Homestead: Paul Menard race report

MENARD FINISHES 2009 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES SEASON WITH 26th-PLACE AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 22, 2009) -- Yates Racing driver Paul Menard and the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards team rounded out the final NASCAR ...

MENARD FINISHES 2009 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES SEASON WITH 26th-PLACE AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 22, 2009) -- Yates Racing driver Paul Menard and the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards team rounded out the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the 2009 season this afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After starting the day 36th, Menard and company battled the 1.5-mile speedway for 267 laps to finish 26th in the Ford 400.

The weather in Homestead, Fla. was picture perfect as 43 drivers loaded into their cars for 400 miles of racing. Menard started on the outside row and quickly found his line. Early into the first run, Menard noted to crew chief Larry Carter the handling was a little loose off the corner and a bit tight through the center.

Carter called Menard down pit road on lap 52 for a scheduled green flag pit stop. Tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment were ordered for the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards Ford Fusion and Menard exited pit road. Soon after rejoining the field, Menard was lapped by then race leader Jimmie Johnson.

After a caution on lap 79, followed by another pit stop for tires, fuel and a slight wedge adjustment, Menard and Carter agreed they needed to find a way back onto the lead lap. Their opportunity came on lap 100, when the caution flag was displayed again for a wreck between the No. 42 and No. 14 cars. Menard and Carter decided to "wave around" and hope for an early caution flag. The call worked as the next caution was displayed on lap 108, putting the No. 98 back on the lead lap. Menard came down pit road for tires, two cans of fuel and another wedge adjustment.

By lap 200, Menard had worked his way into the top 25 and radioed to Carter that the handling was getting better, but he felt he needed a few more adjustments in their final stops. The No. 98 team continued to make adjustments and Menard maintained his lead-lap running position at the checkered flag.

Denny Hamlin was the race winner, followed by Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Jimmie Johnson. Johnson won his fourth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. The four-time champion is the first in NASCAR history to achieve four consecutive championships.

"The No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards guys worked really hard in the pits all afternoon and made some great calls," said Menard following the race. "We started off too loose, and then over adjusted at one point, but with a few chassis adjustments we were able to bring it back and a pretty solid car once we got back on the lead lap. Larry (Carter) made a great call there and it worked out in our favor. We will take the next couple of months to look back on this season, see where we can improve and start getting ready for Daytona."

After thanking his No. 98 Menards guys on the radio following the race, the team loaded up their Ford Fusion and traveled back to Concord, N.C. for a well deserved "off-season." The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will begin its 2010 season in early February when it returns to the famed Daytona International Speedway.

-credit: yr

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Series NASCAR-CUP