Richard Childress Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series History at Auto Club Speedway

Richard Childress Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series History at Auto Club Speedway …
In 83 overall Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway, RCR Chevrolet teams have earned one win (Kevin Harvick – 2011), one pole award (Mike Skinner – April 2000), 12 top-five and 28 top-10 finishes. RCR has a 19.9 average starting position and a 16.4 average finishing position at the moderately-banked D-shaped race track.

RCR in the MENCS …
In 2,748 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts dating back to 1969, RCR has amassed 48 pole awards,106 wins, 476 top-five finishes and 1,032 top-10 finishes, with an average starting position of 17.7 and an average finishing position of 16.1. RCR has earned 15 total championships (six Monster Energy NASCAR 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.

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This Week’s American Ethanol Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway… Dillon has three previous Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts to his credit at Auto Club Speedway, earning his best finish of 11th in 2014 and sitting on the pole in last year’s edition of the race to earn his best starting position at the 2-mile track.

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Auto Club Speedway has become one of the most exciting races of the year because of the multiple grooves. Do you consider yourself a wall-hugger or a bottom-feeder?
“I try and consider myself whatever I need to be. Last year we set the pole for that race at Auto Club Speedway. We had a fast race car and ran up front most of the day. We are definitely going to have a direction that we feel like we need to work in and will do what I can to keep our old girl up there.”

Is there any celebrity you would like to see at a race track?
“Yeah, I just talked about Chris Pratt earlier. I think that would be cool. He did a good job in Magnificent Seven and Jurassic Park. There are a couple of different people that I really enjoy to watch. Game of Thrones — any actor from Game of Thrones. Maybe John Snow would show up. That would be cool, or Tyrion.”

Paul Menard and the No. 27 Jack Link’s / Menards Chevrolet SS at Auto Club Speedway … Menard has 14 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts in competition at the 2-mile California-based race track. He has one top-five and three top-10 finishes with his best start of 11th and finish of fourth in March 2015.

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Auto Club Speedway and Michigan International Speedway have similar configurations. Are those two tracks comparable?
“Not really, especially since the repave of Michigan. Five years ago, I would say they were more similar than they are now. Michigan is just so fast. Auto Club Speedway is just so slow, relatively. You feel really good for a lap or two and then you just have to start moving around finding what works for your car. Auto Club is a lot of fun to race at. It’s frustrating because there is such a lack of grip that the cars handle so bad, but it makes it fun to race and try to set-up people. It’s kind of like Phoenix, where even though you are going 160 mph through the corner, you are really working the wheel trying to find that grip.”

Do you find yourself gravitating toward a particular groove at Auto Club Speedway?
“Half the time when you go to qualify you don’t even know what groove you are going to run. You feel it out and just try to go with it. Typically, you run the bottom for a lap or two and then you basically start working yourself up. But we have seen, I think Austin Dillon was on the pole last year running the fence in qualifying. You just never know.”

This Week’s Caterpillar Chevrolet SS at Auto Club Speedway … Ryan Newman will make his 552nd Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start in the fifth event of the 2017 season. In 22 MENCS events at Auto Club Speedway, Newman owns one pole and has earned five top-five and nine top-10 finishes. His best result of third place was in the May 2004 race. The South Bend, Indiana native has an average start of 13.6 and average finish of 16.6. When calculating points earned over the last six races at Auto Club Speedway, Newman ranks fifth in most points earned.

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What does a win mean to you and the RCR organization?
“It was an awesome day for RCR, Grainger, Caterpillar, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola … all the partners that support our race teams, all the guys at the shop, RCR and ECR. This win means so much to me. I didn’t forget how to win, but after a while or for so long, you get thinking to yourself, ‘Man, is it really this hard or are you just losing it?’ We didn’t lose it on Sunday. It’s been an amazing two days for me. It’s been so long for me to get to victory lane that I cannot thank everyone enough for supporting me. It’s been a total collective effort to get to victory lane and it feels so good. We were at the right place at the right time and did what we needed to do.”

How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the years?
“It has just gotten better and better. It is that kind of asphalt that just gets better with age. The seams are a little bit tricky, but the combination of the tires and the track and the fall off it’s just such a fun race track to race at.”

Do you find that you migrate towards the top groove?
“You go where you need to go. Sometimes you can putt around the bottom when everybody goes to the top. They rubber it up and it’s the short way around. Sometimes the bottom cools back off and you can dig down there.”

Auto Club Speedway and Michigan International Speedway are the only two-mile tracks on the schedule. What are the differences between the two facilities?
“Michigan has new pavement, a little bit more banking and it seems like we just have a different tire combination there that is more like what Auto Club Speedway was like a few years ago. The old Michigan (before the repave) is more similar to what Auto Club Speedway is like now. The new Michigan is more similar to Kentucky Speedway where it is just a harder tire and it’s a different kind of race.”

Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Auto Club Speedway… In 51 Series starts at the 2-mile speedway, RCR has captured two victories with drivers Jeff Burton (2007) and Austin Dillon (2016). The Welcome, North Carolina, organization has completed 7,430 laps of the 7,654 (97.1 percent) that they have competed. RCR has accumulated four pole awards, 17 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes, led 262 laps and averages a starting position of 10.6 and finishing position of 11.2.

Phoenix Review … Daniel Hemric was the highest RCR finisher in seventh, Ty Dillon was 10th, Brandon Jones 15th, Brendan Gaughan 27th and Austin Dillon 33rd, respectively, in the XFINITY Series DC Solar 200 at Phoenix Raceway.

The Points … All three RCR XFINITY Series full-time drivers remain in the top 15 of the driver point standings as the Series heads to Auto Club Speedway this weekend for the fifth event of the season. Daniel Hemric is currently sixth, Brandon Jones is 13th and Brendan Gaughan is 14th in the championship point standings. The No. 2 and No. 3 RCR teams are fifth and 13th, respectively, in the owner point standings. Daniel Hemric is currently second in the XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year point standings, 10 points behind the leader.

Paul Menard and the No. 2 Richmond / Menards Chevrolet Camaro at Auto Club Speedway … Menard has competed in 10 NASCAR XFINITY Series events at the 2-mile track. He has one top-five and two top-10 finishes with his best start of seventh in October 2010 and finish of fourth in September 2006. The Wisconsin native has completed 97.9 percent of laps in competition with seven of them as the race leader.

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You return to the NASCAR XFINITY Series this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. It’s also your first time back in an NXS car at this track since 2010. How are you feeling about the weekend?
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to this weekend. It’s always fun to work with Justin Alexander (crew chief) and the No. 2 team. We had a solid 2016 and this car has been strong so far this year, so I’m hoping to build on that for these guys. These races for me are about coming out here to win and learning all that we can for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Auto Club is unique with the seams on its surface. They add another element of character to the track. It’s something you have to be aware of. If you get into the seams early in the corner then it pretty much messes up your entire corner. But if you can get your car pointed and drive across them then you’re doing what works best. How you attack the seams really depends on what your car is doing. This is definitely a driver-friendly track and will be a lot of fun this weekend.”

This Week’s RUUD Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway …Ty Dillon has three NASCAR XFINITY Series races under his belt at Auto Club Speedway. He scored his only top-10 finish at the 2-mile track in 2014 when he took the checkers in eighth place. Dillon will also be making his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at the track this weekend.

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Auto Club Speedway and Michigan are the only 2-mile tracks on the schedule, but they seem to race so differently. Why is that?
“I think Auto Club Speedway is worn out and really rough, but it’s five lanes wide. Michigan has been repaved, so it is still kind of a narrow-groove racetrack, but it’s starting to widen out a little bit more. The fact that you have to slow down so much in the corners at Auto Club because of the lack of grip is what makes them so different. They’re similar in that they’re both tracks you have to figure out and can have a lot of fun racing at.”

Are you a “wall hugger” or are you a “bottom feeder” when it comes to the multiple racing grooves?
“I am whatever is fastest. I grew up dirt racing, so we are used to chasing that grip, which definitely carries over into NASCAR. I’ve raced at Auto Club Speedway three times before in the XFINITY Series, and I’ve had decent runs but not great ones. Being able to find the fastest lane there is key. I’m looking forward to getting our No. 3 RUUD Chevrolet out there and finding speed. It should be a great weekend for our team.”

Daniel Hemric and the No. 21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway … Hemric will be making the first Auto Club Speedway start of his NASCAR career this weekend. The 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year contender has no previous experience at the 2-mile track.

Meet the Driver … Hemric will be part of the XFINITY Series autograph session in the fan midway on Friday, March 24, starting at 4 p.m. PT. He will also answer fan questions at the Team Chevy Stage on Saturday, March 25, starting at 8 a.m. PT.

Rearview Mirror: Phoenix … Starting at the back of the pack last Saturday at Phoenix Raceway, Hemric wasted no time working his way to the front of the field in the No. 21 Blue Gate Bank Chevrolet Camaro and was inside the top 10 within the first 50 laps. An issue with the side skirt of the car led to problems jacking the car up on the left side and resulted in slower than normal stops throughout the day. Despite the issue, Hemric continued to fight his way back to toward the front of the field. Crew chief Danny Stockman opted not to take fuel on the final pit stop of the day, which helped the handling of the No. 21 Chevrolet. On the final restart of the race, Hemric’s car took off and he drove his way back inside the top 10 and earned a seventh-place finish after starting 35th.

