The No. 21 Menards/Maytag team went into the Bluegreen Vacations 500 weekend at ISM Raceway planning to give Paul Menard a fast Ford Mustang for his final start at the track just outside Phoenix.
The team left Phoenix feeling good about their efforts as Menard raced his way forward from his 19th starting spot to 12th at the finish on a day in which passing was difficult and track position was key.
Menard spent most of the first two 75-lap Stages running just inside the top 20, but after some adjustments at the end of the second stage, he began his drive forward.
By Lap 175, he’d cracked the top 15 and raced there for the remainder of a race that saw just two caution flags in the final half of the race.
In the latter portions of the race, there were as few as eight drivers on the lead lap at one point, but Menard wound up being among the 15 who finished the 312-lap race on the lead lap.
It took some heads-up driving by Menard, good pit strategy from crew chief Greg Erwin and fast stops by the over-the-wall crew to make that happen.
“Paul did a really good job,” Eddie Wood said. “The crew had some stops in the 12-second range, and Greg made some good calls and good adjustments.
“We had to take the wave-around a couple of times and didn’t have the best track position, but overall it was a good day for us.
“And Paul was able to pass two drivers for position on the last lap, which was impressive.”
Menard and the No. 21 team now head to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season-ending Ford Championship Weekend.