From His Back-Row Start To A 14th-Place Finish, All-In-All A Solid Day For Menard at Texas Busch Race FORT WORTH, Texas (Saturday, April 3, 2004) -- Rookie Paul Menard drove like a longtime veteran as he worked his way from a last-row ...
From His Back-Row Start To A 14th-Place Finish, All-In-All A Solid Day For Menard at Texas Busch Race
FORT WORTH, Texas (Saturday, April 3, 2004) -- Rookie Paul Menard drove like a longtime veteran as he worked his way from a last-row starting spot to a season-best finish of 14th in today's O'Reilly 300 NASCAR Busch Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Having qualified 20th here Thursday on the 1.5-mile high-banked tri-oval, the #33 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet team of Andy Petree Racing had to change engines after breaking a valve spring during yesterday's Happy Hour of final practice, a move that by NASCAR rules sent Menard to the back of the 43-car field for the start of today's 200-lap, 300-mile race.
Unfazed, the 23-year-old Menard methodically worked his way toward the front all afternoon. He made it up to 29th by Lap 25, and was inside the top 20, in 19th, by Lap 80 as the #33 Menards team made short work of their first two pit stops. Menard maintained that relative position through the middle stages of the race with a well-balanced race car and experiencing exceptionally good tire wear. That latter factor gave the team the confidence to call for just a right-side, two-tire change on its final pit stop on Lap 141, vaulting Menard from 19th to the ninth position while several other teams opted to change all four tires. A handful of drivers were able to get by Menard on the closing laps -- among them Johnny Benson, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, Michael Waltrip and eventual race-winner Matt Kenseth, the defending Nextel Cup champion -- all showing the benefits of four-tire changes on their final pit stops.
Nonetheless, Menard was able to cross the finish line in 14th for his top finish of his Raybestos Rookie season on the NASCAR Busch Series tour. He moved up to 24th in the driver standings with today's finish.
Next up is next Saturday's Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway.
"All in a day's work, I guess. I really wasn't terribly concerned about having to go to the back because I knew all weekend that I had a good race car. It was a shame that we got sent to the back, but given a choice, I would much rather have the problem we had in Happy Hour than on race day. The Menards/PPG Chevrolet did its job today. It had a slight push at the beginning of our runs early in the race, but it kept getting better and better as we got deeper into our runs. I think it was a good decision to take on just two tires at the end, there, but the car did get a bit loose. I'll take 14th, all things considered. Obviously, as competitive as it is out there, it takes a perfect weekend to get a top finish. We'll have our day if we keep at it the way we are."