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McDowell's Darlington look to honor Childress
Photos courtesy of Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing and Richard Childress Racing RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes WELCOME, N.C. -- Michael McDowell and the Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing organization will honor Richard Childress with a throwback paint scheme similar to that used by the longtime NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner during the 1973 racing season. The scheme will be run during this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 4 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Darlington throwback program debuted last year and was a huge hit among fans and teams at the legendary track. "Obviously to run Richard's paint scheme and honor him for his upcoming Hall of Fame induction and our alliance with him and having Thrivent Financial on there is going to be really cool," McDowell said. "It's an exciting weekend. It's fun to see all the guys in all the old shirts and hats. I saw my firesuit, it's really cool, very vintage." Childress , a six-time champion in the Sprint Cup Series as an owner with driver Dale Earnhardt, will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2017. His Richard Childress Racing organization currently has 105 wins in the series and fields three full-time Sprint Cup teams for drivers Austin Dillon , Paul Menard and Ryan Newman . CSLFR currently has a technical alliance with RCR. While the 1973 Chevrolet was primarily white with blue accents, Childress , an owner/driver before stepping aside to focus solely on ownership, did compete with a similar entry that had red features. And those colors, team officials said, worked well with primary sponsor Thrivent Financial. McDowell, with 197 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series, shares driving duties in the No. 95 Chevrolet with RCR XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon . He said he is looking forward to running the throwback scheme and seeing what other teams come up with for the event. "I think more than anything what the Darlington race weekend does ... it jogs everyone's memory," McDowell said. "The guys in the sport like Richard and others that have been here so long. Just walking around and listening to all the stories is really cool. I think that's what Darlington does for everybody, it makes them reminisce not just about the good ol' days but hearing fun stories and sharing memories. "It kind of re-ignites your passion of how you got started and why you got started." Childress began his NASCAR career in 1969 and made 285 starts before stepping out of the car in 1981. Long before teams began wrapping cars, Childress said he often painted his own entries, a process that often took "a couple of days." "I'd paint them myself. I'd tape it out like I thought I wanted it, and if I didn't like it, I'd move the tape a little bit," he said. "I still remember all the cars. You might forget about it for a while but then you see something and it brings it all back. "I never accomplished that much as a driver so to see them come back today (with this scheme), it's really neat. I had one of my best finishes at Darlington (fourth in '73). To see it run again is so cool." &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
No. 27 crew chief change made to 'spark results'
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard hopes this week's crew chief change for his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing team can provide a "spark" as the team battles to get into this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. With only six races remaining before the start of the Chase, RCR officials announced Monday that veteran Danny Stockman has assumed the crew chief duties, replacing Justin Alexander. Stockman's first race with the team will be this weekend's Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway. Alexander had been Menard's crew chief since joining the team with five races remaining in the 2014 season. "Justin is a great guy and extremely smart," Menard told NASCAR.com Tuesday, adding that he expects his former crew chief to "remain within RCR in some role." "The biggest thing is we just haven't run very good this year. We felt we had to do something to try and spark some results." Menard, who is closing in on his 350th career start in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, qualified for the Chase last season and finished a career-best 14th. But he's yet to earn a top-five finish this year, has only two-top 10s and sits 23rd in points. He was 13th in points after 20 races last season, and 15th at this time two years ago. The 16-team Chase field consist of drivers inside the top-30 in points that have one or more wins; if fewer than 16 drivers have won through this year's cutoff race at Richmond International Raceway in September, those 16th or higher in points without a win or wins will be awarded any remaining available spots in the field. Thus far, 11 drivers have one or more wins, meaning only five spots are currently available via points. Menard trails Kyle Larson by 75 points for the final spot in the Chase Grid. "At this point, we have to win a race to get in the Chase," Menard said. "We're going to shake things up and try to make that happen." Stockman guided Austin Dillon to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011 and the XFINITY Series championship in '13 at RCR. He also served as crew chief for Menard for a victory at Road America in the XFINITY Series last year. This season, he has overseen the No. 2 XFINITY Series team for RCR, which has featured drivers Dillon, Menard and Ben Kennedy. Gil Martin, RCR XFINITY Series director, will fill Stockton's role. Menard is coming off a 10th-place finish this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he scored his lone Sprint Cup victory in 2011. "Danny has had a lot of success in the Truck and XFINITY Series," Menard said. "We're trying to get a spark for the team. We're consistently in the top 20, top 15 but we just haven't knocked out those top-10 and top-five finishes this season." In addition to Menard, RCR also fields Sprint Cup entries for drivers Dillon and Ryan Newman. Full-time XFINITY Series teams for the organization feature drivers Ty Dillon, Brandon Jones and Brendan Gaughan, as well as the fourth now spearheaded by Martin.
