Tag:Jeff Burton
Posted on: January 25, 2012 8:46 pm

RCR No. 33 set for first five Cup races

By Pete Pistone

WELCOME, N.C. - Richard Childress Racing will run a fourth Sprint Cup entry in the first five races of the 2012 season beginning with Elliott Sadler behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevy in the Daytona 500.

RCR announced its plans to run the fourth car in addition to the full-time three car driver lineup of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard during Wednesday's visit to the team's headquarters as part of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.

Sadler will pilot the car, which earned guaranteed spots in the opening five races of the year thanks to former RCR driver Clint Bowyer's Top 35 points finish a year ago, in the biggest race of the year at Daytona.

"To say it's a dream come true is not saying enough," said Sadler, who will run a full Nationwide Series program for the team. "When Richard (Childress) called me into his office and asked if I wasnted to drive in the Daytona 500 I wanted to hug him."

Brendan Gaughan, who will split time in RCR's Nationwide and Caping World Truck Series programs in 2012, will take over the No. 33 Sprint Cup ride for the next four races after Daytona.

"I can't thank Richard enough," said Gaughan. "Yeh, I'd say it's a dream come true to go through some of what I've dealt with in my racing career and wind up at a place like RCR."

Harvick also announced during the night's presentation that his wife Delana was fourteen weeks pregnant with the couple's first child.

Burton cracked after the announcement "Who's the father?"

Ah teammates.

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 3:01 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 4:10 pm

2011 Team Review/Preview: RCR

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Harvick scored four victories in 2011 but came up short again in his bid for a Sprint Cup championship)


The 2011 season didn’t go exactly as Richard Childress Racing had hoped.

After Kevin Harvick came close to winning the 2010 Sprint Cup championship, RCR was poised to make a string run at the title in the following campaign.

But despite enjoying six overall trips to victory lane, the Childress camp came up short of its goals for the season.

Only Harvick made the Chase of the four RCR drivers and although he won four times he finished third in the point standings for a second straight campaign. 

We want to race for a championship,” Harvick said.  “With the performance we had through the year, it was a decent season.  But we need to make things better for next year as we move through the winter.” 

Harvick’s early season success helped solidify his reputation as “The Closer” as he won two races with dramatic late lap moves. 

He passed Jimmie Johnson on the last lap for the lead and the win at Auto Club Speedway in March and then capitalized on others running out of fuel on the final lap to win May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

However despite winning for the fourth time in the regular season finale at Richmond to secure the second seed in the Chase, Harvick was not able to mount a charge for the championship and wound up 58 points behind eventual champ Tony Stewart. 

Harvick’s three other teammates failed to qualify for the playoffs but did have some success of their own during the course of the season. 

Paul Menard scored his first career Sprint Cup Series victory with a dramatic win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The dramatic win ended a long quest by the Menard family to win at the famed track including father John’s days as an Indy Car team owner.

“1989 I think was my first year here,” Menard said after the win. “I spent 14, 15 years in a row just hanging out in the infield being a fan. In 2007, I got to race here. It was definitely the highlight of my career up until that point. Here we are in victory lane. It's unbelievable.”

Menard was in the hunt for a Chase wild card berth but missed the playoff race despite his best career Cup season that included a seventeenth place finish in the standings.

Clint Bowyer ended his tenure at RCR missing out on the Chase but was able to finish the year with a strong run behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet.

Bowyer picked up a checkered flag at October’s Talladega race narrowly edging out teammate Jeff Burton for the victory.

“He worked so well with me all day long,” Bowyer said of Burton. “You hate that it comes down to that. It is what it is. You owe it to your team, to your sponsors to go out and win the race.”

Bowyer ended up 13<sup>th</sup> in the final standings.

Burton struggled in the first half of the year until team owner Childress inserted Luke Lambert as interim crew chief to replace long-time RCR employee Todd Berrier.

He finished a disappointing 20<sup>th</sup> in the standings but a series of Top 10 runs to end the year has Burton feeling better about the future.

“The performance this year was not up to par but our string of Top 10 finishes toward the end of the season is a promising feeling going into next season," he said.


It will be a new-look RCR squad heading into 2012 starting with a contraction of race teams.

Childress will field a three-car stable for the new campaign with Bowyer departing for Michael Waltrip Racing and the No. 33 ride shut down due to the lack of sponsorship.

While disappointed he wasn’t able to find funding to keep the car on the track in a full-time capacity, Childress is still bullish on his team’s strength for the coming season.

"Right now we're looking at three Cup cars…," said Childress, who may field a fourth entry in a handful of races for grandson and truck champion Austin Dillon. "Who knows what may come up between now and then. I've had offers to race people and race drivers and had another full sponsorship with a driver.

"I just want to make sure it's the right move when we make it. So we're still as of right now, we're three Cup teams."

Harvick returns to the No. 29 Chevrolet but with a new crew chief after Gil Martin was replaced by Shane Wilson.

