Tuesday, Sep 26

RCR Race Preview: Darlington Raceway

RCR Race Preview: Darlington Raceway NK Photography Photo

Richard Childress Racing at Darlington Raceway... In 139 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington Raceway, Richard Childress Racing has eight wins, all by Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt claimed the checkered flag in 1986 (spring), both races in 1987, 1989 (fall), another sweep in 1990 plus spring events in 1993 and 1994. RCR drivers have 26 top-five and 47 top-10 finishes at the historic South Carolina speedway.


Keeping the Streaks Alive… Richard Childress Racing drivers in both the Cup and Xfinity Series will look to extend impressive streaks in their respective races this weekend at Darlington Raceway. Dating back to the 2021 fall event, an RCR driver has finished inside the top-10 in each of the last three consecutive Cup and Xfinity Series races at the 1.366 egg-shaped oval.


Xfinity Series Stats at The Lady in Black... Richard Childress Racing is looking to find victory lane for the first time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Darlington Raceway. Sheldon Creed owns the most recent top-five result, a second-place effort in the 2022 fall event. The Welcome, N.C. based team has 11 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes.


Catch the Action... The NASCAR Xfinity Series Shriner’s Children 200 at Darlington Raceway will be televised live Saturday, May 13, beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.


Follow Sunday’s Action at Darlington... The NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway will be televised live on Sunday, May 14 beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on FS1. The race will be broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.

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Austin Dillon and the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Darlington Raceway… Austin Dillon has made 13 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington Raceway, posting a career-best second-place finish in September 2020, missing Victory Lane by a narrow margin over Kevin Harvick. Dillon also has a fourth-place finish in 2017. He finished ninth (May) and 17th (September) at the track in 2022. Dillon has made four appearances at “The Lady in Black” in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, securing his best finish of fifth in 2012. The 2011 NASCAR Truck Series champion has two starts at the track in the Truck Series, earning his best finish of fifth in August 2010.


About TRACKER Off Road... Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 prominently features TRACKER ATVs, a game-changing new line of all-terrain vehicles and side-by-sides offering breakthrough performance, service, and value in the off-road industry. TRACKER OFF ROAD was born out of a powerhouse partnership formed between Bass Pro Shops and TRACKER founder Johnny Morris and Textron Specialized Vehicles, bringing together the undisputed world leader in boating with a global leader in innovation and technology.


About Bass Pro Shops... Bass Pro Shops is North America's premier outdoor and conservation company. Founded in 1972 when avid young angler Johnny Morris began selling tackle out of his father's liquor store in Springfield, Missouri, today the company provides customers with unmatched offerings spanning premier destination retail, outdoor equipment manufacturing, world-class resort destinations and more. In 2017 Bass Pro Shops acquired Cabela's to create a "best-of-the-best" experience with superior products, dynamic locations and outstanding customer service. Bass Pro Shops also operates White River Marine Group, offering an unsurpassed collection of industry-leading boat brands, and Big Cedar Lodge, America's Premier Wilderness Resort. Under the visionary conservation leadership of Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops is a national leader in protecting habitat and introducing families to the outdoors and has been named by Forbes as "one of America's Best Employers." Bass Pro Shops has a long relationship with NASCAR, dating back to 1998. For more information, visit http://www.basspro.com/.



What are your thoughts on Darlington Raceway?

“I’m excited about racing at Darlington Raceway. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I finished second here in the past, so we want to improve on that. It’s key we get a good qualifying spot Saturday because track position is very important here and having a good pit stall can make or break your race. We come back and race the Southern 500 in September to start the NASCAR Playoffs, so this weekend’s race is important to have a good race to build on for later in the year. We finished 10th last weekend at Kansas Speedway and have a lot of momentum coming into this race. Our No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Off Road Chevrolet team is ready for the challenge and will try to put the No. 3 back in victory lane at Darlington.”


400 miles at Darlington Raceway is grueling. How do you stay focused?

“Darlington Raceway is always a long, hot race for us. Obviously, staying hydrated leading up to the event is key and putting a lot of work in the gym and running laps on the sim helps me keep my focus for 400 miles. I feel good and in condition for the race. This race isn’t as long as the September race, but it’s still grueling. I love the long races; in the past, they’ve been good to us.”