The racing surface at Auto Club Speedway has become pretty abrasive over the years and the racing is really sporty these days. How do you approach this weekend with that in mind?
“Auto Club Speedway has become one of those places that I am cautiously excited about. I just don’t know much about it because I have never seen it and have never been there, other than what I’ve seen on TV. I’ve been talking with my teammates about it leading up to this week. Austin Dillon won the XFINITY Series race there last year, so he has been a big resource. He has provided me with some insight into what to look for and what you can and can’t do. At a place like that, you can study for months, but then you get there and still have things that catch you off guard. I’ve been putting a lot of focus on Auto Club Speedway and trying to figure out what makes the racetrack what it is, and the surface is probably the first thing that pops up. As fast and big as the track is, the amount of grip isn’t that good, so it puts a lot back in the driver’s hands. The field is spread out from the fence to the apron, and as a racer that is cool. To have never run at a place that big and that fast and have that kind tendency to it, I’m really pumped up.”

Brandon Jones and the No. 33 Chevy Truck Month Chevrolet Camaro at Auto Club Speedway… Brandon Jones looks to close out the ‘NASCAR Goes West’ tour with a strong showing at Auto Club Speedway, the site of one of his first top-10 finishes as a regular in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Last season, the 20-year-old driver finished ninth at the two-mile track after starting the day in the 14th position.

Visiting Our Veterans… Jones will join Hope For The Warriors for a stop at United States Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton on Thursday, March 23. The group will tour the Hope and Care Center and the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, while also meeting with service members stationed there. Jones had a passion for both racing and the military growing up, and considered them among the career paths he’d most want to follow. Today, Jones is able to engage both of those passions while racing full-time in the XFINITY Series and through his relationship with Hope For The Warriors, which dates back to 2015.

Celebrating Chevy Truck Month… For the second weekend in a row, Jones will be sporting the white, gold and gray paint scheme in honor of Chevy Truck Month, which is going on throughout the entire month of March. Fans are encouraged to get to their local Chevy dealer and choose the Silverado that’s right for them.

You finished ninth at Fontana last year, which was one of your first top-10 finishes as a full-time driver in the XFINITY series. What do you like about that racetrack?
“You know it’s funny with Fontana. We struggled the entire day last year, in both practice and qualifying, but we were able to figure out some stuff during the race that helped us. I’m hoping that this year will go like that again. That track is tough because there isn’t a designated line to run. You have to see where the fast guys are running and that’s where you start running too. It’s a huge track with scooping corners, so there’s room to move. You’ll see some guys go all the way down to the apron at some points. It all depends on where your car works. There’s four or five different lanes to choose from, so it all depends on your car is handling.”

Do you remember anything about the seams and how they can either hurt you or be used to your advantage at the track?
“You saw that at Atlanta a little bit, where guys could hook up to those seams and get their cars to turn better. At other tracks, I know you don’t want to get on the seams since they can hurt your car really bad. But at Fontana, I definitely think we can use them to our advantage. If the car is a little tight, we can use the seam to our advantage and get it to hook us around the corner a little better. Still, most often you’re trying to straddle those seams or run straight over them all the time.”

This Week’s South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway… In nine NASCAR XFINITY Series starts at Auto Club Speedway, Brendan Gaughan has accumulated one top-five and five top-10 finishes, earning his best finish of second in 2015 after starting eighth.

Auto Club Speedway Success … Gaughan holds the NASCAR West Series record on race time at Auto Club Speedway with 1:28:47 set in 2001 when he won the Widetrack Grand Prix 200. In 2003, Gaughan started from the pole in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Racing Wheels 200 where he led 66 of 100 laps to ultimately finish second behind race-winner Ted Musgrave. During his 20-year NASCAR career, Gaughan has accumulated five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes with 98 laps led to his credit.

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What are your thoughts heading to Auto Club Speedway, a surface that has really built some character?
“I’m afraid you’re going to start hearing rumors about repaving. Every time I say, ‘Please don’t repave a track,’ they announce they are going to repave it. Auto Club Speedway is spectacular. I don’t get why the fans don’t like it. Sometimes a guy pulls away at the 2-mile oval, but it is six-wide racing, slipping, sliding and losing two and three seconds from stickers to old tires. The seams are treacherous there, you touch the seams and it will move the race car. That is what old-school, mean, hard-nosed racing is all about. I mean, we head into Turn 1 at 214 miles per hour. It’s ridiculous, and I love it. Guys can run an inch from the wall all the way down to the apron in Turns 3 and 4. How can you ask for a better racetrack? It’s a West Coast track and I love that about it as well. We run four-wide at Auto Club Speedway for three-quarters of the race. What more could you want?”