Menard Qualifies on Front Row at Phoenix, Rallies for 15th Place After Getting Caught in Pileup on Lap-145 Restart AVONDALE, Ariz. (Friday, April 22, 2005) -- Paul Menard qualified on the front row for tonight's Bashas' Supermarkets 200...
Menard Qualifies on Front Row at Phoenix, Rallies for 15th Place After Getting Caught in Pileup on Lap-145 Restart
AVONDALE, Ariz. (Friday, April 22, 2005) -- Paul Menard qualified on the front row for tonight's Bashas' Supermarkets 200 NASCAR Busch Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, ran with the leaders for most of the race, then did his best to salvage a top finish after getting caught up in a Lap-145 pileup by rallying from 30th to 15th by the time the checkered flag flew.
Menard and his #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., started second behind polesitter Kasey Kahne and maintained his position in the top five in the early going despite fighting a heavy understeer condition on the initial laps of each restart tonight -- on a night when there were 15 caution periods in all, beginning on Laps 7, 12, 24 and 42. He pitted for the first time under caution on Lap 45, giving up fifth place and re-emerging in 16th position after several cars chose to stay off-sequence by not pitting. He was back up to ninth place when he pitted for the second time during the 10th caution period of the night on Lap 108, this time falling back to 18th with several out-of-sequence cars in front of him.
Menard was running ninth once again when he got caught up in the pileup on the Lap 145 restart. The DEI crew opted to stay out on track, but once the race went green again on Lap 154, with Menard in eighth place, he lost several positions in the next six laps fighting a heavy understeer condition. Another yellow on Lap 160 -- the 15th and final caution period of the night -- gave Menard the chance to pit twice for repairs to the front and rear bodywork damaged in the Lap 145 pileup, remedying the understeer.
The race went green a final time on Lap 167 with Menard in 30th position. He picked up 15 positions in the final 33 laps to bring home a 15th-place finish.
Next up on the NASCAR Busch Series is next Saturday's Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway.
"The guys did a great job preparing an awesome race car for this weekend. This Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet was brand new when we got here -- it never turned a wheel on a racetrack until practice yesterday. As you saw, it was second in our first practice session yesterday, so we definitely thought we had a shot at qualifying as well as we did today. Our biggest problem was that it was a little too tight on restarts during the race. What a night to have that problem. But what can you do -- you can't predict there are going to be 15 yellows in a 200-lap race on a mile oval like this. If we would have had more long runs than just that 33-lap run at the end of the race, I think we had a really good shot at a top finish. I think we were the fastest car on the racetrack during that last run. We just had to pit to fix the damage we sustained in that pileup. We were just a sitting duck out there, otherwise. Once again, we just can't get a break."