Darlington: Paul Menard race report

MENARD TAMES THE TRACK "TOO TOUGH TO TAME" - FINISHES TOP 15 DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 2, 2009) -- In a race that featured 17 caution flags, Yates Racing driver Paul Menard overcame going down a lap twice in the evening, a number of wrecks and most...

MENARD TAMES THE TRACK "TOO TOUGH TO TAME" - FINISHES TOP 15

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 2, 2009) -- In a race that featured 17 caution flags, Yates Racing driver Paul Menard overcame going down a lap twice in the evening, a number of wrecks and most of all, the track en route to a top-15 finish. At the track with a nickname "Too Tough To Tame," Menard and the No. 98 Schrock / Menards team battled all night long with adjustments to their Ford Fusion, but when the checkered flag flew for Mark Martin, the No. 98 crossed the finish line in the 15th position.

On a hot and humid Saturday night in Darlington, S.C. fellow drivers' mothers stood at the start/finish line and gave the command for the start of the Southern 500. Pole winner Matt Kenseth led the field of cars to the green flag at 7:37 p.m. before an estimated crowd of 72,000 fans. Menard started from the 40th position after brushing the wall during his disappointing qualifying lap on Friday evening.

As the field made it up to full song, the No. 98 Ford Fusion quickly began picking up positions on the track. By lap 10, Menard had moved up to the 30th position, however, noted to crew chief Larry Carter the car was too tight in turns three and four.

During the first pit stop on lap 22, Menard brought his Ford Fusion down pit road to the attention of the No. 98 crew. After changing four tires, adding a can of fuel and making a slight air pressure adjustment, the No. 98 was back on the speedway listed in the 33rd position. After another brief caution period on lap 30, the green flag racing continued. Menard continued to note the car was too tight in turns three and four, and on lap 70 was passed by the race leader, putting him one lap down. With luck on his side, the caution flag was displayed again at lap 75, and with Menard being the first car one lap, he was able to get his lap back due to the "Lucky Dog" ruling.

Following a pit stop and back on the lead lap, Menard continued to pace laps around the "Lady in Black," yet another nickname for the tough 1.366-mile speedway.

After going down a lap again at lap 156, the No. 98 Menards team fought hard in the pit and with their adjustments was able to put Menard back on the lead lap. The hard work and dedication on the No. 98 team, along with some great calls by Carter, moved Menard up the track and into position to gain the "Lucky Dog" award on lap 283. With less than 100 laps to the finish and currently scored in the 23rd position, Menard knew he could make it to the end and salvage a good finish for the evening.

In last couple of runs, Menard and Carter worked together with a pit strategy of two tire and four tire stops -- all with the hopes of getting Menard's car a little better in the turns. The strategy played out for the No. 98 team. As other drivers in the field began experiencing problems, Menard carefully worked his way through the field and when the checkered flag was shown to the No. 5 car, Menard followed behind in the 15th position.

"All in all, I thought it was a pretty good night for the No. 98 team," said Menard following the race. "At the beginning of the race, we were too tight in turns three and four and then I don't know if it was the tires or the adjustments, but the car did not seem to go until about 10 laps into the run. Larry (Carter) and the guys made some great calls and some good adjustments throughout the race and we were able to avoid all the wrecks out there. In the end we were able to bring home a 15th-place finish at this tough track."

The No. 98 Menards team will enjoy the next two weeks at home in Concord, N.C. With the Sprint All-Star race next weekend, followed by the Coke 600 over Memorial Day weekend, the crews will enjoy some time at their hometown track Charlotte Motor Speedway. Menard will look to race his way into the Sprint All-Star race with a victory in the Sprint Showdown next weekend at the 1.5-mile speedway.

-credit: yr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Paul Menard , Mark Martin
Teams Yates Racing