Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang are set to start Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway from 15th place, although no starting positions are official until after inspection is completed Sunday morning.
Menard toured the tricky, paper-clip-shaped half-mile at 96.884 miles per hour on his fourth lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday afternoon. That put him 11th fastest and allowed him to advance to Round Two.
In the second round he posted a best lap of 96.699 miles per hour on his fifth lap, which was just .025 seconds per lap shy of being good enough to advance to the final round but left him 15th.
“It’s about where we expected,” Menard said. “We weren’t really strong in qualifying trim in practice, and our first run I thought that we could have picked up for the second round.
“We didn’t do any adjustments and just got pretty tight, so it kept getting faster as I ran, so stayed out a little bit too long probably for brakes, but it was pretty much where we were.”
Eddie Wood said he was encouraged that Menard’s Mustang was just a tick or two of the stopwatch away from a top-12 run in the second qualifying round and that the car performed well in the final practice session. Both practices were held on Saturday prior to qualifying.
Menard’s best lap in “Happy Hour” practice was at 96.538 miles per hour, which was fifth best on the speed chart.
“The car was good in race trim,” Wood said.
The STP 500 is set to get the green flag just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.