Menard Dominates Early, Goes On To Finish 17th At NASCAR Busch Series Season Opener at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Saturday, Feb. 19, 2005) -- After leading 37 of the first 52 laps of today's Hershey's 'Take 5' 300, Paul Menard of...
Menard Dominates Early, Goes On To Finish 17th At NASCAR Busch Series Season Opener at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Saturday, Feb. 19, 2005) -- After leading 37 of the first 52 laps of today's Hershey's 'Take 5' 300, Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Wis., had to settle for a 17th-place finish in the NASCAR Busch Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
The 24-year-old Menard started fourth in the #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., moved up to second by the end of the first lap, and got by Kyle Busch for the lead by Lap 8 of today's 120-lap affair around the 2.5-mile superspeedway tri-oval here. He easily held off numerous early challengers until the first caution period of the race that began on Lap 23. He pitted for tires and fuel on Lap 25 and emerged in third place when the race went back to green on Lap 27. Unfazed, Menard was back in the lead for the second time by Lap 38, where he stayed until shortly after a Lap-51 restart, when several cars formed a drafting line and snuck on by, leaving him hung out to dry and sending him all the way back to seventh.
After falling back as far as 13th during the next fuel-and-tire run, a quick fuel-and-tire stop under yellow on Lap 70 sent Menard back onto the track in ninth, and he was back in the top five by Lap 75. Another stellar stop by the Menards/DEI crew on Lap 101 sent from 12th to fourth. But, as was the case for most of today's race, his difficulty finding a drafting partner prevented him from taking advantage of what was clearly one of the fastest cars around the high side of the track, leaving him to settle for the 17th-place finish.
Next up is next Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series event on the California Speedway 2-mile tri-oval at Fontana.
"I don't think many if any people will argue the Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet was the fastest car on the track today. That's a tribute to the guys at DEI to got us ready for this weekend. Unfortunately, the high side of the track was where we had the best chance of moving up through the field when we fell behind, and every time I tried to make a run up there, no one would go with me, so we got hung out to dry a few too many times. We could have run around on the bottom like everybody else all day long, but we would have burned up our brakes and never would have passed anybody. It was definitely frustrating how the day turned out, especially after we were running so well out front on our own during the first 50 laps or so. Maybe I have a little bit to learn in these (restrictor) plate races. But it would sure help if we had some more friends out there. It was a great effort all the way around by the guys. That's the encouraging part as we move on from here."