. native has successfully locked himself into the Playoffs for the second time in as many years.


Meet Hill… On Saturday, February 25 at 11:30 a.m. ET, Hill is scheduled to sign autographs at the RCR Merchandise Trailer located in the Fan Zone at Auto Club Speedway. Stop by to meet the three-time Xfinity Series race winner and purchase new gear. This appearance is weather permitting.


About Bennett Family of Companies… McDonough-Ga. based Bennett Family of Companies is a woman-owned, Women’s Enterprise Business Council (WBENC) certified, diversified transportation and logistics company. Through its 14 affiliated operating companies, the Bennett Family of Companies delivers integrated transportation and supply chain management solutions worldwide. Bennett has 4,625 drivers/owner-operators, over 1,000 employees and 600 agents located across the United States. For more information, visit www.bennettig.com.



The result doesn’t show the full story of your race last season at Auto Club Speedway. What is your outlook into the race?

“Last year, our qualifying effort was decent, but it was really the first time that I had qualified an Xfinity car at a place like Fontana. Then on lap one or two in the race, I was getting pushed down the frontstretch and ended up in the fence. We had a lot of right front damage to our Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet and could never get back on the lead lap, but we finished the race. We actually had really good speed, but with the damage, we couldn’t bounce back from being multiple laps down. Going into this year, I actually feel really good about California. The style of racing and the character that the surface itself has creates a lot of tire fall off of roughly two seconds from the start of the run to the end of the run, which plays into my advantage. As long as we are there at the end, we will have a shot at it.”


Tracks like Auto Club Speedway demand drivers to run the high line. Does that come naturally to you?

“The one area that I have to work on as a driver this season is running the fence and feeling confident about it. If I run one car width off the wall, I feel fine. But if I run right up against the wall, there is the fine line of creating speed and getting in the fence. I felt like I did a good job of it in Homestead at the end of last season, but that is something that I have to build the confidence and trust in myself on to put it right on the edge, on the wall to make the best lap time.”


Will the new rules package change the racing at Auto Club Speedway?

“I definitely think the new rear end package will show up more at Fontana than it did in Daytona. It showed some differences in Daytona, but it’s still superspeedway racing at the end of the day. When we get to Fontana, the one thing that all drivers will probably looking at is how the car feels running against the wall – will you be able to run the wall and lean on the right rear or will you have to do different things to create speed through the corner? From the Charlotte test, we learned that the car is tighter on entry just naturally because of the skew. But when you get across the center of the corner, both Sheldon Creed and I struggled with rear lateral grip and slipped the right rear tire easy. That is going to show up at a place like Fontana and any other mile and a half we go to. We will have to work on that in practice to determine how much we can lean on the right rear before overstepping the boundary.”


You find yourself in the same position as last year with being locked into the playoffs after week one. What are the goals for the rest of the regular season?

“The one thing that I didn’t focus on last year was remaining aggressive to win stages and earn as many points as possible. I personally want to focus on being aggressive to get stage wins and run up front. Last season, myself, Andy Street and our team were still trying to figure each other out to see what I liked and disliked and how I needed to communicate to get the right adjustments. With a full season under our belt and being in the same position again, from when we arrive in Fontana to when the checkered flag falls, we will have more trust in each other and that will continue to build throughout the season. If we can stack up the stage wins, that will pay dividends when we get into the playoffs. Especially when you look at the fact that we missed the final round by just a couple of points.”