Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Jack Links Ford Fusion are set to start Sunday’s Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway from the 15th position.
Menard and the No. 21 Fusion had good speed in Friday’s opening practice and in the first of three rounds of knock-out qualifying. But the second round, which has been a challenge for the team on several occasionsq this season, once again saw the team come up a bit short, missing the final transfer spot by three positions and just a few ticks of the stopwatch.
Eddie Wood said Menard came close to advancing.
“On the first run in Round Two, he said he just got a little too high in turn one,” Wood said.
Still, it was the 10th time in 15 races this season that Menard has qualified among the top 15.
And based on his speed for most of Friday, the prospects for the rest of the Michigan weekend are encouraging.
Menard posted a best lap in practice of 200.312 miles per hour, which put him among the nine drivers, seven of them driving Fords, who broke the 200-mile-per-hour mark in practice.
In the first round of qualifying, he ran a lap at 201.106 mph. Then despite a small slip in the second round, he still topped the 200-mph mark with a best lap of 200.328 mph. Knowing that speed likely wasn’t good enough to advance to the final round, he made another run against the clock but without a chance to cool his engine, he was unable to better his initial Round Two run and wound up 15th.
“We would have liked to have been able to make it to the final round, but our car has good speed and we feel good headed into the rest of the weekend,” Wood said.
Two practice sessions are scheduled for Saturday morning, then the Firekeepers Casino 400 is set to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.