Paul Menard and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team had a fast Ford Fusion for Sunday’s 400-miler at Dover International Speedway, as evidenced by their practice speeds on Friday and Saturday.
But a loose wheel and a trip to the garage to change a damaged hub just before the end of the race’s first Stage kept Menard and the team from capitalizing on the speed in their No. 21 Fusion. Menard had moved up to 16th from his 20th starting position before the mechanical issues sent him to the garage for repairs.
After spending 44 laps behind the wall, Menard returned to the track in 37th position and soldiered on to the finish, winding up in 34th place.
With no hopes of a good finish, Menard, crew chief Greg Erwin and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team used the balance of the race as somewhat of a test session to prepare for their return trip to Dover in the fall.
“They experimented with different air pressures and other adjustments to see what we could learn knowing we’ll be back here in October,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “Even though we were a lot of laps down, Paul ran some really good lap times, but he also tried to stay out of the leaders’ way.
“He backed off when he needed to, because the last thing you want to do in that situation is cause a problem for someone else.”
Wood also said it’s important to never give up until the checkered flag flies.
“You come to the track to get the best finish you can and to run to the finish,” he said. “You do that even if you have a problem, and when you have speed at the end you leave with an uptick in your spirits.”
Menard gained three positions in his return to the track but still lost two spots in the standings to 21st place heading into Saturday night’s KC Masterpiece at Kansas Speedway.
For that race, the No. 21 Fusion will carry the colors of Menards/Atlas.
WBR PR/Photo Robert Laberge/Getty Images