MENARD'S RUN SPOILED BY EARLY PIT ROAD INCIDENT; LEFT WITH 23rd-PLACE FINISH AT PHOENIX AVONDALE, ARIZ. (April 18, 2009) -- After qualifying seventh for this afternoon's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Paul Menard and...
MENARD'S RUN SPOILED BY EARLY PIT ROAD INCIDENT; LEFT WITH 23rd-PLACE FINISH AT PHOENIX
AVONDALE, ARIZ. (April 18, 2009) -- After qualifying seventh for this afternoon's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Paul Menard and the No. 98 Menards team knew they had a strong Ford Fusion for the 312-lap race. However, after being struck by another car on pit road, the No. 98 team was forced to pit an additional time to fix the damage. The extra pit stop put them in the back of the field. During the remainder of the race, the No. 98 Menards team fought their way back up the leaderboard to finish a respectable 23rd place.
Pole winner and eventual race winner Mark Martin led the 43-car field to the green flag to begin the 312-lap race at Phoenix International Raceway. Menard started from the inside of row four. After taking the green flag, Menard noted the car was good, but just a little tight in the center of turns one and two. Crew chief Larry Carter noted the balance and let Menard know they would make a track bar adjustment during the first stop to help the overall balance.
On lap 53 the first caution of the race was displayed. During the period, Menard came down pit road scored in the eighth position. Following the stop, as the No. 98 left pit road, the No. 83 hit the left front fender, leaving Menard's Ford Fusion with damage. After one lap on the track, Carter called Menard back down pit road to fix the damage. Menard gave up 24 positions as he pulled off the track and down pit road to his awaiting crew. Following the pit stop, Menard returned to the track in the 34th position.
While Menard continued to run solid lap times, being so far back in the pack put him in danger of being lapped. Menard remained on the lead lap until 97 when he was passed by the race leader, Mark Martin. With luck on his side, the caution flag was displayed just a few laps later, giving Menard the "Lucky Dog" pass and putting him back on the lead lap.
Menard and Carter worked the rest of the race to gain back the positions lost during the pit road incident, even trying a late-race fuel strategy. However, when the checkered flag waved over Phoenix International Raceway, Menard brought his No. 98 PEAK / Menards Ford Fusion across the line in the 23rd position.
"It's a shame that someone else's mistake on pit road cost us all those positions tonight," said Menard following the race. "We had a solid car and one that I felt we brought a long way since first practice on Friday. Larry (Carter) and all the guys did a great job getting my car better throughout the race; it was just too hard to pass out there. Our car was good, we just got too far back in the field. I wish that caution flag hadn't come out there at the end, Larry set up a good fuel mileage strategy that would have gotten us back a lot of laps. Great car tonight, just not the best luck."
Next weekend, the No. 98 Menards team will travel to Talladega, Ala. for the second restrictor-place race of the season. In Menard's last visit to the superspeedway, he finished a career-best second place.