A late-race pit strategy didn’t work out for Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Moen team, and as a result, the team ended Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in 20th place.
Menard, who started the race from 25th place, had worked his way up to just outside the top 10 just after the end of the second 60-lap Stage.
He was running in 16th place with 40 of 200 laps remaining when crew chief Greg Erwin called him to pit road.
Menard was the first of the lead-lap drivers to stop, a decision that in most cases would have positioned Menard for a strong finish. But the strategy back-fired seven laps later when the caution flag flew for debris from a blown tire by the No. 43 of Bubba Wallace.
At that point there were just seven drivers on the lead lap, so Menard and the rest of the drivers who had already made their pit stops were forced to take the wave-around, as they were a lap down at that point. Most of the lead-lap drivers, as well as others a lap or more down, stopped for fresh rubber, while the wave-around drivers were stuck with the tires they were on when the caution flag flew.
From that point on, there were no more caution flags, which meant that Menard ran the final 37 laps of the race on the oldest tires of any lead-lap driver. He started that last green-flag run in 17th place and quickly worked his way up to 14th before his tire disadvantage caused him to fade to 20th at the finish.
Menard and the No. 21 team now head to their home turf for a tribute to team founder Glenn Wood on Friday at the Wood Brothers Racing Museum in Stuart, Va., and then on to nearby Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s STP 500.
Fans, family members, friends, former drivers and NASCAR personalities will gather at the Museum from 4-7 p.m. on Friday to honor Mr. Wood, who died Jan. 18 at the age of 93.
His son Eddie Wood said the tribute will be open to anyone who wishes to participate.
“The doors are open to all,” Wood said. “My dad always enjoyed meeting the people who have come to the museum over the years, and we think it’s fitting that the tribute will be held there in the place he enjoyed so much.”
Wood also said he’d like to thank NASCAR, and particularly Vice-Chairman Mike Helton, for spearheading the event.
“Mike was a good friend of my dad’s and has been a good friend to us and the entire NASCAR community,” Wood said. “Our family has been blessed by his friendship, and his interest in honoring our dad’s memory has touched us all.”
The Wood Brothers Museum is located at 21 Performance Drive in Stuart, Va.
For more information, visit woodbrothersracing.com.