Hard tires, reworked curbing present challenges at repaved Watkins Glen
RELATED: Before and after: Watkins Glen repave WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test Wednesday at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, emerging with better ideas of the challenges they'll face when the series returns for the Aug. 4-7 race weekend. Among those challenges: reworked curbing, a fast circuit and a harder-compound tire that has made grip elusive. A total of 16 Sprint Cup teams -- one permitted from each organization -- tried to unlock the novelty of the $12 million resurfacing project, using a Goodyear tire that emphasizes durability at the expense of traction and wear. The rubber compound chosen is similar to that used July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, site of the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race on a repaved track. At Kentucky, the tire selection made for treacherous conditions in certain spots and made passing a delicate process. Though road courses don't lend themselves to the multi-groove racing seen at several well-aged oval tracks, Watkins Glen might still be a tricky place to maneuver when the series reconvenes for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. "The main thing we've learned so far is how hard the tire is," said Jamie McMurray, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. "It just seems to be no wear at all or lap time fall-off right now. This place didn't ever wear tires like Sonoma, but it seems like the tire is pretty hard." Sonoma, the other road course where the Sprint Cup Series races, is a much more intricate circuit with qualifying speeds roughly 30 mph slower than at Watkins Glen's open, free-wheeling layout. The Goodyear tire compound designated for both the Watkins Glen test and the race weekend is the same used for right-side tires in XFINITY Series competition at Iowa Speedway. Those Iowa right-sides will be used at all four corners for the Sprint Cup event at the 2.45-mile road course. Racing with a softer tire with more adhesion would potentially introduce the threat of excessive wear or blistering. It's a trade-off that Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott says he's willing to accept. "I think a lot of it is just having a fresh surface like this, you've got to have a tire that's pretty hard," said Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports' driver representative for the two-day test. "It's fast, and to ask a tire to hold up, you've got to bring something that's durable. It puts Goodyear in a tough spot, but I think they do a good job of trying to make the most of tough situations. There's been a lot of repaves here lately and I know they're working hard." David Groseclose, NASCAR's lead tire engineer, said Wednesday that the benefits of competing with a more rigid rubber compound outweighed the potential drawbacks. "As with all repaves -- same thing as Kentucky -- if you don't have a hard tire, you're going to blister them up," Groseclose said. "The way that works is if you've got a soft compound and you use it, the soft compounds tend to retain heat. It's just the nature of a soft compound. But on a repave, it's not going to wear so that heat's not going to be dissipated out of the tire. It has nowhere to go, so it stays in the tire, so that's why it blisters up. That's what we saw at Kentucky with the XFINITY and Truck Series." In addition to the surface itself, the track features new concrete for the rumble strips that border the circuit's turns and run-off areas. Some drivers found the differences barely noticeable, but Kurt Busch discovered a distinction the hard way with an early Tuesday spin as he bounded over the apex points in the backstretch chicane on one of his initial laps. "It's a lot different," said Tony Gibson, Busch's crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. "Kurt's like, 'I've got to learn all the curbs again.' The curbs over in the bus stop (chicane) are probably the biggest change. They're way more aggressive, and they've tightened up, so it's a lot tighter lane through there." Said Elliott, who will race here in Sprint Cup for the first time next weekend: "Some of the curbs may be a little different here or there, some a little rougher, a little smoother just depending on how they laid the asphalt in or however it worked. It's as close as you could make a track from an old surface to a repave, for sure." Five Sprint Cup teams participated in a Goodyear tire test May 10-11, and another 16 were present for this week's organizational test. For the remaining half of the field, the work toward finding the proper handle begins with opening practice on Friday, Aug. 5. "If you get your balance right, it'll be a no-drama," Gibson said. "Man, I told Kurt earlier, 'I'd hate to know I had to come here next Friday and hit the track for the first time and try to figure out these curbs and how much the race track has changed.' It'll be a handful in the short amount of time we get to practice. "It'll be interesting to see when we come back who has issues and who doesn't. But it's definitely going to be a plus to come and learn the race track, even if your car is not right or whatever, just getting here and getting behind the wheel and getting time on the race track is going to mean more." Pit notes: -- The full roster (in alphabetical order) of drivers and teams participating in the test: AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing ), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing ), Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing ), Austin Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing ), Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing ), Casey Mears (Germain Racing ), Brian Scott ( Richard Petty Motorsports), Regan Smith (Tommy Baldwin Racing ), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing ), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing ). -- Casey Mears turned the fastest lap in the two-day test, which was divided into four sessions of four hours apiece. Mears pushed the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet in the closing session to a best lap of 126.7 mph, a good bit slower than the track qualifying record of 129.491 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in August 2014. -- Brad Keselowski returned to the track Wednesday, one day after his severe, nearly head-on crash in Turn 1. He turned 74 laps over both sessions in a reserve Team Penske No. 2 Ford. -- Two teams -- Furniture Row Racing (driver Martin Truex Jr.) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (driver Michael McDowell) -- were absent from testing's opening day, arriving in the Watkins Glen garage Wednesday in time for the two closing sessions. -- Wednesday's final session was extended 30 minutes to a 5:30 p.m. ET close because of a nearly hour-long clean-up for fluid on the track. After Chase Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet suffered a broken axle, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Chevy ran over the part, damaging the car's transmission. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are scheduled to turn their first laps on the new Watkins Glen surface next Thursday. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will stage a support race the following day on the 2.45-mile course.
Menard's Darlington scheme gives honor to Al Unser Jr.
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes CONCORD, N.C. -- When Valvoline officials queried NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard about his racing heroes, the first name on the list was Al Unser Jr. So Menard couldn't be more pleased that the Valvoline-themed throwback paint scheme he will run in this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 pays tribute to Unser Jr.'s lone NASCAR premier series start. Menard's Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet will carry the gray, orange and black color scheme used by Unser Jr. for the 1993 Daytona 500 with sponsor Valvoline featured on the hood when the series travels to Darlington Raceway for the annual Labor Day weekend classic. "Little Al's first NASCAR race was the Daytona 500 in 1993," Menard said earlier this week as preparations for the unveiling of the paint scheme got underway. "The partnership with Valvoline this year -- we got to talking earlier about who some of my racing heroes were and Al Jr. was right away, even without the Valvoline relationship. I've always been a huge fan of his. He was the guy in IndyCar that I always pulled for." Menard said he met the former open-wheel champion and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 "when I was probably 12." "I remember; he probably doesn't," Menard continued. "But I pulled up (this morning) … and he was standing out in the parking lot. We were out there talking probably 10 or 15 minutes, just about the '93 (Daytona) 500, his autocross stuff that he's doing now, just talking about a little bit of racing ." Unser Jr. was carrying the Valvoline colors in 1992 when he won his first Indy 500 title. Already a NASCAR sponsor, Valvoline wanted additional branding in '93 to promote its line of synthetic products, particularly for that year's Daytona 500. And the Daytona 500 just happened to be on Unser Jr.'s bucket list. "There were special races that I wanted to race in my career," Unser Jr. said. "The Indy 500, the Daytona 500, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans. Those are the ones that I really wanted to run as a kid. "The Indy 500 is really where my heart is so we'd been doing that. But yeah, I wanted to run the Daytona 500 sometime during my career and it was just a blessing when Valvoline called me up and said, 'You know, we'd like to do this down in Daytona. Would you like to do it?' "I said, 'Of course I would. It's got to be with a great team.' "They said, 'We've contacted Hendrick Motorsports,' and I go, 'Awesome.' " At that time, the Hendrick organization consisted of three teams with drivers Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd and rookie Jeff Gordon. The addition of Unser Jr. made it a four-team effort for the series' most notable race. A crash during the second of two twin qualifying races three days before the 500, however, cost Unser Jr. his primary entry and he wound up racing Schrader's backup Chevrolet Lumina. Instead of a gray, orange and black paint scheme, Unser Jr.'s race-day car was white with the Valvoline branding on the hood and across the rear quarter panels. A crash with less that 50 laps remaining took Unser Jr. out of contention, and he finished 36th. When told that Menard and Valvoline were bringing the original paint scheme back to the track for the Darlington throwback weekend, Unser said he was "just overwhelmed." "Mainly because this was just a one off," he said, "not a traditional kind of car with a lot of running behind it, a lot of heritage to it. So when they contacted me and said they were thinking about doing this throwback at Darlington … it was a true blessing." Menard praised Valvoline for not only bringing back the paint scheme, but for the company's long involvement in auto racing . "The brand is iconic in our sport," he said. "You pick out right away where that Valvoline car is on the race track, whether it's a stock car race or IndyCar races, NHRA. They're always around the sport. They have a huge racing legacy and I'm proud to be a part of it." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Richard Childress Racing