Kyle Busch and the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Darlington Raceway… Kyle Busch will make his 23rd start at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend. Busch scored his first Darlington win in 2008. The victory came in his fourth start at the egg-shaped South Carolina speedway and Busch became the 43rd different race winner at Darlington. He led a race-high 169 of 367 laps and crossed the finish line over three seconds ahead of second-place Carl Edwards. Busch has six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes at Darlington entering this weekend. He dominated the most recent Cup Series race at Darlington this past September, leading 155 laps before he was sidelined with mechanical problems just 22 laps from the finish. Busch is 12th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 13 points outside the top-10.


Stat of the Week… Busch leads all active Cup Series drivers with 899 laps led at Darlington Raceway.


Did You Know? Busch is one of just 10 active drivers to win a Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway.


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



What is the key to running well at Darlington Raceway? Can the driver make a bigger difference in the car’s performance at Darlington than at another track?

“The biggest thing about Darlington is that it’s a very comprising racetrack. Turns 1 and 2 are so different than Turns 3 and 4 so having a good compromise between the two ends of the racetrack really means a lot in order to have a good day. You also have to search around and find different grooves throughout the race and what works for you and your car and also traffic. If you’ve got a guy in front of you that’s running your line, you’ve got to find another line that you can run just as well so you can get some clean air on your car in order to make a pass. With the fast speeds that you have at Darlington, even though it’s a tight mile-and-a third racetrack, aerodynamics is a huge factor. Getting clean air on your car, especially through the majority of the run, is important because now tire falloff is so big that you have to have that grip as much as you can have of it.”


How special is your win at Darlington Raceway in 2008? You led the most laps and beat Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon for the victory. 

“Winning at Darlington in 2008 was cool because that was my first Crown Jewel win. It was also early on in my first year at JGR. It was a repave at Darlington so it was a new surface and it made passing and racing around that track very challenging because the speeds were so high. I remember bouncing off the wall a few times and maybe it made the car faster each time I did, I don’t know, but it seemed like we kept on digging and kept on going fast. That was really cool to score that win there and I’ve been close a couple of other times, which is very frustrating, because I want to win there again and be more than just a one-time Southern 500 winner.”


You have recently experienced more than your share of misfortune at Darlington Raceway. How important is it to turn that around in a few weeks?

“It’s just been really, really frustrating. Last year we had an engine blow up while leading. I think two or three years before that we were running second and just couldn’t pass the leader in the last run of the race and finished second. There was another year where I blew a right-front tire with two to go and there was another year where I was leading in the final run, had a flat tire and I had to pit. It’s been a lot of misfortune at Darlington but it would certainly mean a lot to get another win there.”


Sheldon Creed and the No. 2 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet Camaro SS at Darlington Raceway... Sheldon Creed has made two career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Darlington Raceway, highlighted by a second-place finish last fall while driving the No. 2 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet. The Alpine, California native led a total of 47 laps and was in position to secure his first Xfinity Series win before being passed by the eventual race winner on the final lap. Creed also has three NASCAR Truck Series starts at the historic egg-shaped oval, earning one pole (2021) and two wins (sweeping both events in 2021) and leading a combined total of 193 laps.


Throwing Back to 2001... In celebration of the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR, Creed and his Whelen Engineering team are throwing it back to 2001. During his sophomore campaign, Kevin Harvick claimed his first Xfinity Series championship while piloting the blue, white and red No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet. This marked the first Xfinity Series championship for both Harvick and Richard Childress Racing. The No. 2 has gone on to win two additional championships over the program's storied history.


Did You Know? Jeff Stankiewicz, crew chief of the No. 2 Whelen Engineering Chevrolet, served as Harvick's car chief during the 2006 Xfinity Series Championship at Richard Childress Racing.


Gaining Momentum... Through the first 10 Xfinity Series events of the 2023 season, Creed has posted two top-five and five top-10 finishes. The sophomore driver has led laps in five races for a total of 88 laps, over half of all the laps led during his rookie campaign. Creed currently sits seventh in the driver championship point standings, 14 points behind fifth-place Justin Allgaier.


