Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Maytag team backed up their sixth-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway a week ago by scoring a 10th-place finish on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway, which in recent seasons hasn’t been one of their best tracks.
Menard’s finish, coupled with three Stage points earned by finishing in the top 10 of both 100-lap Stages, moved him up three spots in the championship standings to 16th place. That puts him, for now, in the elite 16 that will compete for the championship in the 10-race, season-ending Playoffs.
Menard and the Menards/Maytag team started their Richmond weekend by qualifying a strong 13th, then moved up to ninth place for the start after four drivers ahead of them failed a pre-race inspection.
From that point on, Menard was rarely outside the top 10.
He finished ninth in the first Stage, earning two points. In Stage Two, he held off Jimmie Johnson and William Byron to finish 10th, earning another Stage point. It was the fifth time in the past six Stages – over the course of three races -that Menard has earned Stage points.
In the final 200-lap run to the checkered flag, Menard dropped to 12th at one point but passed Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch in the closing laps to score his first top 10 at Richmond since 2013. It was the first top 10 at Richmond for the Wood Brothers since Ken Schrader in 2006, but that span includes several years in which the team was running a partial schedule and did not compete at Richmond.
In his post-race comments, Menard had words of praise for his pit crew’s quick work.
“The guys really stepped up their game on pit road and we gained some spots or we maintained and that is what you need when you start running up front,” he said. “It was a really solid day for us.”
Eddie Wood said he was especially proud of the Menard/Maytag team and echoed Menard’s assessment of the pit crew’s work.
“It was a solid, solid race,” Wood said. “The pit crew had a great night and gained spots on nearly every stop. Greg Erwin called a great race and Paul did some great driving.
“The car was good all night. They didn’t have to adjust it on pit stops, just put four tires on it and go.”
Menard and the No. 21 team will be idle next weekend for Easter then be back on the track in two weeks at Talladega Superspeedway.