BUSCH: Charlotte: Paul Menard preview

Paul Menard NASCAR Busch Series -- ...

Paul Menard
NASCAR Busch Series -- #33 Menards Chevrolet
Team -- Andy Petree Racing, Flat Rock, N.C.
Sponsors -- Pittsburgh Paints, Energizer, Peak, Turtle Wax, Moen, Morton Salt, Empire Levels

Successful Test Leaves Rookie Menard and His Teammates Feeling Confident About Saturday's Carquest Auto Parts 300

CONCORD, N.C. (May 25, 2004) -- A successful test session two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway left Paul Menard and the #33 Menards/Energizer Chevrolet team of Andy Petree Racing feeling battle tested and ready for Saturday's Carquest Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Busch Series race.

It didn't exactly end on the highest of notes, as Menard and his car ended up testing the newly installed SAFER barriers at the 1.5-mile tri-oval and had to go home just a tad earlier than they had planned. But, more importantly, Menard and the team left with every reason to believe they would be highly competitive at this weekend's 200-lap event.

"I'm fine, the car's fine, and the SAFER barriers are definitely a good addition," said the 23-year-old Menard, the 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate who will be making his 19th career Busch start. "We repaired the rear-end damange, and the guys say the Menards/Energizer Chevrolet is better than it was before we tested. That's great to hear because I think we had a very good day before I crashed. I felt pretty bad about it at the time, but they were very reassuring and were more concerned with the positives we got out of the test than anything else."

In his only previous outing here, Menard saw a promising run in last year's ARCA race end with a blown motor. Rain washed out qualifying, sending Menard to the back of the starting grid. But by the race's midpoint, he worked his way well into the top 10 and was in position for a top finish before he was forced to retire. With that promising run, and the successful test earlier this month, he and the team are feeling confident about Saturday's race.

To further their confidence, they were boosted by this past Sunday's strong run on the Nazareth Speedway mile oval, which resulted in a season-best 13th-place finish.

"Our first top-10 finish of the year is going to come any time, now," said Menard, whose career-best Busch finish of ninth came last August at Indianapolis Raceway Park. "We've been fairly consistent all year long, just chipping away at it little by little. This is a long-term proposition, and I think we're definitely moving in the right direction."

Practice for the Carquest Auto Parts 300 begins Friday morning with qualifying set for 1:30 p.m. EDT Friday. SPEED-TV will provide live coverage of qualifying, while the FX cable network will broadcast the 200-lap race live on Saturday beginning with pre-event coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT. Race time Saturday is 1 p.m. EDT.


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Drivers Andy Petree , Paul Menard