BUSCH: Nashville: Paul Menard preview

Menard Brings His ...

Menard Brings His #11 DEI Chevrolet to Music City For Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Pepsi 300

LEBANON, Tenn. (March 23, 2005) -- Paul Menard of Eau Claire, Wis., returns to the track where it all started for him on the NASCAR Busch Series as he and his Dale Earnhardt, Inc., teammates take center stage on the Nashville Superspeedway 1.33-mile concrete tri-oval for Saturday's Pepsi 300.

In four of the first five events this season, Menard and his yellow #11 Menards/Peak Chevrolet have qualified no worse than 11th and have had their share of stellar moments on race day. Quick, efficient pit work has become the norm for the Menards DEI crew. The only thing missing is that top result Menard, his teammates and most everyone in the NASCAR Busch Series garage all realize is just a checkered flag away.

"Overall, we've made very steady progress since we got this team together last July," said Menard, who was fourth on the grid at Daytona, seventh at Mexico City, ninth last weekend at Atlanta, and 11th at Las Vegas. "We've gotten a really good handle on qualifying, and on our pit stops. As long as we stay solid in those two areas, we can always feel like we'll be a threat to win races. And that's just about all a driver can ask for. The only other thing would be to find that magic formula that enables us to keep improving the car during races and put ourselves in position to win week in and week out. I guess that would be the million-dollar question for everybody out there!"

This year's new practice, qualifying and race format, in which teams are allotted only a minimal number of tire sets for the entire weekend, and cars are impounded immediately after qualifying, has forced all competitors to alter their approach, strategically.

"It's really tough because you need all the tires you can save for the race, which really takes away the luxury of using multiple sets to make long runs during practice and still allow you to make a good number of mock qualifying runs," said Menard, who flirted with a top-five finish in his Busch series debut here in 2003 before a late-race cut tire ruined his bid. "But it's the same for everybody out there. It's up to us to find creative ways to improve our car with a minimal amount of knowledge gained from race weekend practice. We'll get it done."

Friday's first of two practice sessions begins at 1:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. EST). Qualifying is set for Saturday at 10:30 a.m. local time (11:35 a.m. EST) with live coverage on SPEED-TV. Race time Saturday is 3 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EST) with the FX cable network providing live coverage beginning a half-hour earlier.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Paul Menard