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RCR competition director: ‘We have to qualify better. It hurts us a lot.’

Auto Club 400- Practice

Auto Club 400- Practice

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While two Richard Childress Racing cars are in position to make the Chase, the team’s director of competition seeks better results - particularly in qualifying.

Dr. Eric Warren told “The Morning Drive” on Thursday that qualifying has been an “Achilles heel’’ for RCR’s Sprint Cup teams this season.

“We have to qualify better,’’ he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It huts us a lot. I think we’ve raced better than we’ve practiced and qualified. If we can kind of start better, I think we don’t spend the first half (of the race) trying to get that back.’’

Paul Menard and Ryan Newman are both in position to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup even though they have not won this season. Newman ranks second among non-winners on the Chase grid. Menard is third. Heading into the final two races before the Chase field is set, the top five winless drivers in points are in position to advance.

Menard and Newman are in a transfer position to the Chase despite struggling in qualifying this season. Both drivers have an average starting spot of 20.3 in the past 14 races. Newman, whose 51 career poles ranks ninth on the all-time list, has gone 17 consecutive races without a top-10 start. He has not had a pole since joining Richard Childress Racing in 2014.

Those qualifying woes have kept them from the front. Menard ranks 16th this season and Newman is 17th in the percentage of laps run in the top 15. Menard is at 49.7 percent and Newman at 49.3 percent. Kevin Harvick ranks No. 1 in that category at 90.3 percent. Menard, Newman and Austin Dillon, who also needs to win to make the Chase, have combined to lead 52 of 6,572 laps run this season.

“Currently for Ryan and Paul, we’ve got to keep being aggressive,’’ Warren told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think it’s really easy to drop into ‘let’s points race’ and certainly your risk vs. reward balance changes a little bit here. Two new winners put us all on the edge or out.

“We’ve got to keep doing what we’ve done to get here. I think Austin is showing great improvement. We’re kind of knocking on the door, but I don’t think we’ve been in quite in a position to win yet with the exception of Austin at Michigan.’’

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