Meet Creed... On Saturday, May 13 at 11:30 a.m. ET, Creed is scheduled to sign autographs at the RCR Merchandise Trailer located in the Fan Midway at Darlington Raceway. Stop by to get your commemorative Throwback t-shirt and have Creed sign the items purchased.


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



Darlington Raceway is not only your favorite track, but statistically one of your best tracks as well. What makes the track special to you?

“Darlington Raceway is definitely a favorite of mine. Statistically it's one of my best tracks and it's my favorite track that we go to throughout the year. I love that we get to race there twice. It fits my driving style with two different ends and different corners. It's unique and hard to drive. It pays for being on edge a little bit, which suits my style. I've fallen in love with Darlington and hopefully have another good run this weekend."


What does it take to be successful at Darlington Raceway?

"That's a hard question to answer properly. There are a lot of variables between the limits of the tire, having ideas for when the track rubbers in, how close can you run to the win in turns three and four. It's not your normal ride the fence track. It's super hard to get into turn three, which makes Darlington unique compared to others. Turns one and two are different than turns three and four. Your race car is never perfect there. You are really good on one end and suffer on the other. I personally like that everyone is dealing with issues with car balance and handling. It puts it back into the driver's hands a little more and maybe evens up the field a little bit."


Would you rather be better in turns one and two or turns three and four?

"I've had both there. I've been really good in turns one and two, while struggling in turns three and four, or vice versa. If you can not be too tight in turns one and two and be able to carry a lot of speed, since the exit of turn two and down the backstretch means a lot. But you need to be able to run the fence in turns three and four and keep momentum up to the start-finish line. I typically seem to be loose in turns three and four, but being able to run up against the wall has helped me in the past. Out of the 500 or 600 laps I have at Darlington, I may have run five total on the bottom. I don't like to run the bottom there and I don't plan to be down there this weekend either."


Ty Dillon and the No. 3 Ferris Commercial Mowers Chevrolet Camaro SS at Darlington Raceway... Ty Dillon has made eight career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Darlington Raceway, posting three top-10 and seven top-15 finishes. Dillon's last Xfinity Series race came at the track Too Tough to Tame last fall for Our Motorsports, but ended early after a mechanical failure. The Welcome, North Carolina native also has eight NASCAR Cup Series starts at the historic venue, resulting in five top-20 finishes.


Welcome Back to the 3... After almost five years, Dillon returns to Richard Childress Racing to pilot the No. 3 Chevrolet at Darlington Raceway. Dillon's most recent race behind the wheel of the No. 3 came at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September 2018. The now 31-year-old drove the No. 3 full-time in the Xfinity Series from 2014-2016, before furthering his career into the premier Cup Series.


Celebrating Ferris' First Step in NASCAR... In celebration of the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR, Dillon and his Ferris Commercial Mowers team are throwing it back to 2003. The white and red design, highlighted by grass on front nose and clippings behind the rear tire, honors Ferris' first entry in NASCAR competition. Driven by Martin Truex Jr. in the then NASCAR Busch North Series, the Ferris brand was showcased at the one-mile surface of New Hampshire Motor Speedway.


Did You Know? Ferris Commercial Mowers has been a long-standing partner of Dillon, dating back to his dirt late model and modified days at the beginning of his motorsports career. Throughout this season, the brand is also displayed on Dillon's No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series.


Why Ferris Commercial Mowers? Over 20 years ago, Ferris Commercial Mowers set the bar as the first and only manufacturer to integrate suspension into the mowing experience. They revolutionized the commercial cutting landscape and continue to raise the bar with industry leading suspension. Their racing-inspired, automotive-style suspension and integrated cutting decks are engineered to deliver a quality cut faster, allowing you to earn profits and bragging rights. Their suspension is not just a feature or a marketing gimmick, it is a game changer that simply has to be experienced. Others have tried, but there’s a difference you can feel only on a Ferris Commercial Mowers. True suspension changes everything.


About Briggs & Stratton... Briggs & Stratton, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, provides innovative products and diverse power solutions to help people get work done. Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest producer of engines for outdoor power equipment, and is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of lithium-ion battery, standby generator, energy storage system, lawn and garden, turf care and job site products through its Briggs & Stratton®, Vanguard®, Ferris®, Simplicity®, Snapper®, Billy Goat®, Allmand®, SimpliPhi®, Branco® and Victa® brands. Briggs & Stratton products are designed, manufactured, marketed and serviced in more than 100 countries on six continents. For additional information, please visit www.briggsandstratton.com.



