RCR Event Preview – Talladega 500 and Sparks Energy 300

Richard Childress Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history at Talladega Superspeedway … Richard Childress began his driving career at Talladega Superspeedway in 1969 and leads team owners for the most all-time victories at the storied Alabama-based race track with 12 wins. Dale Earnhardt visited Victory Lane nine times, while Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer swept the 2010 events at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Bowyer added to the Welcome, N.C.-based organization’s total by claiming RCR’s 100th Sprint Cup Series win when NASCAR’s senior series visited the facility in October 2011. In 160 starts, RCR also has four pole awards, 40 top-five, 65 top-10 finishes and has led 1,835 laps of competition

RCR in the NSCS … In 2,657 Sprint Cup Series starts dating back to 1969, RCR has amassed 46 pole awards,105 wins, 470 top-five finishes and 1,011 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 17.8 and an average finishing position of 16th. RCR has earned 15 total championships (six Sprint Cup Series championships with Earnhardt in 1986, ’87, ’90, ’91, ’93 and ’94, six NASCAR XFINITY Series titles, two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series titles and one ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards title and was the first organization to win titles in NASCAR’s three national series.

The Collective RCR … RCR’s three full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers rank 12th (Dillon), 16th (Newman) and 22nd (Menard) in the driver championship point standings.

The Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma’s Local Connection … In October 2014, Brayden “BB” Butler was an eight-year-old who raced motocross and always wore top-of-the-line safety gear, including his helmet. While practicing for an upcoming race, he crashed and sustained a head injury. He was airlifted to Children’s of Alabama where many pediatric specialists worked to help Brayden recover. Read his inspirational pediatric trauma survivor story to learn more http://bit.ly/BBsRide.

Catch the Action … The Talladega 500 will be televised live Sunday, May 1 beginning at 1 p.m. ET on FOX and will be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
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This Week’s Dow Energy & Water Intellifresh Russell Chevrolet SS at Talladega Superspeedway … Austin Dillon will pilot chassis No. 533 in the Talladega 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. This is the same Chevrolet SS that Dillon drove to a ninth-place finish in the Daytona 500 in February.

Dillon at Talladega Superspeedway …. In five Sprint Cup Series starts at Talladega, Dillon’s best finish at the 2.66-mile track is 13th in the October 2014 event. He has three starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, with a best finish of third in April 2015, and two starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, with a best finish of seventh in October 2011.

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Happy Birthday, Austin … Dillon turns 26 on Wednesday and plans to celebrate with family and friends.

What do you take into Talladega Superspeedway after running the Daytona 500?
“We felt like we needed to get some speed going into the next speedway race, so we went to work as an organization between Daytona and Talladega. I feel like RCR as a whole made some improvements, and I’m really looking forward to it. The confidence level is high here and we’re going to go into it and see what we can do to put our Dow Chevy up front.”

How is the intensity when you’re three-wide, 10-rows deep at those plate tracks?
“It’s very intense. Mentally, you’re working the entire race and you’re trying to put yourself into the best position for the last lap and sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”

Do you soak up some of the Talladega atmosphere while you are there?
“I try to! I try to enjoy what the fans are doing out there, check out what they are doing, hang out with them, and just let them know that everyone involved in NASCAR cares about them and wants to hang out and be a part of their weekend.”

This Week’s Moen / Menards Chevrolet SS at Talladega Superspeedway … Paul Menard and the No. 27 Moen / Menards Chevy team plan to use car No. 539 this weekend in Talladega. This Richard Childress Racing-prepared chassis saw action earlier this season at Daytona International Speedway where Menard started 37th and finished 18th.

Talladega Stats … With 19 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts to his credit, Menard has earned three top-five and five top-10 finishes at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. The RCR driver has led 41 laps and completed 88 percent of laps in competition. His best start of second came in May 2014 and finish of second in October 2008.

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Meet Menard … Come to the Team Chevy stage, located in the fan midway area, at Noon (Local Time) on Friday, April 29 for a Q&A with Menard.

How much do you rely on your spotter at restrictor-plate races like Talladega Superspeedway?
“When you get two and three-wide, you kind of know it, unless someone sticks their nose in quick and that’s where the spotter comes in to let you know somebody is there. When we’re riding around three-wide like we do at Talladega, you pretty much know you can’t move a lane because there are guys all around you. The spotter is most useful when he’s telling you which lanes are moving at which times, which lane you might need to jump in front of or tag along in to make moves. That’s probably the biggest area a spotter helps you at Talladega.”

How risky is it to jump from one lane to another to get out front of that fast lane and not getting run over?
“It’s all about closure rate, and your spotter can help you with that. Your spotter can also tell you when there is a hole and when to go before the opportunity closes up. You can kind of tell by his voice and you can check your mirrors to see how big that run is. Sometimes you just can’t get up in the open spot because you’ll cause a wreck, closing speeds are just so close. A lot of times if it’s kind of stagnant and there’s a little hole then you can fill it, but if there is a bigger opening and the guy has a quicker run then you sometimes don’t fill that because of the fast closing rate.”

