Rookie Menard Stays Clean on 'Track Too Tough to Tame,' Brings Home 26th-Place Finish in Darlington Busch Series Race DARLINGTON, S.C. (Saturday, March 20, 2004) -- NASCAR Busch Series rookie Paul Menard and the ...
Rookie Menard Stays Clean on 'Track Too Tough to Tame,' Brings Home 26th-Place Finish in Darlington Busch Series Race
DARLINGTON, S.C. (Saturday, March 20, 2004) -- NASCAR Busch Series rookie Paul Menard and the #33 Menards/Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet of Andy Petree Racing battled the tough Darlington Raceway circuit for 200 miles in today's Diamond Hill Plywood 200 and brought home a hard-earned 26th-place finish.
Menard started 22nd and ran as high as 20th when he chose to stay on track with the majority of the lead-lap cars during the race's second caution period on Lap 44 of 147 laps contested today. As the race wore on, Menard was able to stay with the lead-lap competitors despite fighting a sometimes ill-handling car through his first two pit stops under caution, the latter of which came on Lap 76. Menard then pitted for what turned out to be a final time under yellow on Lap 100, opting to save his final fresh set of tires for what he and the team thought would be an inevitable caution period before the end of the race. But that yellow never came as the race ran under green from Lap 104 until the checkered flag flew on Lap 147, leaving Menard to wage an increasingly difficult battle for position after position on tires that were badly worn by the end of the race. He ended up in 26th, one lap down.
The next event on the NASCAR Busch Series tour -- the season's fifth -- is next week's Sharpie Professional 250 on the Bristol Motor Speedway half-mile oval.
"It was entertaining, to say the least. Not just from the standpoint that there was a lot going on out there in front of me, but this is really a driver's track and it's very fun. Finishing 26th, on the other hand, is about as far from fun as you can get. We made a decision on what turned out to be our last stop to wait on taking on a fresh set of tires. Who knew that the race would go green for the final 43 laps? I'd probably vote to do the same thing almost every time, here. Before that point, we had a caution about every 20 or 25 laps. The good thing is we leave Darlington in one piece, which, historically speaking, is a lot more than a lot of other teams have been able to do over the years here. I'm really looking forward to Bristol next weekend. We had a good test there on Wednesday, so I think we'll really be ready for that one. We weren't able to test here before this race, so I don't know what might have been if we did. We'll test at Texas this Tuesday, so we'll definitely be ready for the weekend after Bristol, too."