Harvick and Wilson have a long history of working together dating back to their Nationwide Series success which both feel will be beneficial to improving the performance of the Cup effort this season.

"Shane is a good friend of mine, and we had a lot of success together in the NASCAR Nationwide Series," Harvick said. "He has a lot of experience now in the Sprint Cup Series, and I look forward to working with him again."

Menard’s team returns intact with veteran crew chief Slugger Labbe calling the shots. Last year’s success and first win has the former Daytona 50 winner feeling good about what lies ahead in season number two with RCR’s No. 27 Chevy.

“Paul and I have worked together now for a number of years,” said Labbe of the time the duo spent at Richard Petty Motorsports before migrating to RCR. “Our relationship is solid and we understand one another better than ever which is a key. We have a solid race team behind us and know what we accomplished last season was only the beginning for this group.”

Finally Burton comes back in the Caterpillar No. 31 ride with yet another new crew chief in Drew Blickensderfer, who worked with David Ragan at Roush Fenway Racing last season.

The highly-touted crew chief and veteran driver Burton both believe they can continue the progress the team made at the tail-end of last season to have a much better 2012.

“We're putting ourselves in position to have fast enough race cars, and have the right group assembled,” Burton said of his team. “I feel like we're in that process as far as getting back to where we can be competitive, and putting ourselves in position to win races. It doesn't happen overnight. But yeah, I do feel like we're building that."


Sizing down to three cars isn’t the worst thing for RCR, which will be able to concentrate its efforts in a more focused matter. But with two of the trio sporting new driver-crew chief combos, there may be some initial growing pains. Equipment-wise RCR is one of the sport’s powerhouses and its engine program was again stellar last season. Horsepower won’t be an issue again in 2012. Better consistency in the Chase for Harvick and whether Burton can bounce back while Menard continues to improve will be the main questions around RCR in the coming season.


For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed 

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 11:12 am

2012 Sprint Cup Series crew chief changes

By Pete Pistone

Teams have been changing crew chiefs at a record pace and the line-up for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season already has a very different look to it.

You can keep up with this regularly-updated chart outlining changes as they are announced:

Joe Gibbs Racing – No. 20 Toyota (Joey Logano)

In: Jason Ratcliff gets the call to take over crew chief duties for Joey Logano who enters the 2012 season on the heels of a disappointing year. Ratcliff has had great success in the JGR Nationwide program and has helped guide both Logano and Kyle Busch to multiple victories. He now gets a shot at the Cup series as management promotes from within rather than go outside the organization.

Out: Greg Zipadelli was granted his release and now rejoins Tony Stewart this time as Director of Competition with Stewart-Haas Racing. Zippy was never able to get Logano to the next level of his career despite enjoying tremendous success while serving as Stewart’s crew chief during their time together at JGR. He still had one year left on his contract but rather than keep spinning its wheels, the team decided to allow Zipadelli to leave and give the 20 team a fresh start.

Our Take: Logano enters next season as a make or break year and it was clear he and Zipadelli weren’t on the same page. A new voice in Ratcliff from atop the war wagon can’t hurt but the duo will have their work cut out trying to rebound from a disastrous effort in 2011.

Joe Gibbs Racing – No. 11 Toyota (Denny Hamlin)

In: Darian Grubb didn’t waste any time in finding employment after he parted ways with Stewart-Haas Racing and Tony Stewart’s championship-winning No. 14 team. Rather than return to his roots at Hendrick Motorsports in an engineering role that was offered, Grubb will climb back up on the pit box to call the shots for Hamlin. 

Out: Mike Ford went from eight victories and a whisker of the Sprint Cup champion in 2010 to the unemployment line the following season. When the wheels came off Hamlin’s title run in the second to last race of the year in Phoenix, the No. 11 team was never quite the same and suffered through a miserable follow up campaign. 

Our Take: Grubb has the talent and in a very short crew chief career has scored wins with Jimmie Johnson, including a Daytona 500 victory, and taken a Sprint Cup championship with Stewart. Now he faces the challenge of trying to get Hamlin back to the force he was in 2010 while also dealing with the many issues that plagued JGR’s engine program last season. Grubb will be up for the test but will have his work cut out for him.

Stewart-Haas Racing – No. 14 Chevrolet (Tony Stewart)

In: Steve Addington punched his ticket out of Penske Racing days after the season ended to take the opportunity to work with Stewart on the championship-winning team. Addington has had a successful career despite dealing with the talented and emotional Busch brothers – Kyle, when he was at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kurt last season at Penske. Stewart is also known for his emotions but Addington is well-equipped to deal with it after his recent at-times tumultuous experiences with the Busch boys.

Out: Grubb couldn’t save his job even after helping Stewart win five races in the Chase and the title. The decision to go in a different direction was made well before Stewart eventually won the championship in Homestead and despite the success there was no turning back in the parting of ways. 

