After battling back from being a lap down, Paul Menard and his No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang were racing among the leaders in the closing laps of the Daytona 500 only to be involved in a multi-car crash that ended his night.
With nine of the scheduled 200 laps remaining, Menard attempted to pass the No. 95 of Matt DiBenedetto but collided with DiBenedetto, triggering a 21-car crash.
Menard shouldered the blame for the incident.
“I hooked the 95,” he told reporters after being checked at the track’s infield care center. “I was trying to get to his outside and he was kind of in the middle and he went to the outside and was going back and forth.
“The 12 [Ryan Blaney] had a big run so I jumped up in front of him and hooked the 95.”
“I will take the blame for that one. We had really fast Fords. I sped on pit road and got us behind. We had to play catch-up. We had a shot there at the end though.”
Menard started the race in seventh place and ran among the leaders for much of the first 60-lap Stage. He was still in sight of the leaders early in Stage Two when he made a green flag pit stop and was caught speeding on pit road.
The penalty put him a lap down, but he managed to stay in position to take the wave-around, should a caution flag fall at an opportune time.
The caution flag he needed flew with 14 laps remaining in the second stage, and Menard held on to the lead lap until the caution period for the end of the Stage, which allowed him to pit for fresh tires and fuel and rejoin the lead pack in good shape, tire-wise and fuel-wise.
He had worked his way into the top 10 as the laps wound down and lined up in sixth place on a restart with just 10 laps remaining in regulation.
Then came the incident on the backstretch which left him with a 29th-place finish.
“It was time to go,” Menard said of his decision to race more aggressively. “It is frustrating that we have to put ourselves in that position to race this way.”
Menard and the No. 21 team return to the track next Sunday for the Folds of Honor/Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.