It's Time for Friday Night Under the Lights for Menard As NASCAR Busch Series Heads West Again to Phoenix AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 19, 2005) -- The NASCAR Busch Series' first Friday-night race of the young season brings Paul Menard and the ...
It's Time for Friday Night Under the Lights for Menard As NASCAR Busch Series Heads West Again to Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 19, 2005) -- The NASCAR Busch Series' first Friday-night race of the young season brings Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet team of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., to the mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway, where Menard has enjoyed some of his most memorable racing moments.
Friday night's Bashas Supermarkets 200, the series first-ever spring race under the lights at the historic track deep in the heart of the Arizona desert, comes at the scene of Menard's thrilling last-lap pass of NASCAR Nextel Cup veteran Kenny Schrader for the victory in a 2002 NASCAR Southwest Tour event, a win that launched Menard into NASCAR's Truck, Busch and Cup series competition the following year.
He also enjoyed a win here in the NASCAR's Grand American Rolex Series, which also came in 2002, and another pair of top-10 finishes in the Southwest Tour in 2002 and 2003.
"Every race car driver has his favorite tracks, and Phoenix is definitely one of mine for obvious reasons," said Menard, who's coming off a top-20 run at Texas last weekend that, had it not been for a mid-race drive-through penalty, could well have evolved into his first top-10 finish of the season. "Phoenix has always been known for some of the best door-handle-to-door-handle racing in all of NASCAR, and we're ready to get back there and mix it up again there on Friday night."
Despite his 18th-place finish at Texas last weekend, Menard and his teammates feel they're riding a bit of momentum to the Valley of the Sun. They struggled with a tight race car in the early going, but not long after the race's midpoint, they improved it to the point where Menard was turning some of the fastest laps on the track. In the midst of it all was a fateful black-flag penalty that took Menard right out of contention as race leader Shane Hmiel spun his wheels and fell back on a restart and Menard, alongside him at the head of the line of lapped cars, ended up crossing the start-finish line ahead of him.
"That was a huge turnaround as we went from getting back onto the lead lap to falling two laps down," Menard said. "But the good news was we worked out our handling issues and had an excellent race car at the end. Hopefully we'll be able to carry that momentum out to Phoenix and be in contention from the start. We were 14th here last fall with a not-so-good race car, so with the added experience and time together as a team, I know we can improve on that in a big way."
Practice for Friday night's Bashas Supermarkets 200 begins Thursday at 1:45 p.m. local time (4:45 p.m. EDT), with that afternoon's final practice set to be broadcast live on SPEED-TV at 5 p.m. local time (8 p.m. EDT). Qualifying, also live on SPEED-TV, is Friday at 1:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m. EDT). Race time is 6 p.m. local time (9 p.m. EDT) Friday with the FX cable network carrying all the action live.