Our Take: Addington and Stewart have a relationship from both their days at Gibbs as well as their early short track careers. They’ve remained friends over the years and share a similar connection that should clock together as driver-crew chief pretty quickly. The tools and resources are there for Addington to pick right up where Grubb left off.

Penske Racing – No. 22 Dodge (A.J. Allmendinger)

In: Todd Gordon gets the call from Roger Penske to move over from the team’s successful Nationwide Series program, where he led the No. 22 Dodge to six wins a year ago, to the Sprint Cup effort. Like his counterpart at the Penske No. 2 entry Paul Wolfe, Gordon will get a chance to prove himself after working his way up through the organization. 

Out: Addington was admirable in the way he dealt with the turmoil around the team last year and Busch’s well-publicized emotional outbursts. Despite the controversy, Addington and Busch did win two races and make the Chase proving at times to be a formidable pairing.

Our Take: Gordon is a bright talent and will work well knowing the ins and outs of the “Penske Way.” Now that Allmendinger has been named driver the two can begin working on chemistry and their relationship. Both are young and will more than likely benefit from a fresh start and perspective. The duo take over a ride that won twice last year and made the Chase so expectations will be high and a good start to the season will go a long way in helping build confidence with the entire team.


Richard Childress Racing – No. 29 Chevrolet (Kevin Harvick)

In: Shane Wilson comes back to work with Harvick as the duo team up again in their careers. The two won the Nationwide Series together in 2006. Wilson most recently was Clint Bowyer’s crew chief at RCR and after moving into another role inside the team now gets another shot to work in NASCAR’s top division this time with Harvick. 

Out: Gil Martin was able to get Harvick to victory lane multiple times in the last two seasons and made the Chase, nearly winning all the marbles in 2010. But things soured internally with the team last season and Harvick voiced his concerns to team owner Childress who decided to pull the plug on Martin, who will stay with the organization but move into a management role for the time being. 

Our Take: Harvick can be prickly to work with and Martin may have found out the hard way. Wilson has the advantage of previously working with Harvick and tasting success in the Nationwide title run. Pit road miscues doomed the No. 29 team many times last year and that will need to be eradicated by Wilson in a hurry if Harvick is to return to championship contention.


Richard Childress Racing – No. 31 Chevrolet (Jeff Burton)

In: Drew Blickensderfer comes to RCR from Roush Fenway Racing, where he had spent his entire NASCAR career. Blickensderfer was a valuable commodity to Roush in both its Nationwide and Sprint Cup programs, most recently working as crew chief for Matt Kenseth and then David Ragan.

Out: Luke Lambert was the interim crew chief for Burton after Todd Berrier was released around mid-season. Lambert and Burton did begin to make significant progress down the stretch of the schedule with several top ten runs to their credit and a near victory at Talladega in October.

Our Take: Blickensderfer is a hot commodity and brings a great deal of enthusiasm to the job. He clicked very well with the relatively young Ragan at RFR, a partnership that resulted in a July Daytona win, but now teams up with the seasoned veteran presence of Burton. It’s an intriguing pair that might be one of the surprises in the coming campaign.


Michael Waltrip Racing – No. 15 Toyota (Clint Bowyer)

In: Brian Pattie got shuffled out of the crew chief role for Juan Pablo Montoya about mid-season in favor of Jim Pohlman. Pattie remained inside Earnhardt Ganassi Racing for the balance of the year but jumped at an opportunity to crew chief once again when Waltrip’s team expanded to three cars and brought Bowyer into the fold. 

Out: Pattie steps in to fill the crew chief position for the brand new No. 15 entry. 

Our Take: When Pattie methodically guided Montoya into the 2009 Chase with a carefully calculated regular season game plan he turned a lot of heads in the garage and many applauded his talent. Things didn’t go too well in the two follow-up efforts but Pattie is still regarded as a forward-thinking crew chief who has a chance to make an even bigger name for himself if he can get Bowyer into the Chase in year one.

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing – No. 42 Chevrolet (Juan Pablo Montoya)

In: Chris Heroy brings his engineering background to the crew chief position replacing the Brian Pattie/Jim Pohlman combo that split duties for the team last year. 

Out: Team owner Chip Ganassi made it pretty clear he wasn’t going to go into 2012 with the same lineup that was so disappointing last season so moving Pohlman out of the spot didn’t come as much of a surprise. 

Our Take: Heroy is an unknown commodity and steps into a difficult job of trying to right the ship. The entire EGR team including Montoya’s teammate Jamie McMurray endured a miserable season it will take a huge effort all the way around to get back to being competitive on a regular basis.


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Posted on: November 28, 2011 5:14 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 5:51 pm

Blickensderfer named Jeff Burton's crew chief

Posted by Pete Pistone


From News Release

Richard Childress Racing has named Drew Blickensderfer as the crew chief for the No. 31 Caterpillar/Wheaties Racing team with driver Jeff Burton for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. 

Luke Lambert, interim crew chief during the latter part of the 2011 season for the No. 31 team, will assume a yet-to-be announced new position at RCR. 

Blickensderfer begins his RCR career after nearly a decade with Roush Fenway Racing. He spent the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season leading the No. 6 team and has been a crew chief, in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, since 2007. 

"I'm excited about the move to RCR and the opportunity to help lead Jeff Burton and the Cat/Wheaties Racing team back into Chase contention," said Blickensderfer. "I was around Jeff briefly at RFR and always admired and liked him. He's a very talented driver and I look forward to working him and the rest of the No. 31 team in 2012." 

Burton qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from 2006-2008 and 2010. He finished 20th in the final 2011 driver championship point standings. 

"Drew is a strong leader and will be a great complement to the Caterpillar/Wheaties Racing team," said Childress. "He's won some big races, including the 2009 Daytona 500, his first race as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief. There's every reason to believe the combination of Jeff and Drew will be a successful one." 

Richard "Slugger" Labbe will remain as the crew chief for the No. 27 Menards Racing team in 2012. It was announced previously that crew chief Shane Wilson will crew chief the No. 29 Budweiser/Rheem/Jimmy John's team for driver Kevin Harvick. Gil Martin, the No. 29 team crew chief since May 2009 and a crew chief at RCR since August 2000, has been named director of team operations.

Further personnel changes within RCR's competition department will be announced in the coming weeks.

 For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:01 pm

Jeff Burton leads opening Phoenix practice

By Pete Pistone


AVONDALE, Ariz. - Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton topped Friday's opening Sprint Cup Series practice for the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Burton turned a lap of 140.067 mph to pace the session.

Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman were the top five.

Championship contenders Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart did not have particularly good practices. While Stewart was elevent fastest Edwards was mired back at thirty fourth.

Sprint Cup drivers will have a second practice session later on Friday afternoon.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 7:49 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 7:58 pm

Burton, Blaney, Edwards post Talladega comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

JEFF BURTON:  Well, I don't know whether to be excited or upset.  After the year we've had, it's good to be in position to win a race.  Obviously Clint and I worked really well together the whole race.  Had some good luck along the way.  Whenever you leave here not wrecked, you ought to be happy.  At the same time I'm heartbroke we didn't win the race.  It would have been a big deal for us to get a win, would have been a great deal to Caterpillar, all our supporters.          

Having said all that, I don't know what I would have done different.  Clint and I finished first and second in one of the Duel races in Daytona.  I won that one.  It was really close.  Then honestly I thought he made his move a little too early.  I kind of gave him the bottom because you tend to be able to pull them back better.  He made his move really early.           

I thought I'd be able to pull back to him.  He had a lot of momentum when he made the move.  His car was a little quicker throughout the day, that's why we ended up with him pushing me.  When I was pushing him, we weren't as good together.           

Nonetheless, it was a good finish for us.  Again, I'd be interested in watching the replay, see what I could have done different.  These races, it's really hard to hold that guy off when he's coming.  We've seen that every time.  I thought I did what I needed to give myself a shot to win and at the end of the day it didn't work out.           

KERRY THARP:  We'll take questions for Jeff Burton.            

Q.  Jeff, you and Clint seemed to take the strategy of, Let's go ahead and run up front as much as we can today, while so many other tandems laid way back.  Did you expect to see them sooner or later?  Were you surprised not to see some of the Chasers who had been laying back?           

JEFF BURTON:  I thought they waited too long.  That next to last caution came out I thought that saved them.  I thought that gave them a chance.           

Having said that, that's all in retrospect.  I wasn't thinking during the race, They're waiting too long.  When that caution came out, Clint and I were where we wanted to be to win the race.  I didn't think any of those guys were going to be a factor.  You're always looking at what's coming behind you.          

At the end of the day, that strategy didn't work today.  I've seen it work.  It worked here in the spring.  I've seen it work.  I'm much happier when it doesn't work because I prefer to run in the front.  I'm not being critical of anybody.  I don't blame them, especially when it works.  We've seen races won here by people pulling that strategy.  It just didn't work out today.  But I've seen it work both ways.            

Q.  On the last lap, did you pretty much figure when y'all broke away for the last lap that he was going to make a move?           

JEFF BURTON:  I was going down the back straightaway, talking on the radio:  I bet you're thinking about what you're going to do right now.  I was going to ask him to give an old man a break, but I knew better than that.           

But, yeah, I knew he was going to make a move.  He was supposed to make a move.  He ain't supposed to push me to the win.  He's supposed to go and try to win.  That's what you get here.  If there's those two cars leading everybody, you're going to get that move.  Like we saw in the Truck race yesterday, a guy with nowhere to go, he's going to push somebody to win because that gives him the best chance to get a good finish.  The way this worked out we have broken off from everybody.            

Q.  When you appeared to get into him a little bit there, was that a matter of trying to hold position or purely accidental?           

JEFF BURTON:  I was trying to get my left front fender to his right rear quarter panel to slow him up.  We all do that.  I got a little closer than I wanted to and knocked him around a little bit.           