The history of Richard Childress Racing and full crews for Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon
Childress , Ganassi feted at Motorsports Hall
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- One inductee has won six NASCAR premier series titles as an owner. The other has won just about everything else. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owners Richard Childress and Chip Ganassi were among this year's seven-member class inducted into the 2016 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on Wednesday evening. For Childress , the ride to the Shores Resort & Spa, site of the induction ceremony, brought back memories. "I passed by Nova Road and got to thinking," the team owner said. "I remember I came down here in 1965 (working as a crewman) and we pitched a tent and camped there in a campground off Nova. "Four years later, in 1969, I came down here and we had six people and a four-person camper. So a couple had to sleep outside on the ground. "And now here tonight, to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, it's just unbelievable." Childress made 285 starts as a driver in NASCAR, and although he failed to win a race, he finished in the top 10 in points five times during his 12-year driving career. Teamed with driver Dale Earnhardt, however, his Richard Childress Racing organization was nearly unbeatable from 1986-95, scoring six championships and 53 wins while finishing first or second in points eight times. Childress will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January of 2017, an honor he said he never imagined. Likewise, his selection into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America was unexpected. "I was just telling Rusty (Wallace), going up to Detroit when they put Dale in, man you just saw all the greats of motorsports," he said. "To be put in this hall of fame is pretty special. In the NASCAR world, it doesn't get any bigger than to be chosen to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But in the motorsports world, this is the top." Earnhardt, a member of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class, was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2002. Ganassi, a team owner in NASCAR since 2001, has yet to see one of his drivers capture the premier series title, although they have won some of the series' biggest events, including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. Ganassi's teams have excelled elsewhere as well. He is the only team owner to win the Daytona 500 , Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and Rolex 24 at Daytona. Now he can also add a Le Mans title to the list. His Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team recently captured the iconic 24-hour endurance race one year after the automaker announced its return to the annual event and 50 years to the day after Ford won its first Le Mans crown. Aside from a NASCAR title, are there other worlds for the owner to capture? "I'm sure I could think of something," Ganassi said Wednesday night. "I've won some big races, sure. I've just been lucky. I've been lucky to be around great drivers and great people in my career. I just want to win. I want to win this weekend. I want to win the next race." Ganassi was still basking in the glow of the Le Mans victory, accepting congratulations from many of those on hand Wednesday evening. "We were over there … and we were learning new rules like drinking from a firehose," Ganassi said. "We raced hard and at the end of the day we were first, third and fourth and all I can say is it was one of the most exciting weeks of my life. … "We go to victory circle and we're shooting champagne, having a good time and you look out and there's 100,000 people there on the frontstretch just standing there cheering at you. "They raise the American flag behind you and they play the national anthem. And I tell you, that really hits you in your stomach. When you're in a foreign land and they play the national anthem for you, that's a big thing, I can tell you. That's something in sports that's not to be taken lightly." His induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame is special, he said, because "your heroes, guys you grew up emulating, are all in this thing. "I'll tell you what a big deal it is," he said. "When you go to lunch and Craig Breedlove wants to get his picture taken with you and I wanted my picture taken with him. I'm thinking, 'Man, this is a big thing.' " Breedlove, who set numerous land speed world records, was inducted into the Hall in 1993. "It's just great to get to see and meet all those guys," Ganassi said. "And I'm shocked that they know me. They say, 'Hey, congratulations,' when I'm trying to introduce myself and they go 'I know who you are.' It's kind of dumbfounding." In addition to Childress and Ganassi, others inductees were Everett Brashear (Motorcycles), Gary Gabelich (At Large), Dave McClelland (Drag Racing ), Sam Posey (Sports Cars) and Bob Sweikert (Historic). The event kicked off the Hall's move from its previous location in Novi, Mich., to the grounds of Daytona International Speedway .
