Paul Menard takes NASCAR Nationwide race at Michigan
Cup regular inherited the lead when Joey Logano had a flat tire
Paul Menard, driver of the number 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup car, spent Saturday behind the wheel of his number 33 Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Nationwide series Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 at Michigan International Speedway, and it paid off with a victory.
When the race-leading No. 22 Team Penske Ford of Joey Logano headed for pit road because of a cut tire with only four laps remaining, Menard's Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet inherited the lead. Menard then held on to that lead for the remaining laps to claim his second career series win.
"Right rear had a cut in it somewhere," Logano said. "The No. 6 car (Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford)," which had wrecked earlier, "was running with garbage flying off his car everywhere."
Logano wound up finishing 16th. The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Sam Hornish Jr. finished second after overcoming a spin to bring out the first caution of the race on lap two. The No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third, in his last scheduled Nationwide race of the season
"We were able to work our way back up there, just didn't have anything for the No. 33 there at the end," Hornish said. "We didn't give up; we kept working hard."
The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch also had to make his way up through the field. Busch restarted just outside the top-15 following the fourth and final caution of the race with 45 laps to go and drove up to fourth by the finish. The No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Brian Scott rounded out the top five.
"We just got too far behind, there, on our track position on the final pit stop," Busch said.
After the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon and Menard each led laps early in the race, the No. 42 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of Kyle Larson took command up front for a significant chunk of the race, followed by the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Chase Elliott.
After taking control of the first and second spots int he running order, both Larson and Elliott opted to stay out during the second and third cautions that came out for debris on laps 51 and 66, while almost everyone else pitted during at least one of them. As a result, they were running on older tires than the rest of the race field when the final yellow flag waved, forcing them to spend enough time on pit road for four tires, while others took fuel only.
When the race restarted for the final time, Elliott and Larson were well outside the top 10. Both drivers had a hard time gaining track positions at first, but finally made their ways into the top 10 by the end. Elliott wound up finishing sixth, while Larson had to settle for eighth.
Menard moved up to second on the final restart, but then Menard dropped back, quickly losing several positions. But he recovered, and with just under 20 laps to go, moved back up to second.
"The best car won today," Menard said. "I thought we gave it away on the last restart."
Elliott's JR Motorsports teammate, Regan Smith in the No. 7 Chevrolet, finished seventh. Dillon was ninth, and the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Chris Buescher was 10th.
Jeffrey Earnhardt ready for the 'start of a long run'
Sadler to tackle Road America this weekend