That wouldn't have been good if he would have wrecked, would it?  I was trying to get as close to him as I could get his momentum slowed down.  I got him slowed down, but a little too late.           

KERRY THARP:  Let's also hear from the other drivers here on the podium.  Our third-place finisher Dave Blaney.  Dave, you showed you were very strong out there this afternoon.           

DAVE BLANEY:  It was a great run.  Obviously we have to thank Brad Keselowski, stayed with us all day long every lap.  When you get somebody committed to you no matter what, it makes it a lot easier.  Then it's just timing at the end.  Worked out pretty good.  We were in the right place at the right time, squeezed through a couple holes, there you are.           

But still a solid day.  We had a really solid day going here in the spring, too.  Didn't quite make it to the end.  Really fun day for Tommy Baldwin Racing, Golden Corral.           

KERRY THARP:  Our points leader is Carl Edwards.  Carl now has a 14-point lead over his teammate Matt Kenseth.  Carl, talk about getting that points lead back up there and also the race here this afternoon at Talladega.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know that I've ever been excited about 11th place.  This race was one that is nerve-wracking for everyone.  We came in here with a small points lead and we're leaving with a bigger one.  That's a huge day for us.           

I cannot believe how much Greg helped us today.  I owe him a lot.  Greg stuck with me all day.  The last lap, he was driving my car from back there.  We got separated.  He was screaming, Go, go, go.  Then somehow he found me again, pushed us back up through there a little bit          

Just a very, very good day.  Just really appreciate Subway being onboard.  Good to get them a good finish.  Even though it's not a win, it's a big battle in the war, a huge day for us.           

KERRY THARP:  We'll continue with questions.            

Q.  You said you did everything that you could coming off of turn four.  Would you have done anything different if that hadn't been your teammate?  Would you maybe not have been as nice?           

JEFF BURTON:  Hell, I didn't think I was nice.           

No.  I mean, obviously I'd do something different now if I knew it wasn't going to work.  But I did everything I thought I needed to do.  It just didn't work out.           

I try really hard to race everybody the same.  I don't know what else I could have done, whether it was a teammate or not.  I actually ended up getting into him.  So I don't think there was anything different I could have done.           

Q.  Carl, given the dynamics of Talladega, is the best you can hope for here to work with a teammate as best you can, like Greg, and basically pray that nothing happens?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Yes, it's a very spiritual event (smiling).           

You just have to hope that the guy sticks with you.  Yeah, I don't know how to describe it to you guys.  You were asking Jeff if he would have done anything different.  Everybody leaves this race and thinks of a hundred thousand things they could have done different.  It's a tough, tough race.  If you finish it with your car intact...           

JEFF BURTON:  You feel damn lucky (laughter).           

CARL EDWARDS:  ...you feel like you got away with something.            

Q.  To pile on about things that could have been done differently, Carl, do you think in retrospect, did you and Greg wait too late to start to come to the front?  Is it fine as it turned out?          

CARL EDWARDS:  Hell, no, Ed.  We did it perfectly.  It worked out great.  If you look at the things that could have happened or should have happened, we probably should have had a couple green-white-checkereds the way people were bouncing off each other.  If I had it to do to do over again, I would do it exactly the same.  It could be better or worse.  At the end of the day we had a shot at it.  Our car was intact.  We could drive up there.  That was our mission.           

But, yeah, if I would have known it went exactly like it went...  I'm not even going to say that.  It went well for us.  It was good.            

Q.  Carl, is your heart still pumping?  Is the adrenaline still flowing?  Are you happy to be out of that car and getting back to normal?  Jeff, will you reflect on RC's hundredth win?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah, I've never been so excited to go to Martinsville in my life.  I'm ready to rock.           

JEFF BURTON:  Driving for Richard has been a pleasure.  I have a lot of respect for Richard.  I've only had three car owners in my Cup career.  All three of them I have a lot of respect for.  To be able to be at Richard's has meant a lot to me.           

When I came in, it was a struggle.  They were struggling.  It's been built back up to be able to contend for championships.  We haven't won any, but we've been contending for them.           

He's a good man.  I like him.  I'm comfortable with him.  You can say anything about him as far as a competitor.  He is a supreme competitor.  The main thing is he's a good person.  He's got a good heart.  He's honest.  He represents our sport.  He doesn't always do the right thing.  None of us always do the right thing.  But he generally has a care and a passion for the sport.  It's an honor to drive for him.            

Q.  Carl, your drafting day, was it kind of a building process?  Seemed for the first half of the race you two had a difficult time staying together.  There was a point at which it looked like you switched positions and you pushed.  There was one time when you lost Greg and it looked like Trevor Bayne picked you up.           

CARL EDWARDS:  There were times when we kind of did our own separate things.  But our plan was always to be within sight and come back and work together at the end.  We knew we could only do that if our cars were together.           