Richard Childress Racing cars have parts confiscated
Richard Childress Racing 's three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars had trouble in pre-race inspection Sunday. After multiple trips through the line, NASCAR pulled the Nos. 3 of Austin Dillon , 27 of Paul Menard and 31 of Ryan Newman out of inspection and confiscated the braces in the right rear corners of their respective vehicles. According to NASCAR, the parts in question were optional braces (brackets) in the rear-wheel area of the cars. NASCAR officials had them removed and will take the parts back to the R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina. No penalties -- such as a loss of starting position -- are expected today or post-event, according to NASCAR. Mike Dillon, general manager of Richard Childress Racing , said the team didn't replace the parts due to time. For the race, Dillon finished 11th, while Menard finished 18th and Newman finished 24th. Kenny Bruce contributed to this story from Atlanta
Richard Childress Racing 2016 Team Preview
Richard Childress Racing drivers Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon discuss what it takes to prepare for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
'Hero' moment for Ty Dillon as Richard Childress makes NASCAR Hall
CONCORD, N.C. -- Richard Childress has many titles to Ty Dillon : Team owner, hunting buddy, grandfather. And now NASCAR Hall of Famer, thanks to a moment that Dillon and his family -- including brother and fellow driver Austin -- weren't expecting Wednesday. "I was actually standing with my mom when I got a text message, 'Congratulations to your grandfather,'" Dillon said on Thursday during a media availability at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We were like, 'No way!' We weren't even expecting this year. I'm so happy for him." Childress is part of the five-person 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class that was unveiled Wednesday. Joining Childress in the Hall will be Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin , Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. H. Clay Earles was named the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. "I think at first, I called him probably five minutes after I found out -- I'm sure he was getting all kinds of calls -- it seemed like it hadn't set in for him yet," Dillon said of his first communication with his grandfather after learning Childress had made the Hall of Fame. "He's a hard worker so he's always thinking about what's going on next. "I saw him this morning (at an appearance at Bass Pro Shops). First thing I did was just give him a big hug because I was proud of him. He's very happy today and excited, and it's well-deserved." Childress , 70, began his career as a driver, making his first NASCAR start in 1969, and he went on to score six top-five finishes and 76 top-10 finishes over 12 years and 285 starts. He formed Richard Childress Racing in 1969 and eventually teamed with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt for six championships. In his storied history as an owner, Childress is the first to have owner championships in all three NASCAR national series, and his 11 driver championships are second all-time. RCR has 212 NASCAR national series victories: 105 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, 76 wins in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and 31 wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The bond Dillon and Childress share is much more than that of your typical grandfather and grandson. "He's my hero and glad that I get to spend time with him not only in our sport but every day at the shop and away from it, when we're hunting and hanging out with family," Dillon said. RCR currently fields Chevrolets for three full-time teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ( Austin Dillon in the No. 3, Paul Menard in the No. 27 and Ryan Newman in the No. 31) and four full-time teams in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (Menard/Dillon primarily in the No. 2, Ty Dillon in the No. 3, Brandon Jones in the No. 33 and Brendan Gaughan in the No. 62). "He's such a focused individual about making this race team great again." Ty Dillon said. "I think this is a moment that is going to be big for him for feeling like he's finally made it. He's the first one at the shop every single day and the last one to leave. Working hard like he did way back when he had a $20 race car. I think it's finally a moment for him to sit back and realize what he's accomplished and hopefully it continues to set in for the rest of the week."
Richard Childress Racing pit crew coach steps down
Eric Wilson stepped down as head coach of Richard Childress Racing 's pit crews, effective immediately, PitTalks.com has learned. Wilson took over the coaching job three years ago, replacing Matt Clark. Wilson's plans are unclear at this time, but what is clear is Ray Wright will be the new coach. Wright has been the strength-and-conditioning coach for the past seven years. Wright was also the rear tire carrier for the No. 27 Chevrolet SS of Paul Menard . Taking his place over the wall will be Adam Mestemacher. As far as the strength-conditioning role, Tyler Rader will likely take over the void for the foreseeable future. Rader also fuels the No. 3 Chevrolet SS of Austin Dillon for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. RCR officials declined comment. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .