Menard Turns First Career Pole into a Top-15 Finish at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, F.L. (July 6, 2008) -- After winning his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole, Paul Menard led the field to green in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400. He...
Menard Turns First Career Pole into a Top-15 Finish at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, F.L. (July 6, 2008) -- After winning his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole, Paul Menard led the field to green in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400. He proceeded to lead series' favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the opening 19 laps of the race, before settling in for a solid run in the scheduled 160-lap event.
"At Daytona, it's as much about survival as it is about anything," Menard reasoned. "And I just wanted to make sure we got out of here in one piece with a respectable finish."
Just before the first caution flag flew on lap 20, Menard lost the lead to Dale Jr. but continued to hang on to the second spot thanks to a lightening fast pit stop by his Dale Earnhardt Inc. crew. Following the restart, however, the typical Daytona draft dance resulted in Menard being shuffled out and the No. 15 car loosing positions all the way back to 25th place by lap 38.
When the next caution flag flew on lap 43, Menard's problems mounted as the driver made contact with teammate Regan Smith when getting on pit road. While the contact resulted in only minor damage to Menard's right front fender, it would prove to be a slight disturbance to the aerodynamics of his pole winning car.
Menard's drafting skills helped him forge ahead through the coming laps of the race and he road out the next one hundred laps running between 20th and 30th place. While the team continued to work on the handling of the car on pit road, Menard focused on choosing good drafting partners on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway. With less than 30 laps to go in the race, Menard was back up to 14th place and solidly running with the lead draft of cars.
Then, in what became a wreck-filled overtime run to the finish, Menard was spun out in a lap 156 incident that included several other cars. Despite the wild ride through the grass, the team reacted quickly and gave Menard four fresh tires. The team's speedy work on pit road allowed the driver of the Vertis/Menards Chevrolet to advance from his 27th place restart spot to a top-15 finish in the Coke Zero 400.
"It was a great effort by everyone and I'm definitely happy to come out of here with a solid finish," Menard said. "The engine shop has been putting out good horsepower at every track we come to. We've made pretty significant gains and the last couple months, they've made some more gains that have put us in this position and have three DEI cars qualify in the top-ten and then have all four cars finish in the top-25 is a great testament to our organization."