It is easy to look at the outcome of the race.  I kind find joked around with Ed when he asked.  Say, Wow, you finished 11th.  If you went sooner, you would have finished better.  I still believe the plan we had worked out well.  I'm happy with the outcome.  If you can't look at it from my perspective, 2008 we came in here, I think Ed brought that one up earlier, came in here and I was ultimately frustrated with myself for taking myself out at this race.  That was my first goal, not to take myself out.  I was prepared to lose the points lead, but I wasn't going to accept making a mistake and losing control of my car.            

Q.  Carl, there was much made before the race about the Ford edict, Roush Fenway, to all stay together, the manufacturer loyalty.  Jeff Gordon was displeased at the end with Trevor Bayne for leaving him.  What do you make of how that transpired?  Do you feel the Fords had the plan, stuck together?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Well, first thing, I don't know what happened with Trevor and Jeff.  Trevor is a stand-up guy.  I'm sure he did whatever he thought was best.           

It's not like we got together and planned to do anything, at least I wasn't part of a plan to make things hard on anyone else.  That was not the idea.  The plan was that we should stick together as Roush Fenway and as a Ford group and try to help one another the best we can.         

I thought we did a good job with that.  I saw other teams doing the same thing.  But you never know what's going to happen.  We didn't think that plan was going to go through to the end.  We thought a number of us would be crashed or have trouble or something like that, in which case people would mix up partners and stuff.            

Q.  Carl, was there a specific reason you asked in the driver meeting about lifting on the last lap?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Yeah.  Thanks for asking.  I feel like the biggest risk we have here is what I talked about on Friday, that we have a wreck, then people would come to this conclusion in their mind through whatever, that they're going to stand on the throttle, drive through the wreck, that's the cool or the right thing to do.  I feel that's the biggest risk we have, is an accident where a guy is upside down, stopped, something like that, and us as competitors don't really know what point we're racing to.          

If we see something like that, I think a lot of folks are reluctant right now in the sport to lift.  They think it's cool to stay on the throttle.  You can't ask competitors to just quit driving and not try to get everything they can.  I hope that NASCAR will kind of clarify that stuff a little more in the future so we don't have a problem because of it.            

Q.  It may be a case of a lesser of two evils, but what in y'all's minds is the ideal package?  The one you have now, the one in the past?  What would make the racing better?           

JEFF BURTON:  I don't think anybody wants to answer that.           

I personally think that there is an advantage to the tandem thing.  There's some disadvantages to it.  The one thing it does do is it does separate the field a little bit.  That's not all bad.  I've come here for a long time.  Every time I come here, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get in a wreck.  That's a little odd way to race.           

To me the tandem thing creates wrecks.  But overall I think there's less cars wrecked because of the tandem thing versus not having it.  So I think overall it's better.  It does spread the pack out a little bit.  But it doesn't do it in a way that's boring.  The other way to spread the pack out is to make the cars drive bad and the fans aren't going to like that.           

To me this accomplishes a little bit of spreading the pack out without making the racing boring.  Because of that I think they ought to keep it the way it is and not hamper our ability to tandem draft because it doesn't hurt the quality of racing.           

I was fortunate to run in the front all day.  There was a lot going on in the front.  I don't know why, if you watched that race, how any part of that race was boring.  That's just my opinion.            

Q.  Jeff, been a tough year, really tough year.           

JEFF BURTON:  For you or me (laughter)?            

Q.  When you're leading coming to the checkered like that, you got a guy behind you that's your teammate, are you happy to be sitting in here with a good finish, not stuffed in a wall?  Are you livid that you lost?  Is it any worse because of who beat you and how?           

JEFF BURTON:  Well, I'm pissed off and I'm happy all at the same time if there is such a thing.  Anytime you come here and you can get a top 10, have a car that's not torn up, you have to at least be somewhat happy with that.           

However, to come that close and to lose it is disheartening.  It's always worse to lose 'em close.  But it's a lot better being in a position.  To be perfectly frank about it, since the first race at Phoenix, we haven't been in position to win a race.  We haven't sniffed it.  That is awful.  It's terrible to come to the racetrack week in, week out.  You come optimistic, you leave dejected.           

At least today the dejection is about having a good finish and not finishing it off.  Of course, I'm going to go home and watch the video a thousand times and wonder what I could have done different.  But I'm heartbroken, but at the same time I'm happy if there is such a thing.            

Q.  Carl, with you and Matt out front 1-2, it's not a very big points lead, but do you look at this thing and say, At least Roush Fenway Racing can almost kind of take a breath here and say that we're in pretty good shape?          

CARL EDWARDS:  No, no.  That would be nice.  I'd love that.  We'd have to have a hundred-point lead to take a breath.  Anything can happen.        

I'm proud of our team, where we've come from, how far we've come in the last 18 months.  It's unbelievable.  It's a testament to how hard everyone's willing to work, how much responsibility everyone's willing to take for the things we needed to fix.           

