Paul Menard and the Menards/Cardell team have good ideas about what to do – and what not to do – when it comes to tuning their No. 21 Fusion for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
“We struggled there in the spring for sure,” Menard said of his team’s 36th-place finish after a blown tire and subsequent crash. “So we have a pretty good idea what not to do.”
But the team has some new ideas from a recent test session at the relatively flat, one-mile track in the desert west of Phoenix, Ariz.
“We have a new mindset as far as our set-up,” Menard said. “We tested there a few weeks ago and had a good-driving car. We’ll take what we learned there and keep working on it.”
This weekend’s race at ISM will be the first since a major overhaul of the facility, and of particular interest to drivers and fans is the moving of the start-finish line to near the exit of what once was Turn Two.
“As far as lap times, the change means nothing,” Menard said. “But it will get kind of wild on restarts.”
With the restart zone being in the widest part of the track, drivers likely will take chances to gain positions before re-entering one of the narrower parts of the track.
“There’s lots of real estate to fan out there and try to make something happen before you have to get back in line,” Menard said. “There will be a lot of four-wide fighting to get back to two-wide.”
For Menard and the No. 21 team, this weekend’s race offers another chance to gain positions in the points standings.
Last week at Texas Motor Speedway, their 13th-place finish allowed them to move from 20th to 19th, with 18th-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just four points ahead.
The 17th position is held by Ryan Newman and he holds an 49 point lead over Menard with just two races – this weekend at Phoenix and the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway the following week – left on the schedule.
“Seventeenth place is pretty far off, but we can certainly get to 18th,” Menard said. “If we have solid days, we’ll be fine.”
Qualifying for the Can-Am 500 is set for Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern Time with TV coverage on NBCSN.
Sunday’s 500-kilometer, 312-mile race is scheduled to start just after 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time with NBC carrying the broadcast.