PAUL MENARD Last September's Near-Top-Five Finish Is On Menard's Mind As He Heads To Richmond for Friday Night's Funai 250 RICHMOND, Va. (May 10, 2005) -- The last time Paul Menard and the ...
Last September's Near-Top-Five Finish Is On Menard's Mind As He Heads To Richmond for Friday Night's Funai 250
RICHMOND, Va. (May 10, 2005) -- The last time Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet team from Dale Earnhardt, Inc., visited these parts, they looked like a sure bet to leave with a top-five NASCAR Busch Series finish.
Menard, the 24-year-old out of Eau Claire, Wis., was 16 laps from the end of last September's race on the famed Richmond International Raceway three-quarter-mile tri-oval and was sitting in fifth place on his way to the front. He passed Nextel Cup regulars Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick, among others, and appeared to be headed to the front. That is, until a fellow rookie's indiscretions on a Lap-234 restart forced Menard up into the marbles and sent him backpedaling in a stellar effort to keep the Menards Chevrolet off the wall. Unable to recover in the closing laps, Menard had to settle for an unlucky 13th-place finish.
"I've been waiting to get back to Richmond ever since," said Menard, who returns here with his DEI teammates and the rest of the NASCAR Busch Series for Friday night's Funai 250. "We had a top-five car all the way and we were able to pass people all night long. Unfortunately, what happened to end our night was out of our control. But, unfortunately, that's the way it goes sometimes. We expect to have a great car once again for Richmond. Like Darlington last week, Richmond is absolutely one of my favorite tracks. I can see why all the drivers look forward to going there. I expect it'll be another barn-burner of a race."
With memories of last September's superior race car here, Menard and his DEI teammates also are anxious to erase the memories of what he termed a "nightmare of a race" at Darlington last Friday night, where he qualified 14th and came home 30th after a late-race encounter with the outer retaining wall.
"Fortunately, that kind of a race experience has been extremely rare for me and this group," Menard said. "In this business, you learn something from every experience -- good, bad or indifferent. After last Friday night, the best lesson is to learn how to get over it quickly and not let it affect you the next time out. Needless to say, we're charged up heading to Richmond after some really solid testing on Monday and Tuesday at Charlotte."
Friday night's Funai 250 is a one-day show for the NASCAR Busch Series competitors, beginning with practice at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Qualifying, to be broadcast live by SPEED-TV, is set for 4:30 p.m. EDT. Race time is 7:30 p.m. EDT with live FX coverage beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.