We're doing well.  It's fun.  I'm a little nervous about Matt, honestly, 'cause I know how good he is and how good his team is.  Having him in second doesn't make me breathe easier competitive-wise.            

Q.  You said in January you felt better going into this year than you did at the end of '08.  Has it panned out that way or would you have needed more wins?  Is it coming true?           

CARL EDWARDS:  I still feel we're performing better because we're a better team now.  I feel like now we are a better team than we were in 2008.  I feel we're fast for reasons that are more fundamental reasons.  We have better engines, our engineering is better, our cars are better.  We don't just have a trick, a skewed rear-end housing, a new car we figured out quick or something like that.  I feel like we are competitive week in and week out.           

Even when we have a bad day, it always seems that one of our teammates runs really well and we have someone we can lean on.  I still feel better about this year than 2008.  Just glad to be in the position I'm in.  It's amazing to drive these Fords right now for Jack.  It's a lot of fun.            

Q.  Dave, could you talk a little bit about what that means for Tommy Baldwin Racing, what it means for you going forward with this finish?           

DAVE BLANEY:  Well, it's huge for a race team.  It's a tiny little team.  This racecar we've got, it was a Bill Davis car 2007, 2008.  It's not a killer.  It's a big, big accomplishment for us to come out.           

This is a track you can do this.  You can't hang in all day.  With Brad Keselowski's help we could hang in all day and took advantage of getting a big push at the right time.  That's what it comes down to here, having a car that will roll the last couple laps to do that.  It all just worked out.           

Q.  Dave, with this tandem racing, it does get strung out a little bit.  Were you surprised that Clint and Jeff were able to scoot away as big as they did in that one lap?  How did that happen?  You were the closest one that could have possibly seen them.           

DAVE BLANEY:  I don't really know how it happened.  I believe I started 14th and Brad was 15th on that green-white-checkered.  I didn't see how the top five, what happened to them in the first corner.  I have no idea.  But that was odd to see them get that far away that quick.  That is obviously what made it a different kind of race.  Like Jeff said, exciting racing, whether it's tandem or packs, stressful on the drivers, exciting for the fans.            

Q.  Dave, do you feel any better after the April race here?  You also were in a position for a nice day and didn't get it in the end through no fault of your own.      

DAVE BLANEY:  I was happy how we ran that day.  Didn't work out, didn't get the finish.  Performed well.  Hung in there all day.  Same thing today.  Yeah, you feel great when you get the finish out of it.

But, again, just really happy for Golden Corral.  I think the spring race here might have been the first or second race, they just started up with us.  Stayed with us all year.  Lets us race more than we could without them.  Just legitimizes Tommy Baldwin's team more and more, see where we can go.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 8:51 pm

New Phoenix a concern for some Chase drivers

By Pete Pistone

(A brand new Phoenix International Raceway will have a significant impact on the Chase for the Sprint Cup)

Many point to Talladega as the “wild card” race of the Chase each year, the stop that because of the unpredictable nature of restrictor plate racing has the most potential to shake up the standings. 

But there may be a new variable in the 2011 championship picture when the second to last race of the schedule rolls around at Phoenix International Raceway.

A massive restructuring, repaving and reconfiguration has transformed the one-mile track literally into a brand new facility.

A wider front stretch, graduated banking through the corners and a new look to the track’s signature dogleg on the backstretch in addition to a brand new asphalt racing surface await teams when they show up for the penultimate race of the Chase.

It may still say Phoenix International Raceway on the sign out front of the place but this is definitely not the same track that’s hosted NASCAR’s top series since 1988. 

“I think it is a really unique layout,” said Jeff Burton, one of more than thirty drivers who took part in a two-day test session at PIR this week. “The exit of turn two is very unique; very different; the back straightaway has a lot of banking and it’s like falling into a hole; it’s pretty cool and it is neat to do something different here.” 

The uniqueness of PIR and its near triangular layout has differentiated the track from others on the circuit over the years. This multi-million dollar makeover seems to have been successful in keeping the desert speedway’s personality intact – and then some. 

"It adds a new element and is a bit different racing than we've seen in the past," said Kyle Busch. "It seems like there's more room to race off of turn two. Maybe that means more area to pass over there." 

But after spending nearly two full days making laps around the new PIR, some are concerned about what kind of racing will take place when the series returns for the November 13 Kobalt Tools 500. 

The rule of thumb when most tracks are repaved is that more often than not one groove racing is the result in the early going. Until seasoning, weathering and more racing rubber can be laid down, freshly paved speedways don’t usually produce side-by-side action. 

Jeff Gordon has competed on dozens of repaved tracks over the course of his career and expects Phoenix to follow the same pattern he’s experienced in most cases. 

But he stresses the two days spent in Phoenix this week were under testing conditions and not in full fledged racing mentality

“When we come here to these tests, we're all trying to learn things, get laps, do our own thing,” Gordon said. “We're not racing. We're not getting side by side with other cars.

