Michigan: Paul Menard race report

Menard and Dale Earnhardt Inc. Team Turn in Season Best Performance Brooklyn, MI (June 15, 2008) -- Paul Menard and the No. 15 Menards/Dale Earnhardt Inc. team turned in a season-best performance during today's Lifelock 400 at Michigan ...

Menard and Dale Earnhardt Inc. Team Turn in Season Best Performance

Brooklyn, MI (June 15, 2008) -- Paul Menard and the No. 15 Menards/Dale Earnhardt Inc. team turned in a season-best performance during today's Lifelock 400 at Michigan International Speedway. What looked like a top-five run in the making for the team, a late race caution required Menard to visit pit road to top off on fuel. While the trip down pit road relegated him back in the field for the restart, Menard was able to deliver an 11th place finish, his best result since March of 2006.

"We didn't need that caution at the end there, since we could have gone the distance on fuel and probably had a top-five or even a top-three finish," Menard said. "But this car was really racey all day and it was a fun car to drive. I just have to thank the team for giving me such a good car and for rebounding from our early setbacks in the day with the motor."

Those early morning challenges included problems discovered in Menard's motor which required the team to change engines just a few hours before the green flag flew.

While Menard was scheduled to roll of 26th for the scheduled 200-lap race, the engine change meant Menard would line up in 43rd position. As soon as he took the green flag, however, Menard set his sights on track position and gained 18 positions in the first 20 laps. Crew Chief Doug Randolph responded to Menard's feedback and worked to continually improve the handling of the No. 15 Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet over course of the first 100 laps. With Menard reporting a loose condition to Randolph, the veteran crew chief gave him only slight changes as he could see that his driver was adapting well to the changing track temperatures by continually logging some of the fastest lap times in the field.

"Paul did a great job in the middle part of the race today," Randolph said. "The track was definitely lacking grip, but he hung onto the car and really earned this finish for the whole team."

The turning point of the race came on lap 152 when the caution flag flew and Randolph instructed Menard to pit despite having only six laps on his tires. Menard came down pit road for a full service stop before returning two laps later to top off on fuel. It was as a result of this strategic move that Menard was in position to finish in the top five with three laps to go in the race. If it hadn't been for the caution flag that flew with two laps to go, Menard would have had a career best finish. However, the way things shook out he had to settle for the second best finish of his career, a result which energizes the entire Menards Racing group.

With momentum built from a solid finish at Michigan, Menard sets his sights on next week's road course race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.

-credit: pm/jrm

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Paul Menard