Menard Gets Another Top-10 Finish at Watkins Glen; Set for Sunday's Nextel Cup Race in NASCAR Doubleheader WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Saturday, August 13, 2005) -- In the first half of a NASCAR weekend doubleheader for Paul Menard at Watkins ...
Menard Gets Another Top-10 Finish at Watkins Glen; Set for Sunday's Nextel Cup Race in NASCAR Doubleheader
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (Saturday, August 13, 2005) -- In the first half of a NASCAR weekend doubleheader for Paul Menard at Watkins Glen International, Menard finished eighth in the Zippo 200 Busch Series event. Menard started sixth, led for a period of time, and ultimately recorded his eighth top-10 finish in the last nine races.
Saturday's race was not a cut and "dry" affair with rain causing many teams to rethink their approach to race strategy, literally right from the start. A two-hour rain delay and looming pockets of rain on the radar screen made the possibility of a shortened race very real for Menard and the #11 Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet team from Dale Earnhardt, Inc.. As DEI's Richie Gilmore said following the event, "This wasn't a race I'd like to have to call the strategy for!"
Many cars pit after the first green flag lap which came after the race was started under a caution period that lasted 18 laps. The feeling was that a quick stop to top off the fuel would get cars to the halfway point. Menard's crew chief Dan Stillman felt the 11 car was good enough on fuel to go to the halfway point, so it was not among the cars pitting in the early laps.
Part of this strategy was also to protect Menard in case the race did go the full distance, in which case they would be able to run the event making only one stop.
On Lap 24, Menard inherited the lead for four laps until Brian Vickers took over. He would hold second place until a Lap-42 caution that took the race past the halfway point. Menard pitted for tires, an air-pressure adjustment and some help with forward bite. The stop ensured Menard of making it to the end on fuel.
From Lap 42 the race became a little crazy. Stillman radioed to Menard a few laps into the run after the pit stop to see if the changes had helped. Menard replied, "I have no idea, I've been in so much traffic I can't even tell." Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex and Company had all worked their way up through the field after their early stops and were dicing with Menard for positions in the middle of the pack.
"It's so much fun racing out there at this track, I was either running by myself out there or running like a madman with what seemed like 20 cars going into the same corner together," said Menard after the race. "Track position is such a big deal here, and there are a couple of really good spots to pass, so you had to be on it constantly. It was good stuff."
With Gordon leading on Lap 48, a caution sent all the leaders to the pits, bringing Menard back to the top 10, where he would remain for the rest of the race. Gordon, with a penalty on pit lane, was sent to the back of the field but managed to put on quite a show working his way to the front. Gordon finished a close second to winner Ryan Newman.
For Menard, the top-10 finish moved him to ninth in the Bush series points chase. Menard and Truex were two of only three Busch series regulars to finish in the top 10 today.
"It's really too bad there aren't more tracks like this on the schedule," Menard said. "The racing is really good and it's a great change of pace. I was hoping to get into the top five today, but it didn't happen. The car was a little pushy -- we helped it during the stop -- but it was still pushing, especially in the lefthanders. Our strategy was really good, doing the race on one stop - and it was a good stop, that was what we planned on trying to do.
"The car sputtered a little on the two laps going through the esses, so it was close on fuel. We did move up in points and there's still tomorrow in the Cup race."
Earlier in the day, Menard and his #1 DEI Chevrolet set the 17th-fastest qualifying lap among Nextel Cup competitors for Sunday's Sirius Radio at The Glen, his first Nextel Cup event since 2003. But rain cut the qualifying session short with 10 of the 48 entrants yet to go, prompting NASCAR officials to set the starting grid for today's race based on owners' points and other criteria. Menard will start 43rd.
The NASCAR Busch Series continues next weekend at the Michigan International Speedway.