BUSCH: Kentucky: Paul Menard preview

Gutsy Effort at Nashville Has Menard and His ...

Gutsy Effort at Nashville Has Menard and His #11 Menards/Moen DEI Team Ready To Roll for Saturday Night's Meijer 300 at Kentucky Speedway

SPARTA, Ky. (June 15, 2005) -- After making a brief guest appearance at last year's Meijer 300 event at Kentucky Speedway, Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Moen Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., are ready to dig in for the long haul this Saturday as the NASCAR Busch Series returns to the 1.5-mile tri-oval here for this year's renewal.

The 24-year-old Menard, of Eau Claire, Wis., made his second career Busch series start in relatively impressive fashion here in 2003, qualifying 17th and finishing 14th in an Andy Petree Racing Chevrolet. Last year, Menard was called upon to practice and qualify the car of Nextel Cup Series regular Michael Waltrip while Waltrip was pulling double duty between the Nextel Cup event at Michigan and the Meijer 300 here. Menard, meanwhile, was available for practice and qualifying as he was in the midst of preparing for his late-July debut with the #11 DEI team at New Hampshire.

Now, thoroughly settled in with the #11 team and having shown the capability of dominating races on the ever-competitive Busch circuit, Menard is ready for his 49th career Busch series start on Saturday night and hopes to makes the winner's circle here his Old Kentucky Home.

"The guys are pumped up and ready to roll at Kentucky after a really gutsy effort down at Nashville last weekend," said Menard, whose four laps led at Nashville brought his total this season to 104 laps in front with what he hopes will be hundreds more before all is said and done in 2005. "We finished 13th, but it felt a lot better than that in a lot of ways because we overcame some damage to the front of the Menards Chevrolet mid-race and we got the car working so well we were picking off car after car during our final run to the finish. If it wasn't for the incident mid-race, or if the race would've been about 25 laps longer, who knows what might have been."

Coming to Kentucky with two career Busch series poles to his credit, including earlier this year at the Talladega Superspeedway and his first last fall on a track similar to this one at Kansas, Menard hopes Mother Nature finally gives him and his fellow Busch series competitors the chance to actually qualify for Saturday night's race. Before rain washed out qualifying at the previous two events -- prompting the starting grid to be set according to owners points -- Menard was on a streak of four top-six qualifying efforts in five events, including the pole at Talladega and another front-row start on the mile oval at Phoenix.

This year's Meijer 300 is a one-day show, beginning with an hour of practice at 10 a.m. EDT and 90 minutes of final practice at 11:30 a.m. EDT. Qualifying begins at 5 p.m. EDT and will not be televised. Race time is 8 p.m. EDT with the FX cable network's live coverage set to begin with pre-race activities at 7:30 p.m. EDT.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Michael Waltrip , Andy Petree , Paul Menard