From the driver’s seat, how much are you able to notice that extra tenth-and-a-half mile between Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in the wider corners?
“You can’t really tell. Obviously you notice the wider corners more. You can run three-wide at Daytona and it’s pretty sketchy, but we run three-wide at Talladega pretty easily. So that extra lane makes a big difference. The problem you run into at Talladega is we get four-wide a lot and that’s when things start happening.”
This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet SS at Talladega Superspeedway … Ryan Newman will be back behind the wheel of No. 536 in Sunday’s 500-mile event. He drove this car in the season opener, the Daytona 500. Newman started 38th and finished 11th.

Newman at Talladega … Newman will make his 522nd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start when the series embarks on its second restrictor-plate race of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. In total, he owns five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 28 starts. The South Bend, Ind., native has an average start of 13.5 and average finish of 20.1. His best start of second came in the fall of 2012, while his best finish of third took place in the spring of 2009. When it comes to championship points in the last five events at Talladega, Newman ranks second in most points earned.

Featured Caterpillar Dealer … Thompson Tractor Company, Inc. will be the featured Cat dealer on the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet this weekend at Talladega.
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What is the key to success at Talladega Superspeedway?
“It’s all about being lucky. Talladega is all about luck and being at the right place at the right time and not making mistakes. It’s such a crap shoot. Everybody has to be able to do their job like every other track we go to, but it seems like the margin of any kind of advantage is so small there that it takes a lot of them to add up to be good and you are better off sometimes being lucky.”

How hard is it to miss the “Big One?”
“It’s not hard to miss the ‘Big One.’ It’s hard to miss the ‘Big One’ and still try to win the race. I am usually one of the guys who rides around in the back. We might every once in a while get a little fender damage or something like that but we aren’t upside down and on the wrecker. That’s been my strategy or theory on the matter the last few times. It’s been good for us from a point’s standpoint, but obviously we haven’t won a race. We’ve been close a few years ago in the fall, but most times those guys are racing pretty crazy to transfer into the next round in the Chase or get a bye and we were safely in on points. We opted to not get all crazy. It was the right thing to do for this team.”

What is the hardest thing to figure out about Talladega?
“The hardest thing to figure out as a team at Talladega is to have any kind of advantage that is sizable enough to make yourself not have to be in the ‘Big One’ or worry about it. You basically have to have a car fast enough to lead.”

Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Talladega Superspeedway… In 36 Series starts at the 2.66-mile speedway, RCR has completed 3,492 laps of the 4,202 (83.1 percent) that they have competed. RCR has accumulated four pole awards, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes, led 165 laps and averages a starting position of 8.3 and finishing position of 19.3.

Richmond Review … Ty Dillon was the highest RCR finisher in second, Austin Dillon fifth, Brendan Gaughan seventh and Brandon Jones 15th, respectively, in the Richmond 250 at Richmond International Raceway.

The Points … All three RCR XFINITY Series full-time drivers remain in the top 10 of the driver point standings as the Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the ninth event of the season. Ty Dillon is currently third, Brandon Jones is fourth and Brendan Gaughan is sixth. The No. 2 RCR team is second in the owner point standings. Brandon Jones is currently second in the XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year point standings.

Catch the Action … Coverage of this week’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway will be televised live on Saturday, April 30, beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on FOX. It will also be broadcast live on Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM channel 90.

This Week’s Rheem Chevrolet at Talladega Superspeedway … Austin Dillon will pilot Chassis No. 174 in the Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway. Dillon drove this Chevrolet to a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series season-opener at Daytona in February.

Talladega Nuggets … In three previous XFINITY Series starts at Talladega Superspeedway, Dillon has earned one top-five finish and two top-10 finishes. The RCR driver earned the pole award last spring at the 2.66-mile superspeedway and holds an average starting position of 2.7 coupled with an average finishing position of 10th.

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No. 2 Team by the Numbers … With eight XFINITY Series events complete in 2016, the No. 2 team has one victory, six top-five and eight top-10 finishes with six laps led to their credit. Paul Menard is scheduled to drive the No. 2 Chevrolet at Dover International Speedway for the May 14 event.

What gives you that confidence when you go into a track where so little is in your control?
“You have to have confidence. You can’t go in there being negative or dreading going into a superspeedway. You have to look at it as a points day. How to gain maximum points the entire time. Also, the opportunity to win is there. You always have the chance to win those speedway races.”

This Week’s Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Chevrolet at Talladega Superspeedway … Ty Dillon will race chassis No. 173 for this weekend’s Sparks Energy 300. This Richard Childress Racing-prepared Chevrolet Camaro debuted earlier this season at Daytona International Speedway where Dillon won the pole and finished 13th.

Dillon in the XFINITY Series Talladega Superspeedway … In three NASCAR XFINITY Series starts at Talladega Superspeedway, Dillon has one top-five finish. Additionally, Dillon has one top-five finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and won the 2011 ARCA Racing Series event at TSS.

