FONTANA, Calif.. (Aug. 30, 2005) -- The wide open spaces of California Speedway are a stark contrast to the high-banked, thrill-a-minute confines of tiny Bristol Motor Speedway, but that is where Paul Menard and the ...
FONTANA, Calif.. (Aug. 30, 2005) -- The wide open spaces of California Speedway are a stark contrast to the high-banked, thrill-a-minute confines of tiny Bristol Motor Speedway, but that is where Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet team from Dale Earnhardt, Inc., look to get back to top-10 form at Saturday night's NASCAR Busch Series Ameriquest 300.
Actually Menard and his special-edition black #11 racing machine were in top form at Bristol last Friday night until a broken upper control arm ended his bid for a 10th top-10 finish in the last 11 Busch series starts this season.
"Time to start a new streak -- it's as simple as that -- and California is as good of a place as any to do that," said the 25-year-old Menard, whose #11 DEI Chevrolet returns to its familiar bright yellow paint scheme for Saturday night's 300-mile event. "We had a good car at Bristol. We laid down another top-five lap in qualifying. We were hoping for good things in the race despite getting penalized early on for following the leaders into a closed pit lane, but there's not much you can do when you have something break like we did. It was frustrating, but the good thing is I think everybody got over it in a hurry. In the big picture of things, we're still very much on the roll we were on when we went to Bristol, and we're confident we can earn another top finish this weekend."
In their last visit to Fontana, the week after Menard's dominating run at the outset of the Daytona season opener, Menard and the #11 DEI team did a masterful job of scrapping to a top-20 finish despite being hampered in qualifying by carburetion problems, then ending up at the back of the pack to start the race after changing the carburetor during the parade laps. A chance encounter with a spinning car in front of him didn't help matters, either. But, all things considered, it was the kind of workmanlike performance that these last two months has been rewarded with top-10 finish after top-10 finish, including a third on Menard's home turf in Milwaukee, a fifth at Gateway, and eight other top-12 finishes.
During that recent stretch, Menard climbed from 18th to seventh in the drivers standings. Friday night's DNF cost a couple of positions in those standings, but another top finish on the California Speedway 2-mile tri-oval can fix that in a hurry.
"We brought out a brand new Menards/Peak Chevrolet on the sister track at Michigan a few weeks back and it was fast," said the 25-year-old from Eau Claire, Wis. "We're bringing it back for California and try and improve on the sixth-place finish we got at Michigan. I can't wait."
Practice for the Americquest 300 is set for Friday at 1 p.m. and 3:20 p.m. local time (4 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. EDT). Qualifying is Saturday at noon local time (3 p.m. EDT) with SPEED-TV providing the live coverage. Race time is 5:30 p.m. local time (8:30 p.m. EDT) Saturday with the live broadcast set for the NBC network.