TOP-10 FINISH FOR MENARD SPOILED BY LATE-RACE ACCIDENT JOLIET, Ill. (July 11, 2009) -- In what appeared to be a great night for Yates Racing driver Paul Menard, the No. 98 Sylvania / Menards team made a turn for the worst after contact by the...
TOP-10 FINISH FOR MENARD SPOILED BY LATE-RACE ACCIDENT
JOLIET, Ill. (July 11, 2009) -- In what appeared to be a great night for Yates Racing driver Paul Menard, the No. 98 Sylvania / Menards team made a turn for the worst after contact by the No. 88 on lap 226 cut down a left rear tire, sending the No. 98 Ford Fusion into the wall. The damage was too much to repair, leaving the No. 98 team with a disappointing 35th-place finish, after they appeared to be on their way to a top-10 finish.
With no rain showers in sight on Thursday evening, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualified on time and on schedule for the first time in two weeks. After qualifying 27th, the No. 98 posted solid laps time in the final two practices in preparation for Saturday evening's Lifelock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Before a hometown crowd for Menard, the No. 98 Sylvania took the green flag from the 27th position at 7:17 p.m. (CST). Menard noted early the car was a little tight in the center of the corners, but otherwise felt really good and had a lot of power under the hood.
The first caution flag of the day was displayed on lap 38 for debris on the race track. After a brief discussion with crew chief Larry Carter, the No. 98 came down pit road for service. After taking four new tires, two cans of fuel and an air pressure adjustment, Menard returned to the track scored in the 29th position.
During the next run, the field remained under green flag for almost 90 laps and the No. 98 team was forced to make one green-flag stop. During the long green flag run, Menard worked the No. 98 Sylvania / Menards Ford Fusion through the field and into the top 20 by the time the next caution flag was displayed.
On lap 131 the caution flag waved again for debris on the track. During the caution period the No. 98 came down pit road for four tires and fuel. Menard noted the car was great and did not feel like he needed any adjustments.
On lap 157, Menard made a pass in turn three to crack the top 10. After breaking his way in, there was no looking back for Menard. With the No. 98 team on the wall cheering on each lap, Menard worked his way into the eighth position.
After two more pit stops, Menard and the No. 98 team proved to be one of the best cars on the track and were on their way to a solid finish for the evening. However, on lap 226, Menard was racing the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and the two made contact coming out of turn four. The side-by-side contact cut down the left rear tire on the No. 98, sending him spinning into the outside retaining wall and eventually coming to rest on the infield of turn one.
Menard was able to drive his No. 98 back to pit road, but after a brief look, Carter directed Menard to the garage, where it was determined the damage was too much to return to the speedway. The No. 98 team loaded up their Ford Fusion, and were forced to leave with a disappointing 35th-place finish.
"I'm not real sure what happen out there," said Menard following the race. "I'll have to see a replay. I got loose in one and two, back on the gas, and I was on the outside. I was a little bit free on the restarts anyway, and I got shuffled to the outside trying to dig up top and got real loose going into three, got loose again, and coming off four the 88 and I just kind of got together and the tire exploded. I think the tire was going down before that and when we got together it probably just hooked it with his rear exhaust and blew it out. The guys had awesome pit stops. I don't think we lost any spots. We gained multiple spots on pit road and the car was fast. Once the sun went down it really came to life. It was a good run, for sure. I'm just disappointed that when we have good runs, we always have something that happens. We just don't have any luck. I don't believe in luck, but if we have bad luck, I mean, we've got it. But we need to keep building race cars like this. Stevie was keeping me pumped up, my spotter, and Larry and Max and all the guys back at the shop build good race cars and we were showing that tonight."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will enjoy a weekend off next weekend before traveling to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the annual running of the Brickyard 400. ABC television and MRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 2:00 p.m. (EST).
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile speedway)
Saturday, July 26, 2009