Menard, #11 DEI Chevrolet Team Hope To Finish Season on a High Note at Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series 300-Miler in Homestead
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 16, 2004) -- Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet team of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., bring down the curtain on the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series season Saturday on the Homestead Miami Speedway mile-and-a-half oval.
The 24-year-old Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender from Eau Claire, Wis., wants nothing more than to finish the season with a solid top-10 run -- or better -- to inject a huge dose of momentum into an offseason of preparation for a full-season run in 2005 with the team he only joined forces with this past July.
Menard is coming off a tremendous effort last weekend at Darlington, where his top-four qualifying run was washed out by rain, sending him to the very back of the 43-car starting grid but, undaunted, he methodically made his way forward all race long and finished in the top 12.
"Normally, you don't get all too excited about a top-12 run, but after all we had to go through, the whole team left Darlington feeling pretty satisfied with a job well done," said Menard, who had to overcome right-front-end damage suffered in an multi-car pileup on the first lap of Saturday's race. "I think, in a sense, the effort and the top-10 result under those circumstances at a treacherous track like Darlington was a huge momentum-builder for Homestead. That, and the fact we had two pretty good days of testing at Homestead before the Darlington race, has us feeling confident heading into this weekend."
For the last several weekends, Menard, with 32 career Busch series starts, has been knocking on the door of this season's first top-10 finish. He was 11th at Memphis four races ago, and had what seemed to be sure top-10 or better runs snatched away in the closing laps at Richmond and Atlanta. Through it all, Menard has been a model of consistency the latter half of the season, with top-20 finishes in all but one race in which he was running at the finish since joining forces with DEI. The lone holdout was 21st place at California Speedway. He also has an average qualifying position of 16.9 in that time, including his first career Busch series pole at Kansas.
"You can't help but have huge expectations every race weekend, particularly when you are working with a world-class organization that has Dale Earnhardt's name on the door," Menard said. "But the reality is we are still very much a new team in what is one of the most competitive racing series anywhere. The good news is we seem to be progressing at a good pace."
Practice for Saturday's 200-lap race begins Thursday morning, with qualifying at 2:45 p.m. EST that afternoon. Friday morning's Happy Hour of final practice will be carried on a same-day tape-delayed broadcast by SPEED-TV at noon EST. Race time Saturday is 1 p.m. EST with NBC-TV providing live coverage.