Paul Menard is looking forward to a boost in horsepower under the hood of his No. 21 Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang this weekend in the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Sunday’s 312-mile, 500-kilometer run on the one-mile track in the Arizona desert marks the debut of NASCAR’s aero/handling package for tracks 1.3 miles or less in length.
The large spoilers on the rear deck will remain, but the package does not include the aero ducts that were on the fronts of cars at Las Vegas, and the tapered spacers that limited horsepower at Atlanta and Las Vegas will be opened up for ISM, bringing horsepower back into the 750 hp range.
“We’re sort of going back to normal,” Menard said. “We’re getting the horsepower back, but we’ll have more downforce.”
Menard said he doesn’t expect the racing to change dramatically from what was seen last year at Phoenix, but no one will know for sure until the cars get on the track and drivers get a chance to see how their cars perform in traffic.
He also said the Phoenix track, last repaved in 2012, is regaining some of its original character.
“It’s losing grip and getting back to how it used to be,” Menard said. “You have to hustle the car more, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Menard also said he likes the direction his No. 21 team is taking as the 2019 season begins to unfold.
“We’re learning and making gains,” he said, adding that he was especially proud of the team’s turn-around at Las Vegas.
“We were horrible in Happy Hour, but we made some changes that really helped the car in the race,” he said. “We made up some spots that we lost early in the race, and we could run really good in clean air.”
Qualifying at Phoenix is set for 4:10 p.m (6:10 Eastern Time) on Friday, and the race is scheduled to start just after 12:30 p.m. (3:30 Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FOX.