Menard Finishes Seventh at New England 200 For Fifth Straight NASCAR Busch Series Top 10 LOUDON, N.H. (Saturday, July 16, 2005) -- Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Wis., drove his ...
Menard Finishes Seventh at New England 200 For Fifth Straight NASCAR Busch Series Top 10
LOUDON, N.H. (Saturday, July 16, 2005) -- Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Wis., drove his #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., to a seventh-place finish in today's New England 200 on the mile oval at New Hampshire International Speedway -- Menard's fifth consecutive NASCAR Busch Series top 10.
The 24-year-old Menard qualified 14th this morning and made short work of driving his way into the top 10 -- less than a lap, in fact. He was 10th by the end of the first lap and was up to eighth just two laps later. He was up to sixth by Lap 11, and found himself in the top five by Lap 21. But then his bright yellow racing machine began to get tight, allowing several competitors to get back by him until he pitted for the first time for tires and fuel and handling adjustments under yellow on Lap 51 of today's scheduled 200-lap event.
Menard was back in 10th when he pitted, but a quick stop by the DEI crew sent him back out in eighth, and the car turned out to be slightly better than during Menard's opening run. With Menard still encountering a slight tight condition in the middle of the corners, the crew brought him back in again for further adjustments under yellow on Lap 86, sending him back out in 17th place. Again, Menard steadily moved forward, getting down to 12th by Lap 99, and then all the way up to third, behind Nextel Cup regulars Elliot Sadler and Matt Kenseth, when he and the other two stayed on track while a majority of the leaders pitted under yellow on Lap 101. Menard stayed in the top three until his final stop of the day under yellow on Lap 120, a stop that sent him back to 16th with several cars in front of him having stayed out. But from there, he was able to make up nine spots before the end of the race.
A total of seven caution periods for 27 laps enabled those cars that decided to forego fuel-and-tire stops after Lap 101 make it all the way to the end.
The seventh-place finish is the latest in Menard's current streak of top finishes, which started with a fifth place at Kentucky, third at Milwaukee, sixth at Daytona, and ninth last weekend at Chicago. Menard solidified his top-12 position in the drivers standings, and moved to within 52 points of 10th-place Greg Biffle, another Nextel Cup regular, and within just 20 points of former series champion David Green for 11th. Defending series champion Martin Truex, Jr., was the winner of today's race.
Next up for the NASCAR Busch Series is next weekend at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado.
"We had an awesome day of practice yesterday. We were second-fastest in the morning session and we never seemed to miss a beat from there. The guys really gave me a great race car right off the truck yesterday morning. But today the track was different. We were one of the first cars in the qualifying order, and that didn't help us on a morning when the track just kept getting faster and faster. My car got just a touch tight in the race during my first run, and we made it a little better after our first stop, and then it was a whole lot better over the last half of the race. I thought we had the strategy to get a really good finish when we stopped with 80 laps to go and a lot of other guys stayed out. We had fuel to get to the end, for sure, and we thought a lot of those other guys were going to have to stop one more time. But all those yellows really messed things up for us by helping them get to the finish. That's just the way it goes. I think we'll take another top-10 finish and this awesome mile oval package of ours to (the mile oval at) Pikes Peak."