The 2017 NASCAR season got off to a wild start this past weekend at Daytona International Speedway as Richard Childress Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series teams competed for the first time in the new stage format and damaged car policy. The racing was intense, fast-paced and overall exciting.
In the end, Paul Menard and the No. 27 Peak/Menards team was the top-finishing RCR Cup team, earning a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500. Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Dow Chevrolet finished 19th and Ryan Newman’s No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet crossed the line 21st.
On Saturday, it was Austin Dillon and the No. 2 Rheem team that led the way for the RCR NXS group, scoring a third-place finish after suffering damage early in the event. Brendan Gaughan and the No. 62 South Point team earned their first top-five of the season, while Ty Dillon’s No. 3 Bass Pro Shop Chevrolet ended the day 19th. Brandon Jones’ No. 33 Nexteer Automotive Chevrolet, who earned his first-career pole award, and Daniel Hemric’s No. 21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet were both involved in a Lap 30 incident, resulting in finishes of 29th and 31st, respectively.
Here is what each of the RCR drivers had to say after the opening-weekend events at Daytona.
Paul Menard, No. 27 Peak/Menards Chevrolet – 3rd
“It was an exciting day. We were right in the middle of half the crashes out there. I got a little bit of right-rear damage early, but the guys fixed it. Matt Borland made a really good call to short pit for some fuel so we didn’t have to take as much fuel at the end. In the closing laps, we were on pretty old tires, and I couldn’t run the bottom very well. Those guys were coming on the bottom at the end. I was kind of tentative to get down there. The car ran out of fuel coming out of Turn 2 on the final lap and I just nursed it home. I am just proud of my guys on my Peak/Menards Chevrolet.”
Austin Dillon, No. 3 Dow Chevrolet – 19th
“Overall, we had a good day and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead in 2017. I’m just bummed that we ran out of fuel at the end. We put ourselves in good positions all day. We have to get better and we’re working hard as an organization to make that happen. I’m proud of the Dow Chevrolet team for working hard together. We put ourselves in great position all day and were able to lead some laps. It just didn’t work out for us at the end. We’re really looking forward to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend.”
Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet – 21st
“What happened to us is simply the product of restrictor-plate racing. After dodging one wreck and man, was it close, we got caught up in the very next one shortly after the restart around lap 140. I saw the No. 95 car get together with another car in front of me and I had no where to go. My Caterpillar pit crew did a great job fixing the right-front before the five minute clock expired to get us back out on the track and running in the top 10. Unfortunately, we had a tire rub and had to pit. That took us out of contention. I want to thank RCR for giving me a strong car and ECR Engines for the horsepower. We earned some championship points after finishing in the top 10 in the second stage. Now it’s off to Atlanta Motor Speedway and I feel confident I’ll have another strong Chevy.”
Austin Dillon, No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet – 3rd
“It was wild for sure. I got into that first little scuffle. I saved it, but the right-rear quarter panel of the Rheem Chevrolet incurred damage. The team did a great job fixing it in under five minutes. After that the Rheem Chevrolet was pretty fast, but evil to drive. We had to get four tires at the end, which turned out to be a good thing because the right rear tire had started to separate. All-in-all it was a good run. I wanted to get a Chevy in Victory Lane but it didn’t happen. When the No. 3 car ran out of gas, I thought my only option was to push the No. 16 car out front. We had a big lead going and then Kasey Kahne came with a big run. It just didn’t work out. We’ll take a third-place finish. Everyone is safe and that’s all we could ask for.”
Brendan Gaughan, No. 62 South Point Chevrolet – 5th
“Listen, every single wreck happened around the South Point Chevy. We were a magnet tonight, but we made it through. I can’t believe how clean our Chevy is considering the amazing incidents around us. It came out looking really, really good. Everyone talks about teammates at Daytona and working together. Austin (Dillon) and I worked all day long, one behind the other. We really had a plan and the RCR team stuck to it. What a great job by teammates, we kicked tail together. It was awesome to see and I love being at Richard Childress Racing. I think tonight was a product of stage racing, where guys went for more than I thought they would. The fans sure got a show, a long show but a great show.”
Ty Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet – 19th
“We had a really fast No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro all weekend. The high line was definitely the fastest, and we kept getting stuck on the bottom on the restarts. We were always able to work the draft and get up to the front. We were one of the strongest cars in the final stage, and I really thought we had a shot at winning. I was running up in the top six for the last 30 laps, and was third at the green-white-checkered. Unfortunately, my fuel gauge dropped and the car started shaking without fuel. I had to drop to the bottom to get it to re-fire and lost my position. The bright side is that this has been a great start to the year for the No. 3 team with how strong we were, and I’m looking forward to continue working with this team.”
Brandon Jones, No. 33 Nexteer Automotive Chevrolet – 29th
“I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I just know I got turned from behind and it went out from there. It was definitely the hardest hit I’ve ever had, but I’ll be alright. It’s a bummer. Our No. 33 Nexteer Chevrolet Camaro was really fast all weekend, and I had just earned the first pole award of my career. The car was handling great and we were working well with our teammates up front. Unfortunately, this is what happens at Daytona, you never know what’s going to happen out there. I’m looking forward to getting to Atlanta next weekend to get back on track.”
Daniel Hemric, No. 21 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet – 31st
“That was tough. They put down all of that oil and speedy dry during the red flag right before we went back racing. I felt like we were just trying to bide our time to that first segment. We got down into Turn 3 at speed and as soon as I turned the corner the car felt like it was on ice and just went straight. I got into the 7 (Justin Allgaier) and after that happened it was just a matter of trying to gather it back up. I hate it for everyone that got caught up with us. Huge thanks to everyone at Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff for coming on board with us and helping us out here at Daytona. We have them on the car a few more races this year and hopefully we can give them the run they deserve.”