BUSCH: Darlington: Paul Menard preview

Menard Takes ...

Menard Takes #11 DEI Chevrolet To His New Favorite Track For Friday Night's NASCAR Busch Series 200 at Darlington

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 3, 2005) -- It was looking so good for so long Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway for Paul Menard and his Dale Earnhardt, Inc., NASCAR Busch Series team. That is, until the ugly head of fate that devoured so many racing machines this past weekend decided to rear its ugly head just 34 laps from the finish.

Unfortunately, the polesitting Menards Chevrolet, which led 25 laps on three different occasions during the rain-delayed event and again appeared to be the car to beat, was one of them as Menard was caught up in a Lap-82 multi-car pileup that ended his dominating day.

"It's a total crap shoot, when you get down to it, at those restrictor-plate races," said Menard, who also led 37 laps at this year's season-opening restrictor-plate event at Daytona in February. "You can come to town with the best race car on the planet, but if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, it don't much matter. Nobody likes it, but that's just the way it is."

And so we move on to Friday night's NASCAR Busch Series 200 on the mile-and-a-third oval at Darlington Raceway, where Menard and his #11 Menards/Moen DEI Chevrolet ought to have a greater measure of control over their ultimate fate. A year ago, Menard saw historic Darlington Raceway for the very first time in an Andy Petree Racing entry, and quickly earned his first "Darlington Stripe" during qualifying (in a slight brush with the outside wall) and finished 26th in that spring race. Last fall, in the season's next-to-last event, it was a whole different story in the Menards/DEI Chevrolet at Darlington. He was fourth on the provisional starting grid when rain washed out qualifying and sent Menard to the 43rd and final spot on a grid decided by owners points. Nonetheless, he worked his way through the field, overcame front-end damage resulting from an early race multi-car pileup, and came home 12th.

"I'd have to say Darlington might be my favorite NASCAR track," Menard said as he comes to town seeking his third consecutive front-row starting spot. "It's one of the original tracks on the circuit, and it's got its own, unique characteristics that make it a real driver's track. It's quirky, and it'll bite you before you know it, but if you get a good result there, it must be incredibly satisfying. We had a really good car there last November with the DEI team, and I think it might have turned out a whole lot differently if qualifying hadn't been rained out and we didn't have to start in the back. We'll see what's in store for us this year. Hopefully really good things."

Practice for Friday night's 147-lap main event begins Thursday at 4 p.m. EDT, followed by Happy Hour of final practice at 6:20 p.m. EDT. Qualifying is at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday with live coverage on SPEED-TV. Race time is 8 p.m. EDT with live coverage on the FX cable network beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT.


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Drivers Andy Petree , Paul Menard