BUSCH: Fontana: Paul Menard preview

Dominant Run at Daytona Season Opener Has Menard Determined for Top NASCAR Busch Series Finish in California FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 23, 2005) -- Having had a taste of what it's like to dominate a NASCAR Busch Series race last weekend at...

Dominant Run at Daytona Season Opener Has Menard Determined for Top NASCAR Busch Series Finish in California

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 23, 2005) -- Having had a taste of what it's like to dominate a NASCAR Busch Series race last weekend at Daytona, Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet team of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., come to California Speedway for this weekend's Stater Bros. 300 looking to finish the job in a big way.

The 24-year-old from Eau Claire, Wis., led 37 of the opening 51 laps around the Daytona International Speedway 2.5-mile superspeedway tri-oval last Saturday but had to settle for a disappointing 17th-place finish as seemingly no one was willing or able to give him the drafting help he needed to take full advantage of his superior race car.

"It was definitely a bitter pill to swallow, seeing a 17th place in the race results when we had the best car out there," Menard said. "But that's all behind us and we will only benefit from the experience the next time we get back to the restrictor-plate races at Talladega and Daytona."

This weekend brings a whole new set of circumstances on the 2-mile tri-oval here at California Speedway, where Menard has his teammates spent two days testing their racing machine prior to the Daytona season-opener. His success on the racetrack won't necessarily depend on his ability to find drafting partners, as was the case last Saturday at Daytona.

"We were pretty solid in testing at Fontana, much like we were in testing at Daytona, so it'll be a matter of fine-tuning our act once we get there," said Menard, who qualified 19th and finished 21st here last fall, just five races into his relationship with the Menards/DEI team that started last July. "It'll be a good track to come to the weekend after a Daytona race. We're definitely in high-speed mode. But this time, I'd like to think we'll have more control of our own destiny. With those (restrictor) plate races, too much of your success depends on other things, like locking on with drafting partners."

The Menards team's first race weekend with new crew chief Dan Stillman, who's also a Wisconsin native, certainly erased any questions about how things would go with a new guy in charge. "I feel really good about that part of things," Menard said. "Our preseason testing has been efficient and productive, and we seem to talk the same language, and not just because we're both from Wisconsin. We continued on our roll of solid qualifying efforts (fourth at Daytona after finishing last year with a third at Homestead and a rain-spoiled fourth at Darlington), and all indications are the chemistry is there for some potentially good race results."

Practice for Saturday's 150-lap race begins Friday at 12 noon PST (3 p.m. EST). Qualifying is set for Saturday at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST) with SPEED-TV carrying the action live. Race time Saturday is 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST) with the FX cable network's pre-race coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. EST.

-dei/mr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Paul Menard