Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang had speed to spare in Round One of qualifying at ISM Raceway in Phoenix on Friday, but a bobble in Round Two left them with the 17th starting position for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500.
After posting the 21st best practice speed early in the day on Friday, Menard jumped to fourth position in the opening round of qualifying with a lap at 138.392 miles per hour.
He was on pace to better that in Round Two but bobbled on his “money” lap and had to fall back on the lap time he posted getting up to speed. That lap still came in at a respectable 138.739 mph.
“We had plenty of speed to get into the final round,” Menard told reporters after qualifying. “We missed the balance a little bit and adjusted on it between rounds.
“I messed up into Turn Three and messed up my last two laps because it killed the current lap and I didn’t get off Turn Four very well. That hurt us.
“We missed it by a half-a-tenth [of a second per lap] and definitely were tracking way better than that, and I just missed Turn Three.”
Menard and the Menards/Quaker State team have two practices on Saturday to prepare their Ford Mustang for Sunday’s 312-mile, 500-kilometer race.
The green flag is set to fly just after 12:30 p.m. Phoenix time (3:30 p.m. Eastern Time) with TV coverage on FOX.