Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy Mustang experienced the typical ups and downs of a Monster Energy Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway before winding up 16th in a rain-delayed and rain-shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400.
The 400 was set to run Saturday night, but was pushed back to Sunday due to rain. The green flag flew just after 1:00 p.m., and Menard was immediately on the move from 20th place, his starting spot which was determined by owner points after Friday’s qualifying session also was a victim of Florida’s summertime weather.
By Lap 12 Menard was up to 13th place, and he made his first foray into the top 10 just five laps later.
Menard, driving with a missing hood flap for most of the first 50-lap stage, wound up 13th at the end of that segment.
His Menards/Dutch Boy crew repaired the flap during the caution period at the end of the stage, and he rejoined the race in 33rd place. He had climbed to 15th by the time the caution flag was displayed on Lap 60 for a spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Menard, despite racing against drivers with fresher tires and running with damage to the rear of his car from contact with Kyle Busch, drove his way into the top 10 and was running seventh with one lap remaining in Stage Two but lost his drafting help and wound up outside the top 10.
In the final stage, Menard, as he had done throughout the first two stages, worked in the draft with his Ford teammates, running in or just outside the top 10. But it was a push from the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin that propelled him into the lead at Lap 112.
Menard continued to run in the lead pack until being swept up in an 18-car crash on Lap 120.
The impact left the Menards/Dutch Boy Mustang with significant damage to the nose, and before the green flag could be displayed, the race was stopped because of lightning in the area and eventually called due to rain.
Eddie Wood said that while he always prefers to run a race to its advertised distance, sometimes it’s best to let events play out otherwise.
“You have to be careful what you wish for, especially at a track like Daytona or Talladega,” he said. “We had a lot of damage to the car. The duct work in the front was gone, and the splitter was probably going to be dragging.”
“On a day like today, it’s best to take what you can get and move on to the next race.”
Menard and the Wood Brothers team return to the track next week at Kentucky Speedway.