Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy team had one of their strongest runs of the season in the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard.
Menard was the fastest in Happy Hour practice on Saturday then backed that up by winning the outside pole during Sunday morning’s qualifying session.
Throughout the 400-mile run at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Menard kept his No. 21 Mustang in the mix, dodging crashes on several occasions and running in the lead group for the first half of the 400-mile race.
His chances of a good finish seemed to in jeopardy when he was collected in a Lap 105 multi-car crash that saw the left front of the Menards Mustang damaged despite Menards’ best efforts to avoid the cars spinning all around him.
But the No. 21 crew patched up the damage, and he rejoined the race in 20th place.
In a race where passing was difficult and track position at a premium, Menard began moving forward. By Lap 116, he was up to 15th and was running just outside the top 15 when he made a final stop for fresh tires and fuel during a caution period following a crash on Lap 147 by Matt Tifft, yet another incident that Menard managed to avoid.
With nine laps left to run, Menard restarted in 14th place then quickly moved up to 11th before moving into the top 10 with six laps remaining.
He held on to score his fourth top-10 finish of the season and the fourth top-10 of his career at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It was an up and down day for us,” Menard said in his post-race comments. “We qualified really good. We were really tight to start. That has happened to us the last two weeks where we fired off really tight and had to free up throughout the race.
“We finally got some track position back at the end and had a couple of good restarts and got a top-10, so overall, not a bad day.”
Eddie Wood agreed that it was a good day for the Menards/Dutch Boy team.
“Mr. Menard and his family were with us all day on the pit box, and we also had a great group from Dutch Boy with us,” Wood said. “We had a great time with them.”
Wood said the over-the-wall crew turned in a good performance, particularly their work repairing the damaged left-front fender.
“They pretty much had to put the whole fender back on and did it without losing a lap,” Wood said, adding that they did cut it close when it came to making the repairs before the crash clock ran out. “It was down to the last second.”
Wood also said Menard had his usual strong drive at the Brickyard and crew chief Greg Erwin kept him in he mix with good pit calls.
“His decisions on when to pit for tires worked out just right,” Wood said.
Menard and the No. 21 team return to the track next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
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