Richardson had rough task of tackling Kansas in Nationwide Series race

CHINA GROVE, N.C. – Robert Richardson, Jr. and the No. 23 Chevrolet of R3 Motorsports endured a tough task in tackling the handling of how to best get around Kansas Speedway during Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

After the two practice sessions on Friday, Richardson and crew chief Steve Plattenberger centralized the car’s handling problems down to Turns 3 and 4. Richardson mastered Turns 1 and 2 by the second practice session and felt good about the Chevrolet’s handling through there.

Once the race started under sunny skies, but cool temperatures, Richardson bided his time in picking up positions to figure out how the car would handle. Within the first 22 laps, he was already up to 35th from his 42nd-place starting position.

With no cautions helping him and the other competitors, Richardson made a green-flag stop on lap 56 for fuel, much-needed tires and adjustments. And, again, the R3 Motorsports pit crew did their job earning three positions to move the No. 23 Chevrolet to 31st place.

The first caution didn’t wave until lap 67 for the 43-car field. Richardson said he was tight entering Turn 1 and free in Turn 3, but still having the most trouble with Turns 3 and 4. In a twist of operation this weekend, team engineer Jeff Kirkendall took over the pit call duties from crew chief Steve Plattenberger for the simple reason of trying something different.

For this caution, Kirkendall elected to take the wave around to earn back one lap and improve track position. A caution waved again on lap 77 and this time Richardson came in for fuel, tires and an air pressure adjustment to help him course the turns better.

More cautions slowed the pace of the race allowing for more stops for fuel, tires and some more chassis and tire pressure adjustments. With 20 laps remaining, the team calculations showed they were one lap short on fuel to make it to the end.

Kirkendall told Richardson to save fuel for the last 20 laps as many others were hitting pit road under green. With that in mind, he said he was willing to take the gamble and go for the better finish. However, that got shot to heck when the caution waved on lap 188.

With 36 cars still in the race by then, there wasn’t much of a chance to pick up more positions as two more cautions waved in the last 12 laps. 

A green/white/checkered finished prevailed and Richardson and team left the track with a 31st-place finish, but the car is in one piece. There were many other teams whose cars left Kansas looking a little different than when they arrived on Friday because of on-track contact.

Robert Richardson, Jr. quotes: “I’m glad we were able to finish the race in one piece. However, I’m not happy with how the car just wouldn’t turn the way it needed to in Turns 3 and 4; especially in Turn 3. This track was very tricky this weekend with cool temperatures, the sun coming in and out and how the groove seemed to move around so much. I know one thing; we have some darn good notes to go off when we come back here next year because we tried everything between the two practices and the race. So, I’ll take that little bit of solace away from the weekend.

“I do want to commend the pit crew on how great they did on all the stops during the race. I don’t know how many total spots they earned on pit road during the day (11), but they were great and I can’t thank them enough for their hard work all weekend.”

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