BUSCH: Phoenix II: Paul Menard preview

Menard Hopes To Parlay April's Front-Row Start at Phoenix Into Milestone Result at Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series 200-Miler AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 8, 2005) -- Sitting on the front row for the start of last April's NASCAR Busch Series race at...

Menard Hopes To Parlay April's Front-Row Start at Phoenix Into Milestone Result at Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series 200-Miler

AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 8, 2005) -- Sitting on the front row for the start of last April's NASCAR Busch Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, then running in the top 10 in the latter stages of the race, Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet team from Dale Earnhardt, Inc., thought maybe it was finally going to be their night.

The bitter hand of fate, however, disguised as a multicar pileup on a Lap 145 restart, had other ideas, relegating Menard & Company to an eventual 15th-place finish. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon the #11 Menards/DEI team more often than not ever since. And they look to continue a strong second-half-of-the-season run when they return for Saturday's Arizona 200.

Riding a string of 15 top-12 finishes in 17 races since mid-June at Kentucky Speedway, Menard and his teammates experienced a momentary hiccup at Texas last weekend after falling out of sequence on pit stops and having to settle for 17th. No worse for wear, Menard still stands a solid seventh in the drivers standings and hopes to finish these final two races of the season with a flourish.

"I guess it's a sign of the times when you're disappointed with a 17th-place finish," said Menard, who followed up his front-row start here at Phoenix last April by winning the pole position on the superspeedway at Talladega the very next weekend. "It was particularly disappointing last weekend because we definitely had a top-five car. But it just wasn't meant to be with the way things turned out with the yellows. We know what we had last week. We know what we have for Phoenix. It'll just be a matter of putting it all together on Saturday and hopefully we'll have a result that will carry us through the whole offseason and into next year. If not, we'll have another really good track for us next weekend at Homestead.:"

No secret by now is the fact that Menard scored a milestone NASCAR Southwest Tour victory here at Phoenix in 2002 with a dramatic last-lap pass of Kenny Schrader that put the 25-year-old from Eau Claire, Wis., on the stock car racing map. A little of the magic from that memorable day will no doubt ride along with him as he negotiates the 200 tricky laps around the tight mile oval at PIR this weekend.

"I think it's time we generate a whole new success story for the Phoenix track," Menard said. "This weekend would be the ideal time as we're winding down a really strong second half of the season. The next milestone on our checklist is that first win. It would be really fitting to make it happen here at Phoenix."

Practice for Saturday's 200-lap main event begins at noon local time (2 p.m. EST) Friday, with qualifying set for 9 a.m. local time (11 a.m. EST) Saturday with live coverage provided by SPEED-TV. Race time Saturday is 1:40 p.m. local time (3:40 p.m. EST) with the TNT cable network carrying all the action live beginning at 3:30 p.m EST.

-dei/mr-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Paul Menard