Menard Qualifies Third for 300-Mile NASCAR Busch Series Season Finale Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004) -- Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., will start Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series 300-mile season finale from the inside of the second row after qualifying today at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Menard made his way around the mile-and-a-half oval here with a fast qualifying lap of 176.916 mph (30.523 seconds) to land the third spot on the starting grid among 53 car-and-driver combinations attempting to make Saturday's 43-car field.
It was the second top-three qualifying effort and third in the top 10 during the last seven race weekends for the 24-year-old Menard, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender out of Eau Claire, Wis. He earned his first NASCAR Busch Series pole at Kansas on Oct. 8, and qualified seventh at Memphis on Oct. 22. Last weekend at Darlington, Menard's top-four qualifying run was washed out by rain, sending him to the back of a starting grid determined by owners points and other criteria. He rallied for a 12th-place finish, nonetheless.
Starting on the pole Saturday will be Casey Mears, after a fast lap of 177.936 mph (30.348 seconds) today. He'll be joined on the front row by Martin Truex, Jr., who clinched the series championship last weekend at Darlington and clocked a fast qualifying lap today of 177.009 mph (30.507 seconds).
Friday's Happy Hour of final practice begins at 8:45 a.m. EST and will be the subject of an hour-long, tape-delayed show on SPEED-TV that begins at noon EST. Race time Saturday is 1 p.m. EST with a live broadcast set for the NBC network.
"Well, so far, so good for our final weekend of the season. We're definitely looking for a solid finish on Saturday and it looks like we've got just the car for it. We knew we had a top-five car the moment we rolled it off the truck this morning. Martin (Truex) and Casey (Mears) beat us today, so we'll just have to get them on Saturday! I was just a little loose coming off of (Turn) Four. It made me think twice about going through there wide open. Still, I think we have a good starting spot. We had two good days of testing here last week. We got a lot done with shocks and springs and so we were able to come here today and focus on our qualifying setup a little more than usual. The test helped us a lot. This track is really pretty easy to drive. It's not too line-sensitive. It'll definitely make for some good racing on Saturday."