Menard Finishes 17th at Phoenix after a Late-Race Caution
Paul Menard started the No. 27 Vertis/Menards Chevrolet from the 13th position in the Fresh Fit 500 and battled a tight-handling condition for the majority of the 312-lap event. Despite avoiding the melee that is notorious to the one-mile short track, a late-race caution fell immediately following the final pit stop by the Vertis/Menard's crew, trapping the No. 27 Impala a lap down to the leaders and relegating Menard to a 17th-place finish. The fender-to-fender battles began as soon as the green-flag dropped. Contact with the No. 11 car forced Menard to pit road under the lap-50 caution for left-side tires. During the ensuing green-flag run, Menard reported to crew chief, Slugger Labbe that he was unable to turn with the right-side tires that remained on the car. Labbe called his driver to pit road during the next caution for a four-tire pit stop, placing him deep in the field for the restart on lap 66. His position was fortunate because on the following lap, the "Big One" struck at Phoenix International Raceway, resulting in many damaged race cars. The No. 27 Vertis/Menards Chevrolet emerged unscathed as a result of the great communication from spotter, Stevie Reeves and the quick action of Menard. He remained inside the top 15 as the Vertis/Menards team continued to make adjustments to improve the car's handling. They pitted one final time on lap 283 under the green flag for four tires and adjustments; however, the caution flag flew before the field could finish cycling through pit stops. The late-race yellow flag trapped the No. 27 Chevrolet one lap down to the leader for the remainder of the event.
PAUL MENARD QUOTE: "We just were not able to get the finish we wanted today. We battled a tight-off condition during the entire race and I just couldn't get the car pointed off the corner so that we could drive straight off. It was much better at the beginning of the long (green-flag) runs than it was towards the end. The Vertis/Menards team worked hard all day, had solid pit stops and we were really lucky and avoided the big pileup early in the race. We'll just reset and head to Las Vegas next weekend."