Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang finished 17th in Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Menard started the 312-mile race from the 17th starting position and moved up to 15th place by the time the first caution flag flew at Lap 36.
He moved into the top 10 for the first time just after the end of Stage One due to a pit strategy decision in which he made his pit stop before the end of the Stage.
Menard ran in the top 15 for most of the second 75-lap Stage and into the final segment of the race.
The Menards/Quaker State Mustang was at its best two thirds of the way through the race, as Menard worked his way forward to 12th place just before the caution flag flew for a spin by Chase Elliott.
The No. 21 team elected to take just right-side tires on the ensuing pit stop, which put Menard in ninth place for the restart.
But the two-tire call didn’t produce the expected results, so when a caution flag flew with 80 laps remaining, crew chief Greg Erwin called Menard to pit road with 80 laps remaining for four fresh tires and a full load of fuel.
Menard restarted in 23rd place and gained six positions before the checkered flag fell.
“The car was the best it was all day just before that two-tire stop,” Eddie Wood said. “When we got four tires back on it on the final stop Paul was able to make up several spots.
“We’ll take what we got and move on to Fontana.”
Menard heads into next Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway 19th in the driver standings, up one position from the week before and just one point behind 18th place William Byron.