#Dash4Cash winner! … Last weekend’s second-place finish at Richmond International Raceway scored Dillon a victory in XFINITY Racing’s #Dash4Cash. Dillon, who won his heat race earlier that day, raced inside the top five for a majority of the 140-lap race. The Dash4Cash win is his second in his career (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2014). More importantly, if Dillon wins one of the two remaining Dash4Cash races (Dover International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway) he qualifies for the 2016 XFINITY Series Chase.

Meet Ty Dillon … Dillon is scheduled to sign autographs at the Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Ala. on Thursday, April 28 beginning at 6 p.m. Central Time.

Is Talladega Superspeedway a fun race track to visit?
“Yes – Talladega is awesome. We enjoy going there because it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our ECR Engines power, win a pole, race up front and hopefully score a victory. Superspeedway racing is something that I’ve always enjoyed. It’s challenging and requires a lot of strategic driving, which is right in my wheelhouse. I was able to win the ARCA (Racing Series) race at Talladega back in 2011. I know our team puts a lot of hard work into our superspeedway race cars and I fully expect our team to compete for a win this weekend. Outside of racing, this place is a staple on the NASCAR circuit. It has so much stock car racing history and obviously RCR has been a big part of that with my grandfather and Dale (Earnhardt). I hope we can add to the success this weekend.”
This Week’s Okuma Chevrolet at Talladega Superspeedway … Brandon Jones will pilot Chassis No. 152 this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. This Richard Childress Racing-prepared Chevrolet Camaro was driven by Jones at Daytona International Speedway in February where he started and finished in the seventh position.

Dega Stats … This weekend’s 300-mile event marks Jones’ first appearance at Talladega Superspeedway in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. However, he has made one start at Talladega in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where he earned a second-place finish as well as a fourth-place finish in the ARCA Racing Series.

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Rearview Mirror: Richmond … With rain in the Richmond, Va., area, the XFINITY Series was given one shortened practice session on Saturday morning to prepare for the main event. Jones started the 140-lap race from the 13th position and reported a lack of grip on the No. 33 Chevrolet to the Mike Hillman Jr.-led team. The No. 33 pit crew serviced Jones with four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments to help alleviate his handling issues. Jones ran as high as 12th before crossing the finish line in the 15th position.

What can you take from racing the No. 33 at Daytona International Speedway in February to this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway?
“It’s really hit-or-miss with superspeedway races. We had a really fast Chevrolet in Daytona and that allowed me to gain a ton of experience racing these NASCAR XFINITY Series cars on a superspeedway. That’s going to help this weekend going to Talladega. I’ve also raced there in the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series. The more experience you have racing in the draft, the better. I think the key to success at superspeedways is being patient. You could start deep in the field but work your way into the top 10 or top five in just a couple of laps.”

This Week’s South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet at Talladega Superspeedway … Brendan Gaughan will race chassis No. 175 this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. This Richard Childress Racing-prepared Chevrolet Camaro was previously utilized this season at the NASCAR XFINITY Series season-opener at Daytona International Speedway where Gaughan qualified sixth and finished 10th.

Gaughan’s Talladega Stats … Gaughan has accumulated four XFINITY Series starts at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. The Las Vegas native also has three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Talladega, earning one top-five finish and averaging a starting position of 26.3 and finishing position of 19.0. Across all three top tiers of NASCAR racing, Gaughan has completed 1,260 of 1,504 laps contested.

At the South Point … This week, the South Point will host the 2016 Open Wrestling Championships April 27-30. The Championship will consist of more than 1,000 High School and Junior High School competitors. For more information, visit usawrestling.org or for tickets, visit southpointarena.com.

Season in a Loop … According to NASCAR’s Loop Data Statistics, Gaughan ranks fourth in Quality Passes with 263 passes so far this season. Gaughan has spent 81.7 percent of his contested laps competing in the top 15 of the running order and is currently sixth in the XFINITY Series driver point standings, only two points from the fifth position.

Come See Gaughan … On Friday, April 29 Gaughan will sign autographs in the Legends Hospitality Village at 2:30 p.m. Local Time. Gaughan is also scheduled to participate in Race Fever beginning at 5:30 p.m. Local Time. Gaughan will serve as a judge Friday night at Talladega Superspeedway’s Big One on the Boulevard beginning at 7:30 p.m. Local Time.

What are your thoughts on racing at Talladega Superspeedway?
“Talladega is Talladega. Everyone knows that anything can happen at this track. We all know when we come to Talladega that it is truly anybody’s race to win. For the first time in a while, we are actually bringing the Daytona car to Talladega. We ran really well in the season-opener at Daytona (International Speedway). We feel the ECR engines have a great package for the restrictor plate tracks. Hopefully all four RCR teams can pick up where we left off from Daytona. The biggest thing is just staying out of trouble and finding your teammates to work with.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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