“So naturally you're just going to see one groove built in there. It is a very narrow groove right now. I hopped outside of it on more than one occasion today, and it was exciting to say the least.” 

Track management as well as NASCAR officials point out the new design was created with the hope of improving competition. While early on there may be some growing pains, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton believes the track will provide drivers the opportunity to race and not just follow. 

“There was a lot of effort put into the engineering, the variable banking here,” Pemberton said.  “So over time the grooves should widen out and there will be more lanes to race with.  That's what all the simulation work has shown.  We believe that that will be true moving forward.” 

However how fast that happens is very much a moving target. After this week’s test session, only a few days of cars from the track’s driving school turning laps will take place until the NASCAR circus comes back to town the third week of November. 

Some see the lack of laps being run at the track before the November race creating a potential problem on the horizon.

“I don’t know what it’s going to do for the racing yet,” said David Reutimann. “There hasn’t been enough rubber or laps put on the racetrack to really know what it’s going to be, but right now it’s not very good. Not very good at all, but it’s a new racetrack and we’re hoping once it get some rubber on it and we all get to work on our cars a bit it’ll continue to get better.” 

Carl Edwards is among those who predict the new layout will definitely cause issues 

“There are some opportunities here for some problems that we haven’t seen at this race track,” said Edwards. “Double-file restarts with 20 to go here, second race from the end of the Chase, there’s no telling what is going to happen. That’s not necessarily good for the racers. It’s good for the fans. But it’s going to be a little stressful.” 

And to make that stress level even higher is the matter of the championship, which will very much be on the line five weeks from now. 

The potential of having a significantly large number of drivers still in the title hunt on the Phoenix weekend is a very good possibility given the competitive nature of how this year’s playoffs have begun. 

Now thrown into the mix is the unknown of racing at what is for all intents and purposes a new track. 

"As far as the Chase guys go and determining a championship – I guess we'll find out when we get here,” said Reutimann, who is not in this year’s playoff race hut still looking to end his year with a series of good finishes as well as a win.  “We all have to race on the same race track, and no one has an advantage or disadvantage on a new race track.” 

Edwards has a bit more of a pessimistic outlook and is very much concerned how the curveball of the new Phoenix will impact his quest for a first Sprint Cup title. 

In Edwards’ mind, the mysterious nature of not knowing what to expect makes the Phoenix stop perhaps the most important in determining the championship picture. 

“Whenever you introduce something new like this new surface and new track layout, there are going to be guys that figure it out quickly and there are going to be guys that struggle, and it’s not necessarily the guys you would expect,” Edwards said.

“This race, I think we’re all going to come here with a little bit of nervousness, a little trepidation of do we have the right setup? As a driver, I have to ask myself if I am driving the right way around this racetrack. The way the surface is, it’s unforgiving so there could be some accidents and some things happen that we don’t usually see.”

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:24 pm

Wheaties to sponsor Jeff Burton in 2012

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

WELCOME, N.C. (October 5, 2011) - Wheaties® will become a co-primary sponsor of Richard Childress Racing's No. 31 Chevrolet with driver Jeff Burton beginning in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

The multi-year program will continue General Mills' primary sponsorship with RCR for key races and associate positioning for the balance of each season with the No. 31 team. The famed Wheaties brand will be replacing Cheerios as the focus of the sponsorship. Wheaties has a proud history of fueling and celebrating sports performance. In addition, Wheaties shares a rich history with RCR, as Dale Earnhardt was the first NASCAR driver to be featured on a Wheaties box and he drove a Wheaties car for the 1997 All-Star Race. RCR began its current relationship with General Mills in 2008 with the No. 33 Chevrolet and driver Clint Bowyer, sponsored by its Cheerios® and Hamburger Helper® brands.

"With more than a dozen years in NASCAR, General Mills is looking forward to continuing our relationship with Richard Childress Racing," said Patrick Simmons, Vice President, Customer Marketing for General Mills, Inc. "At the same time, we're excited about the opportunity to forge a new relationship with Wheaties and Jeff Burton.  We value our association with RCR and are thrilled to be part of their organization." 

Burton has been part of RCR's driver lineup since midway through the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The 21-time NSCS race winner has eight top-10 finishes in the final point standings and qualified four times for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

"I'm excited to have a company like General Mills and a brand like Wheaties join our No. 31 team," said Burton. "Wheaties is one of the most iconic brands in American history, and my kids use so many General Mills products that I'm sure we have a decent market share of the company in our pantry. I also like that they have worked hard to provide so many healthy choices."

"The General Mills partnership with RCR has been terrific, as they have leveraged their program across their portfolio of leading brands as well as with their retail partners," said Ben Schlosser, RCR's chief marketing officer. "General Mills is a blue-chip sponsor in our sport and with their extremely popular brands; they help carry both RCR and NASCAR to families throughout America. Jeff Burton will be a great ambassador for their program so we are very excited to continue the relationship in the coming years."

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Category: Auto Racing
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