From having to start the race from the rear to running the final laps with no brakes, Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway was a long, frustrating experience for Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Libman team.
Still, the team came away with a 21st-place finish which keeps him 17th in the overall points standings but saw him lose points to Alex Bowman, who holds the 16th and final spot in the playoff standings. Menard is now 56 points behind Bowman with five regular season races left in which to make up the difference.
Menard had to start Sunday’s race from the 36th position after his 17th-place qualifying time was disallowed when he was one of 13 drivers whose cars failed a post-qualifying inspection Saturday afternoon.
Menard gained 13 spots in the race’s first 10 laps, then pitted early in Stage One and ended that segment in 25th place.
He moved up to 21st place but his forward progress stalled at that point, as he suffered a couple of flat tires and other setbacks.
In the closing laps, he ran over a piece of brake rotor from Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 and the damage to the No. 21 Menards/Libman Fusion included a hole in the nose and damage to the braking system. The damage was significant enough to put the Menards/Libman team on NASCAR’s six-minute crash clock, but the necessary repairs were done quickly enough that Menard was able to continue in the race.
Menard restarted the final green-flag checkered-flag run to the finish in 19th position, and even with no brakes he managed to lose just two positions over the final two laps of the race.
Eddie Wood said it was just one of those days when the team couldn’t catch a lucky break.
“Every time we managed to get in position to gain some spots, something would go wrong,” Wood said. “Considering all that didn’t go our way, we probably finished better than we deserved.”
Wood also said he was glad to see Wallace climb from his car after a hard crash into the Turn One wall.
“I’m glad Bubba is OK,” Wood said. “Paul got a bird’s-eye view of that crash, and it was a very hard crash. I’m glad Bubba got it turned a little bit, so the right rear hit first.
It was long day at Pocono, and we’ll go on to Watkins Glen next week and see what we have there.”