MENARD POSTS 23rd-PLACE FINISH IN SUMMER CLASSIC -- COKE ZERO 400 DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 4, 2009) -- In a hot, muggy evening at Daytona International Speedway, Yates Racing driver Paul Menard and the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards team...
MENARD POSTS 23rd-PLACE FINISH IN SUMMER CLASSIC -- COKE ZERO 400
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 4, 2009) -- In a hot, muggy evening at Daytona International Speedway, Yates Racing driver Paul Menard and the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards team posted a 23rd-place finish. Tonight's Coke Zero 400 marked the halfway point of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
For the second weekend in a row, NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying was rained out on Friday afternoon, leaving the field to be set by current owner points. Menard would line up 33rd for the start of the 160-lap restrictor-plate racing around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.
The weather and the heat were the talk of the garage this afternoon. With the highs in the mid 90's and the humidity pushing 100 percent, it was a sweltering afternoon in the Sprint Cup garage. By the time the green flag waved at 8:21pm, the sun began setting the weather began to cool off.
Tony Stewart led the ribbon of 43 car side by side into turn one after taking the green flag. Menard started on the inside lane and quickly asked his spotter to move him up to the high line on the track. Once an opening was available, Menard slid the No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards Ford Fusion into line. Menard radioed to crew chief Larry Carter, noting the car was just a little tight off turn two.
Following an early caution for a spin on the backstretch, Carter called Menard down pit road for service. The No. 98 Menards team jumped over pit wall and quickly went to work on the No. 98 Ford Fusion, changing four tires, adding a splash of fuel and making a slight air pressure adjustment to help the handling. Following the pit stop, Menard returned to the track in the 35th position.
In restrictor-plate racing, a driver can be in the 15th position on one lap, get shuffled up to eighth the next lap, and end up back at 28th the following lap. The drivers continue to battle the 160-lap chess match that ends by putting yourself in the best position for the final run of the race. During the early part of the race, Menard chose to run close to back of the field to avoid the early wrecks, however, as the race went on, Menard slowly began his march to the front of the field. Just after the halfway point, Menard was scored in the 14th position and slowly gaining more ground on the leaders.
After falling back a bit to the 18th position, Menard radioed the crew on lap 142 letting them know it felt like he had a tire going down. Carter instructed Menard to feel it out for a couple laps, but if he felt he needed to come down pit road, the No. 98 crew was ready to go. A late-race caution flag waved on lap 145, which was just the luck Menard was hoping for. After taking four tires and fuel, Menard returned to the track in 21st position. After inspecting the tires, Carter let Menard know they had a right-front tire going flat.
With just a handful of laps left, Menard tried each different line on the track to make his way back up to the front, but the field of cars was too strung out and draft partners were far and few. The conclusion of the race ended in dramatic fashion with Kyle Busch attempting to block the pass of Tony Stewart, losing control of his race car and sparking a multi-car wreck coming to the checkered flag. Menard was able to avoid the wreck and finish in the 23rd position.
"We had a pretty good night out there," said Menard following the race. "We had a fast race car, we just could get going on the restarts and that left us strung out near the rear of the drafting pack. If we could have just had a couple better restarts there at the end, I think we could have run up there with the lead pack. We avoided a lot of wrecks out there tonight and brought our No. 98 Johns Manville / Menards Ford Fusion home in one piece. It wasn't horrible and it wasn't great."
Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Joliet, Ill. for its annual visit to Chicagoland Speedway. TNT television and PRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m. (EST).