Paul Menard took what he learned of the new track surface at Kansas Speedway during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday and, with crew chief Slugger Labbe back on top of the pit box after a six-week hiatus, turned it into a very strong third-place finish in the Kansas 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Menard qualified 14th Friday afternoon and ran in the top 20 for the first 116 laps of the 267-lap event. It was then that green-flag pit stops began but Labbe decided to keep his driver out for as many laps as possible.
The turning point of the race for the No. 27 CertainTeed/Menards team occurred on lap 122 when the fifth of the day’s 14 caution flags waved. Menard came down pit road two laps later in the fifth position and a strong effort by the No. 27 pit crew picked up two positions for Menard when green-flag racing resumed on lap 128. He moved into second on lap 147 and took the top spot for six laps beginning on lap 212. Menard dropped back to fourth after pitting during the 13th caution, moved to second by lap 223 and then to third place four laps later, where he remained for the final 40 laps.
Start – 14 Finish – 3 Laps Led – 6 Points – 16th
PAUL MENARD QUOTES: “We had Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) back this weekend. He is well rested after six weeks off, and had some good ideas to try this weekend. Our Rheem/Menards Chevrolet in the (NASCAR) Nationwide (Series) was probably the best car yesterday. And, our CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet today was good, too. It’s a game of track position, and we had a good car. It was just a matter of getting us up there and having good pit stops and gained track position. Once we got up there, we just couldn’t hang on.”
“We kind of hit on something yesterday (Saturday) morning that we liked, thought was promising, and stuck with it. Obviously running the (NASCAR) Nationwide (Series) car on a new surface, we learned a lot about tire pressures, what grooves come in. The second groove came in a hell of a lot better than I think anybody thought. You could make lap time and pass cars.”
“Overall, I’m just really happy with the weekend and the repave. The track came in real well and it’s just going to keep getting better. I’m real proud of my Menards guys.”