What makes Darlington Raceway special?

“To me personally, Darlington Raceway is the genuine roots of our sport. When you drive into the speedway, you are driving into the same track that all the greats drove in to. There is not much that is different now and you can still feel the history seeping out of the track and grandstands. You can feel the roots of our sport everywhere you on property. It's one of my favorite racetracks. It's one of the last tracks left that as a driver, you have so many options to control the outcome of your day. With the way the surface races, you are racing the racetrack which is not something we get very often anymore. Older shape, older asphalt tracks bring back the genuine roots of a driver."


This is your first time back in a Richard Childress Racing car in almost five years. Describe your thoughts being back in the No. 3 at Darlington Raceway.

"Being back at RCR is awesome. Obviously at the beginning of my career, I won a lot of races for RCR and at the end of the day, RCR is my family and has been most of my life. I have been away from home for a long time and racing in the Cup Series for other great teams, but to get the opportunity to come run a couple races is super special and an opportunity that I'm very grateful for. Hopefully we get back to the winning ways of early in my career."


What does it take to be successful at Darlington Raceway?

"To be successful at Darlington Raceway, you have to keep yourself out of trouble, off the wall and away from getting that Darlington stripe. You must have consistency in how you approach the track and be there at the end of a race. You need a car that stays under you and luckily I have a lot of experience around the track now to understand the needs."


Austin Hill and the No. 21 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet Camaro SS at Darlington Raceway... Austin Hill has made three career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Darlington Raceway, earning a top-10 results in each event. Last season while piloting the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in a pair of races at the historic South Carolina track, the Winston, Ga. native finished in the ninth and 10th position respectively. Hill has also competed in three NASCAR Truck Series races at Darlington, posting a best finish of third in 2020.


Throwing Back to 2006... In celebration of the Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR, Hill and his Bennett Transportation and Logistics team are throwing it back to 2006. During that season, Harvick won a total of nine races in route to securing his second Xfinity Series championship - this time behind the wheel of the blue and orange No. 21 Coast Guard Chevrolet. This marked the last time the No. 21 has won the championship title at Richard Childress Racing.


Did You Know? Andy Street, crew chief of the No. 21 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet, served as race engineer for Harvick during a portion of his Cup Series career at Richard Childress Racing.


Points Leader... Hill continues to lead the 2023 Xfinity Series driver championship point standings, currently holding a four point advantage over second-place John Hunter Nemechek. The 29-year-old has sat atop the standings after nine of the first 10 races of the season.


Meet Hill... On Saturday, May 13 at 10:45 a.m. ET, Hill is scheduled to sign autographs at the RCR Merchandise Trailer located in the Fan Midway at Darlington Raceway. Stop by to get your commemorative Throwback t-shirt and have Hill sign the items purchased.


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



What makes Darlington Raceway so difficult?

“Darlington Raceway is a tough place to get around. Tire wear is a big issue there and we always see a good amount of tire fall off. You have to make the decision of how hard you are going to push at the beginning of a run or how much you are willing to fall off at the end of a run. It's always a game of chess to position yourself around other guys who may have made the same decision as you. How hard are they pushing right now compared to me. You want to stay under the limit of the tire and not overstep the right front or right rear to burn it off too early. I personally love to race on any tracks that have an old, worn out surface where you see a lot of tire fall off. You see a lot of strategies play out differently. It's a very unique racetrack that no other racetrack can mimic."


Would you rather be better in turns one and two or turns three and four?

“In racing, your car is never going to be 100% perfect. Drivers will always complain about something, whether the car is too tight, too loose, or doing something that we don't like. For me, when I go into Darlington weekend, I focus on how my car is driving in turns three and four. I hope I can just get through turns one and two, but be really strong on the other end. Everyone gets through turns one and two fairly decent. You can move your line around to make up speed. But in turns three and four, you have to turn really well and have drive on exit with how tight the overall corner is. When you see guys who win races at Darlington, I feel like they are really strong in turns three and four."



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