Atlanta II: Paul Menard race report

MENARD CRACKS TOP-15 IN 100TH SPRINT CUP START HAMPTON, Ga. (September 6, 2009) -- After a disappointing qualifying run that put the No. 98 team at the back of the pack for the green flag, Menard and the team picked their way through the field...

MENARD CRACKS TOP-15 IN 100TH SPRINT CUP START

HAMPTON, Ga. (September 6, 2009) -- After a disappointing qualifying run that put the No. 98 team at the back of the pack for the green flag, Menard and the team picked their way through the field and took home a top-15 finish in front of a packed house at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After hitting their stride mid-race, Menard and team kept the No. 98 Johns Manville Ford Fusion in the top-15 and ran with the leaders until the checkered flag flew for race winner Kasey Kahne.

Pole winner Martin Truex Jr. led the field to the green flag as the sun set over Atlanta Motor Speedway. Over 110,000 excited race fans welcomed the return of NASCAR racing on Labor Day weekend to the East Coast as the field of drivers geared up for a night of racing under the lights. Before the green flag flew, Menard steered his machine down pit road during the second of three pace laps as he suspected that the sway bar was unhooked. After having the crew briefly inspected his Ford Fusion and assure Menard that there was no issue, they sent the No. 98 back out rejoin the field without penalty.

Early in the race, Menard began picking up positions and by lap 16 had advanced ten spots and was scored in 31st. He noted that the car was loose exiting the corners. Crew chief Larry Carter told Menard to hang in there until the first round of stops when they could make the necessary adjustments. When the first pit stop came on lap 38 after the No. 77 spun on the frontstretch, the No. 98 team made wedge and air pressure adjustments aimed at tightening up the Johns Manville machine. Unfortunately, a dropped lug nut on the stop forced the No. 98 to take a pass through penalty.

As the night continued, Carter and the crew continued to make the right calls with air pressure and wedge adjustments, giving Menard the handling he needed to move through the field and crack the top-10. As the night wore on, the No. 98 faced some stiff competition at the front of the field but managed to run times on par with the leader and finish in the 15th position.

"We had a pretty good car and were really good on the long runs. Larry and the guys worked really hard to make the right calls for us all night," Menard said following the race. "If we could have been a little better on the restarts, I think we could have picked up even more spots but overall, a good night for our No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards Ford Fusion."

Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond International Raceway for another weekend of night racing.

-credit: pm

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Martin Truex Jr. , Paul Menard