MENARD FINISHES 34th AFTER LONG AFTERNOON AT MICHIGAN BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 2009) -- Yates Racing driver Paul Menard and his No. 98 Pittsburgh Paints / Menards team endured a long afternoon at the two-mile, Michigan International Speedway....
MENARD FINISHES 34th AFTER LONG AFTERNOON AT MICHIGAN
BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 2009) -- Yates Racing driver Paul Menard and his No. 98 Pittsburgh Paints / Menards team endured a long afternoon at the two-mile, Michigan International Speedway. The team started the race 38th after a disappointing qualifying session on Friday. After two strong practices on Saturday, the team felt confident heading into Sunday's race, but after going down a lap early, the team was never able to regain its lap and finished the day 34th.
Before a packed house of 90,000 fans, 43 cars roared to the green flag to start the LifeLock 400. Menard, who started from the 38th position, quickly began picking up positions on the track.
On lap 35, the field began making green-flag pit stops for fuel and tires. Crew chief Larry Carter followed suit, calling his driver down pit road on lap 37 for tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. After a 13.5-second stop, Menard returned to the speedway. As the field cycled through pit stops, the No. 98 was caught by the race leader (the No. 48 car) and was passed on lap 50, putting the team down a lap.
Green-flag racing continued until lap 72 when the first caution flag of the day was displayed for debris on the backstretch. During the pit stop, Carter called for a number of additional changes to the No. 98 car to help Menard with the handling.
Back on the track, Menard noted the car was still extremely tight in the center of the corner and very loose into the turn. After a brief discussion, Carter and Menard made the call to unhook the rear sway bar, in hopes of tightening the car up entering the corner, which in turn would help them turn better in the center of the corner.
When the caution flag for debris came out on lap 120, the No. 98 team went to work making a track bar adjustment, as well as unhooking the rear sway bar. After a lengthy stop, the No. 98 team completed the service and returned Menard to the track in the 34th position.
Menard still fought the major handling problem throughout the remainder of the race. An additional pit stop on lap 154 where Carter called for a handful of more changes still failed to help Menard's handling in the corners. With only 40 laps remaining in the event, the No. 98 fought for position, but ended the day scored 34th when the checkered flag flew for race winner Mark Martin.
"I don't know what happened this afternoon to the No. 98 team, but it wasn't pleasant out there," said Menard following the race. "I know Larry (Carter) and the guys did everything they could, but either we didn't hit on the right setup or something in the front end broke. We tried so many things this afternoon and nothing seemed to take. Hopefully we can have a better run in Sonoma next weekend."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads west to the 1.99-mile road course tucked in California's "Wine Country."