BUSCH: Charlotte: Paul Menard preview

Menard Set To Take the Stage With ...

Menard Set To Take the Stage With #11 DEI Chevrolet Team For Saturday Night's Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. (May 24, 2005) -- After an even dozen NASCAR Busch Series races in 2005, Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet team of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., have shown they're quite adept at qualifying at the front of the grid and leading races. Heading into Saturday night's Carquest Auto Parts 300, it's safe to say they're more focused than ever on another all-important aspect of racing -- closing the deal.

The 24-year-old Menard has had six top-10 qualifying efforts in the season's first 12 events, including the pole position at Talladega and another front-row starting spot at Phoenix the previous weekend. He's led a total of 100 laps in that time, including 38 on the three-quarter-mile tri-oval at Richmond two weekends ago.

"Now we've got to make a habit of leading the most important lap of them all -- the last one," said Menard, who will be making his 46th career Busch series start this weekend. "Our qualifying results have been solid this year, for the most part. And more often than not we've been able to work our way toward the front in race trim. So there's no doubt about the fact the Menards Chevrolet team is capable of winning. We've just got to go out and get it done. It's as plain and simple as that."

At Richmond, qualified sixth and then bided his time behind the race leaders before taking command on pit strategy shortly after the race's midpoint. He confidently held off his challengers for 38 laps, but later in the race saw his bid ruined when another competitor forced him up into the wall and into the pits to repair the damage. At Talladega just two weekends prior, polesitter Menard looked like he could work his way to the front at will, but then saw his race end when he was the unwitting victim of a late-race, multi-car accident.

"The good news is that we're able to find our way to the front," Menard said. "The really good news will come when we finally put it all together. We've been feeling like we're on the doorstep for quite a while, now, so it can get a little frustrating if you let it. We just have to keep our heads down, keep working hard, and the it will come. We had a solid test at Charlotte two weeks ago. We'll just need to carry that over into this weekend and hit the ground running."

Practice for Saturday night's Carquest Auto Parts 300 begins at 9 a.m. EDT Friday with Happy Hour of final practice set for 11 a.m. EDT. Qualifying begins Friday at 5 p.m. EDT with a live broadcast set for SPEED-TV. Race time Saturday is 7:10 p.m. EDT with the FX cable network's live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. EDT.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Paul Menard