Paul Menard didn’t waste any time settling right in to his new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride.
Sunday’s Daytona 500 was Menard’s first race with the Wood Brothers and what a first impression he left.
He finished seventh in his qualifying race and then ran strong throughout the race in his No. 21 Ford, finishing ninth in Stage 1 and second in Stage 2 of the 500.
By the end of the race, Menard was right in the thick of the battle for the win. He was lined up fifth at the start of overtime and ended up sixth.
“We had shot to win the Daytona 500 at the end of the race. We just came up short,” Menard, 37, said. “The Omnicraft Ford Fusion was a rocket ship. It was really fu.
“I’m so proud of this team. The car was fast all day. We survived and were able to bring it back home in one piece.”
Strong points position
Menard’s consistency left him third in the series standings as the series moves to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.
“It was huge. To score points in all three stages is awesome,” Menard said. “That’s good for the overall picture. I even had a shot at a stage win.”
Sunday’s 500 was Menard’s 400th career start in the Cup series. He has one career win – in the 2011 Brickyard 400 – but he has proven to be quite adept at restrictor-plate racing.
Last year in his final season with Richard Childress Racing, all three of his top-10 finishes came at either Daytona (fifth and third) or Talladega (ninth in the spring).
Menard said he was impressed with how well his debut with the Wood Brothers unfolded.
“We were so fast. I just wasn’t able to get the restart that we wanted in (overtime),” he said.