EXTENDED WEEKEND AT POCONO LEAVES MENARD WITH 26th-PLACE FINISH LONG POND, Pa. (August 3, 2009) -- After persistent rain on Sunday forced the Pennsylvania 500 to Monday afternoon, the No. 98 MOEN / Menards team overcame a number of obstacles to...
EXTENDED WEEKEND AT POCONO LEAVES MENARD WITH 26th-PLACE FINISH
LONG POND, Pa. (August 3, 2009) -- After persistent rain on Sunday forced the Pennsylvania 500 to Monday afternoon, the No. 98 MOEN / Menards team overcame a number of obstacles to finish the afternoon 26th. Paul Menard and the Menards team overcame a blown tire, going down a lap on three different occasions and an ill-handling race car to still finish on the lead lap at Pocono International Raceway.
Rain was the talk of the weekend after practice was cut short on Friday afternoon, followed by qualifying being rained out. Saturday's weather was picture perfect in the Pocono Mountains allowing the teams two full practices before Sunday's Pennsylvania 500. However, rain showers on Sunday forced NASCAR to move the 200-lap race to Monday afternoon.
Just after 12:00 noon, under sunny skies, 43 drivers loaded into their cars before an estimated crowd of 80,000 fans. Menard started the race from the 33rd position, as per the NASCAR Rule Book.
Early into the race Menard noted the handling of his No. 98 MOEN / Menards Ford Fusion was too tight in the center of turn one and too free into and out of turn three. Pocono Raceway is very unique due to the three different corners. They are all relatively flat and the handling of the racecars must be balanced enough to work through three different corners.
The first caution of the day came on lap 20 for a NASCAR competition caution. During the pit stop the No. 98 Menards team changed four tires, added two cans of fuel and made an air pressure adjustment to help the handling of Menard's Ford Fusion.
During the next run, Menard radioed into crew chief Larry Carter that the brakes on his car were becoming soft. Carter radioed back they would take a look at them during an upcoming pit stop. As the field began making green flag pit stop, before Menard could make his way down pit road, the right-rear tire blew on the No. 98. Debris on the race track forced NASCAR officials to display the caution flag as Menard's Ford entered pit road.
Under caution the No. 98 team made two pit road stops. The first stop to change four tires, added fuel and pull out the slightly damaged fender, during the second stop the pit crew bleed the brake system and added more brake fluid to the car. After service was complete, the No. 98 team exited pit road scored in the 36th position.
The caution flag waved again on lap 61 for debris on the race track, as Menard was rewarded the "Lucky Dog" position, putting him back on the lead lap. Over the next run, Menard was lapped again by race leader and eventual race winner Denny Hamlin. However, when the caution flag was displayed again on lap 96, Menard earned his lap back while maintaining the 35th position.
During the long pit stop, the No. 98 team again bled the brake system and made a handful of changes to the No. 98, as the handling would not improve for Menard.
As green flag racing continued the No. 98 was lapped again by the No. 11 car, and again the caution flag waved a handful of laps later earning him the "Lucky Dog" award and his position back on the lead lap.
Over the course of the remaining laps, Menard and the No. 98 team continued to work on the handling, making wholesale changes during a pit stop on lap 144 that helped keep the No. 98 Ford Fusion on the lead lap. The checkered flag waved on lap 200 for race winner Hamlin, followed in line by Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer, Sam Hornish Jr., and Kasey Kahne rounding out the top five. Menard crossed the line in the 26th position.
"I have to say that Larry (Carter) and all the No. 98 guys worked really hard this afternoon to help improve the handling on the No. 98 MOEN / Menards Ford Fusion," said Menard following the race. "They did everything they could this afternoon and overcame a lot of adversity. For us to finish on the lead lap says a lot about how hard this team worked this afternoon. We have some work to do when it comes to Pocono, but I'm looking forward to the upcoming weeks at Watkins Glen and Michigan, where I think we will run really well."