Indianapolis, IN -- Paul Menard and the No. 15 Johns Manville / Menards Racing team turned an opportunity to race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway into a time to shine. Despite having a guaranteed starting spot in the field, Menard ...
Indianapolis, IN -- Paul Menard and the No. 15 Johns Manville / Menards Racing team turned an opportunity to race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway into a time to shine.
Despite having a guaranteed starting spot in the field, Menard turned in an excellent qualifying lap that would have given him a spot in the field even if he didn't have the provisional status.
Menard was pleased with his lap, especially considering the team's late practice struggles.
"We picked up a half a second from practice." Menard said following his 28th place qualifying lap. "We didn't really concentrate at all on qualifying for once this year and got the race car pretty decent in race trim. It was kind of going to be what it was going to be in qualifying. Actually a lot of teamwork between all four cars and Mark Martin helped me quite a bit and picked up that half-second so we'll be alright."
The qualifying day was a welcome departure for Menard and team, who had spent 19 previous weeks forced to qualify on time for each race.
"It's so stressful when you're outside the top-35 that sometimes you probably hurt yourself just thinking and over-thinking it. Sitting in the car right before you go you didn't have to worry about that. My heart wasn't pounding like it normally is."
For Menard, starting a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a "dream come true" and race day had the entire Menard family elated over the momentous occasion. Menard took the Green Flag before a large group of family and friends and focused on a charge toward the front.
When the first caution flag flew on lap 14, Menard was back to 32nd position, but a super fast stop for new tires and a few adjustments allowed Menard to restart 26th.
On lap 46, Menard narrowly avoided a huge wreck, while managing to hang on to 28th place. In order to avoid the may lay, however, Menard went through the grass so the team made a pit stop for tires, fuel and for the crew to survey the damage. Luckily, the minimal damage to the front valiance didn't seem to be a big concern for anyone on the No. 15 team.
By lap 70, Menard had made his way into the top-20. But Menard's reports were continually mixed and the team worked to find their driver a better balanced racecar. Menard ran as high as 18th place before completing his first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 20th place.
"Not a bad day." Crew Chief Dave Charpentier said following the race. "We're definitely improving as a team. Paul finished in the top-20 and stayed on the lead lap all day, just kind of consistent and solid. We had a good solid day for a kind of a young team and a Raybestos Rookie driver."
Charpentier knows that this is all part of the learning process.
"You learn every time you race." Charpentier added. "We go back to Pocono next week for the second time. Because of a blown motor in practice, we started 43rd there and still managed to finish 26th so it should be another good weekend for Menards Racing."