Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Richmond Ford Mustang had a good run going early in Sunday’s 350-kilometer race on the road course at Sonoma Raceway, but a mid-race spin dealt them a setback they weren’t able to overcome and they wound up 22nd at the finish.
Menard started Sunday’s race, run on the track’s old layout which featured the Carousel turn and an additional half mile in overall length, from 24th place.
He moved up five positions in the opening 12 laps and continued to move up throughout the first 20-lap stage. Between positions gained on the track and others picked up when drivers ahead of him made early pit stops, Menard finished the stage in ninth place, earning two bonus points.
He gained one position on the ensuing pit stop and rejoined the field in 23rd place, as those who pitted before the end of the stage restarted ahead of him.
But just after the restart, Menard was hit from behind and spun, dropping him outside the top 30, a setback made worse by the fact that the race ran the entire distance with no caution periods other than the ones for the end of the two stages.
Still, Menard ended the second stage in 20th place.
The final 50 laps saw Menard and the team employ various strategies in hopes of regaining lost track position. They pitted with 30 laps remaining, before many of their competitors. Menard then drove back to 22nd place.
Not satisfied with their prospects at that point, crew chief Greg Erwin elected to pit again with 14 laps remaining. The move dropped Menard to 29th place but having fresher tires allowed him to race his way back to 22nd at the finish.
Menard and the No. 21 team return to the track next week at Chicagoland Speedway, where Menard won the pole a year ago.