As Paul Menard and the No. 21 Quick Lane team prepare for Sunday’s First Data 500 on the tight confines of Martinsville Speedway, Menard is hoping for a drama-free race, at least until the final laps.
"Typically if you can get through Martinsville with an uneventful run, you’ll have a good finish," Menard said, adding that a successful weekend depends in large part on starting the weekend with a fast car. "You need to be good in practice and then qualify up front so you have an opportunity to maintain good track position throughout the race."
While some drivers don’t particularly like racing at Martinsville, which can turn into a rough-and-tumble affair, Menard enjoys the challenge.
"It’s a lot of fun to drive," he said. "You can really feel the power off the corners. It’s hard on brakes, and it can be frustrating.
"It’s just a good old throwback short track."
Many drivers take advantage of the relatively slow overall speeds at Martinsville to settle scores from other, faster tracks, but Menard said he enters the weekend with no fellow drivers due a shove from his bumper.
"We’re all squared away right now," he said. "But I might have one [needing payback] when I leave there."
Qualifying for the First Data 500 is set for Saturday at 4:35 p.m. following two practice sessions earlier in the day. The race is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on NBCSN.