Sears Point: Paul Menard race report

MENARD BRINGS HOME 21ST-PLACE FINISH AFTER LATE RACE SPIN SONOMA, Calif. (June 21, 2009) -- On a bright, sunny afternoon in "Wine Country," Paul Menard and the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards team took on the 11-turn road course in Sonoma, ...

MENARD BRINGS HOME 21ST-PLACE FINISH AFTER LATE RACE SPIN

SONOMA, Calif. (June 21, 2009) -- On a bright, sunny afternoon in "Wine Country," Paul Menard and the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards team took on the 11-turn road course in Sonoma, Calif. Smart pit strategy and hard driving by Menard moved the Menards Ford Fusion into top 20, however late race contact by the No. 07 car sent the No. 98 spinning in turn 11. The spin moved Menard into 34th with only 28 laps remaining in the 110-lap event. Menard maintained his composure and made up 13 positions before the checkered flag waved for race winner Kasey Kahne.

On a beautiful Father's Day in Sonoma, 43 drivers took the green flag before a crowd of over 93,000 fans packed in the 11-turn road course to watch the drivers test their skills. Menard started from the 30th position and quickly picked up a handful of positions before settling into line for a long race.

With fuel conservation and pit strategy in the back of their minds, crew chief Larry Carter and team engineer Nick Sadler worked out a game plan that the team would follow. The initial plan was to pit twice, once on lap 25 and again around lap 67. The first caution of the afternoon flew on lap 20 for a wreck on the course. After a number of teams opted to pit, Carter instructed Menard to remain on the track. Once green-flag racing started again on lap 25, it was only two laps later when Carter called Menard down pit road for four tires and fuel. Upon exiting pit road, Menard was scored in the 40th position, but knew it was a long race and every team had a different agenda.

When the caution flag flew again on lap 52 for a large rock in turn three, Carter called Menard down pit road for fresh tires and fuel. However, the original game plan was still on the table. After a few more laps of green flag racing, Carter called Menard down pit road on lap 68 for two cans of fuel and four fresh tires. After this stop, Menard returned to the track in the 28th position.

By lap 75, Menard had worked it way up to the 20th position and was continuing to pick off one car at a time. Trouble struck for the No. 98 team, as Menard entered turn 11 on lap 81. The No. 07 car drove in too deep and clipped the rear end of the No. 98 sending Menard spinning off the track. After the train of cars proceeded by, Menard returned to the course scored in the 34th position. Carter came over the radio and told Menard to maintain his cool and to hang in there, as there were a lot of laps left to regain the lost position.

After multiple cautions on the track, Menard was able to work his way back up the leaderboard to post a 21st-place finish when the checkered flag flew.

"That was a pretty disappointing finish to the afternoon," said Menard following the race. "We had a great car and were working our way up the board, but we were dumped by the No. 07 car. I don't know what happen if he got in there too fast or what, but we were on the wrong side of it. We had a car that was going to finish at least 10 positions better than what we did. I'm proud of the guys and Larry's (Carter) calls this afternoon on the box. We deserved a better finish than what we were dealt."

Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the Northeast for its first visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. TNT television and PRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EST).

-credit: yr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Paul Menard