MENARD FINISHES 29th AT THE "TRICKY TRIANGLE" -- POCONO RACEWAY LONG POND, Pa. (June 7, 2009) -- This afternoon's race at Pocono Raceway proved to be a challenge for the No. 98 Pittsburg Paints / Menards team. After starting the race 33rd ...
MENARD FINISHES 29th AT THE "TRICKY TRIANGLE" -- POCONO RACEWAY
LONG POND, Pa. (June 7, 2009) -- This afternoon's race at Pocono Raceway proved to be a challenge for the No. 98 Pittsburg Paints / Menards team. After starting the race 33rd after qualifying was rained out on Friday, Yates Racing driver Paul Menard worked with crew chief Larry Carter throughout the race trying to get their car better. After going down a lap just after the midpoint of the race, the No. 98 used pit strategy to get back on the lead lap and finish the race in 29th position.
Rain showers on Friday at Pocono Raceway washed out opening practice as well as qualifying, leaving the field set by 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup owners points. Menard would start 33rd for the 200-lap race on Sunday afternoon. During practice on Saturday, the No. 98 team tried a number of different setups on their Ford Fusion hoping to get it to turn better at the unique raceway.
The 200-lap race got underway before a crowd of over 105,000 fans at 2:17 p.m. The caution flag flew early in race when the No. 11 car had problems coming up to speed. After the early caution on lap one, the next caution was displayed on lap 12, again for the No. 11 stalling on the speedway.
During the caution period, Carter called Menard down pit road for four tires and fuel, as well as making an air pressure adjustment to help with the handling on the No. 98 Ford Fusion. After returning to the track in 28th position, Menard noted the car was still too tight in the middle of turn three.
Throughout the afternoon, the news in the garage was the new way NASCAR would restart the races - "double-file, shootout style." Moving forward, the cars will lineup double file as they come to the green flag. This will work for every restart, include starts with less than 10 laps to go, where in the past this would be a single-file restart.
As the green-flag racing continued on the track, Menard radioed to Carter the handling was not improving with the adjustments they were making were losing him ground on the track. Carter and the No. 98 team continued to try air pressure adjustments, track bar and wedge adjustments, hoping to find something that would help Menard turn better in the corners.
After going down a lap during a pit stop on lap 75, Menard and Carter worked on a strategy to get their lap back. When the final caution flag of the day was displayed on lap 156 for debris on the track, Carter informed his driver to remain on the speedway as the leaders came to pit road for fuel and tires. Under the new rules NASCAR implemented this weekend, if all the leaders come to pit road, the lap down car can pass the pace car and earn their lap back. The No. 98 witnessed teams do it on prior stops and took a shot at it themselves during the caution period.
On the restart, the No. 98 was back on the lead lap. Two laps later, Carter called Menard down pit road for service and through the quick work of the No. 98 crew, Menard was able to pit and return to the track before losing a lap.
With only a handful of laps left in the race, Menard was passed by the leader and eventual race winner Tony Stewart, putting him again a lap down. However, when the No. 14 slowed on the track to save fuel, the No. 98 was able to pass Stewart also, earning his lap back and finishing on the lead lap for the afternoon.
"This was a long afternoon for the No. 98 team," said Menard following the race. "Larry (Carter) and the guys did everything they could to get our car better, and while it would drive better at times we just couldn't get the track position we needed to move up the board. We fought to get our lap back and finally did at the end with the No. 14 saving fuel out there. We tried a lot of different things today with not a lot working out for us. Hopefully next weekend we can have a better run in Michigan."
Next weekend the No. 98 Menards team will travel north to Michigan International Speedway. TNT television and MRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EST).
Michigan International Speedway (Two-mile speedway)
Sunday, June 14, 2009