Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Monster Ford Mustang started strong in Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But the march forward from their 21st starting position lasted only a handful of laps before Menard began falling back.
After struggling through the first two 80-lap stages and falling two laps off the pace, Menard and the team manufactured some good fortune and wound up 14th at the finish.
The turn-around started near the end of Stage Two when crew chief Greg Erwin elected to run long, which set the No. 21 team up for taking the wave-around during the caution period for the end of that stage.
That put Menard just one lap down, and after just 14 laps under the green flag another caution fell, allowing the team to try another wave-around, which also worked in their favor.
Back on the lead lap Menard began moving forward – he had been as low as 28th at one point – and worked his way into the top 15.
The wild, four- and five-wide restarts also impacted Menard’s run, as he received damage to the nose of the Menards/Monster Mustang just after a late-race restart, but the crew repaired the damage on the next pit stop and he drove his way to 14th at the finish.
It was his third-straight finish of 15th or better and his 13th top-15 in the 27 races to date.
Eddie Wood said he was glad to see the night end on a positive note.
“The car was quite a bit better at the end of the race, which is encouraging,” he said.
“We weren’t fast enough to contend for the win, but our strategy worked and we were able to make up two laps and gain some spots at the end.”
Menard and the No. 21 team will be back on track Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.