BUSCH: Daytona II: Paul Menard race notes

Menard Scores Third Top-Six in Last Three Races With Another Strong Run at Daytona Busch Series Race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Friday, July 1, 2005) -- Paul Menard finished sixth in tonight's Winn-Dixie 250 NASCAR Busch Series race at ...

Menard Scores Third Top-Six in Last Three Races With Another Strong Run at Daytona Busch Series Race

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Friday, July 1, 2005) -- Paul Menard finished sixth in tonight's Winn-Dixie 250 NASCAR Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Menard, who earned his third front row qualifying spot of the season earlier today, led early and led often, but ended up pushing teammate Martin Truex Jr., to the victory in the end.

From the start, Menard's #11 Menards/Turtle Wax Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., took the lead from polesitter Kevin Harvick, and stayed there for the next dozen laps until his "other" teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., joined the fray up front in the #81 Menards Chevrolet. For much of the middle section of the race, Earnhardt, Menard and Truex raced nose-to-tail, swapping the first three positions and looking to run away from the field.

But on Lap 79, Earnhardt had a problem in front of Menard, losing an engine and drastically dropping his speed. Menard tried to avoid Earnhardt's car but couldn't slow in time, tapping Earnhardt's bumper and sending him down low into to the infield grass.

"It quit running in the middle of the corner and I looked up and I was, like, 'I've got a lot of corner left' and I didn't know how I was gonna get out of the guy's way' ... and I couldn't," Earnhardt said. "There wasn't any smoke, I don't think, so they couldn't tell what was going on. Just lucky I didn't hit anybody or spin out in front of anybody and take anybody with me. I was able to get down pit road and get out of harm's way so these guys here could keep on racing.

"The car was great, handling great, I think way better than Martin (Truex). We had the handle on the rest of the field, like that one run tonight where we just left everybody because their handling got so bad they couldn't drive around the racetrack like we could. I was just sitting there waiting for my chance. I told them we'd stay in line until 10 to go and then probably wear everybody out again. Not to be tonight. Just a good effort, though, by DEI and everybody."

For Menard it was one of those moments, but he was able to avoid an unhappy ending to his night.

"All of a sudden it looked like (Earnhardt) checked up and I got him a little, but there wasn't any warning," Menard said. "It's too bad he ended up out of the race because he was great to run with. We were a pretty good pack with Martin running out front. It was kind of anybody's race at that point and we were just cruising along."

With Dale Jr. out of the race, it was a 20-lap run to the end and Menard felt his chances were very good of winning his first Busch race. He had just pitted for fresh tires and still had a teammate in Truex to work with for the final push.

"I knew we had a car that could run with Martin and get back to the front after that restart. I guess in the end we had a good enough car to help Martin win."

For Menard, the sixth-place finish was his third top-six in as many races, edging him closer to the top-10 in the points where he sits 12th.

Next weekend, Menard and the Busch Series visit the Chicagoland Speedway for the USG Durock 300. Live television coverage begins at 2 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBC.

-mr/dei-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr. , Paul Menard