Menard Battles Tight Race Car Early, Then Set Back by Penalty On Way to 19th-Place Finish at NASCAR Busch Series O'Reilly's 300 FORT WORTH, Texas (Saturday, April 16, 2005) -- Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Wis., made steady handling improvements to...
Menard Battles Tight Race Car Early, Then Set Back by Penalty On Way to 19th-Place Finish at NASCAR Busch Series O'Reilly's 300
FORT WORTH, Texas (Saturday, April 16, 2005) -- Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Wis., made steady handling improvements to his #11 Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., during today's O'Reilly's 300 NASCAR Busch Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, was hit with a drive-through penalty later in the race, and had to settle for a 19th-place finish.
The 24-year-old Menard started 20th and found himself battling understeer conditions during the early going of today's 200-lap race around the mile-and-a-half high-banked tri-oval here. He and the DEI crew began rectifying the problem with his first pit stop under yellow on Lap 29, when he rejoined the race in 18th place. The problem was heightened during a long run between a Lap 45 restart and Menard's second pit stop under green on Lap 92, during which he fell all the way back to 27th place and one lap down.
Another set of changes on a Lap 115 pit stop made the Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet the best it had been all day, to that point, and Menard worked his way back to first in line for a "Lucky Dog" free pass back to the lead lap during a Lap 134 restart. NASCAR officials, however, penalized him for crossing the start-finish line ahead of race-leader Shane Hmiel, whose car balked on its way toward the green flag alongside Menard. The drive-through penalty left Menard a second lap down and sent him back to 24th place. From there, he powered his way to a 19th-place finish.
NASCAR Nextel Cup regular Kasey Kahne was the winner today. Next up for Menard is next Friday night's Busch series race on the mile oval in Phoenix.
"I thought this morning before the race that we had the Menards/Quaker Chevrolet right where we wanted it. We were a little too free to be able to qualify better than we did on Thursday, but I thought it was going to be perfect for the race today. Unfortunately, we found out we would have been a lot better off a lot more free at the start today. Typically you tighten up as the day goes along on this type of track on a day like this. But I couldn't believe we'd be as tight as we were in the early going. It was frustrating. The good news is we found the formula to make the car as fast as the fastest cars out there by the last part of the race. So in that sense, it was one of the best learning experiences we've had all year. It doesn't feel too hot to finish 19th, but I think we can leave here feeling good about what we learned. We certainly could have done without the drive-though penalty. That changed the whole complexion of our day. On to Phoenix we go."