After surviving a challenging first round of qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team advanced to Round Two and wound up posting the 14th best lap.
That means he’s set to start Sunday’s race from 14th place.
It’s the second straight week and the third time this season that Menard has qualified 14th.
The veteran driver started the day by posting the 13th fastest speed in Friday’s lone practice session with a best lap at 187.032 miles per hour.
In Round One of qualifying Menard had to overcome a couple of setbacks - one due to a spin by Alex Bowman that brought out the caution flag while he was at speed, and another when he was penalized for speeding on pit road.
It took another attempt against the clock to post a lap at 185.778 miles per hour, which was good enough for 22nd place, which meant he’d advance to the second of three rounds.
His lap in the second round, at 186.677 mph, became his official qualifying speed.
Menard said in his post-qualifying comments to the media that the group qualifying format combined with the new higher downforce-lower horsepower handling package plus recent adjustments to the qualifying rules put new elements of strategy into qualifying.
For instance, for the second session he lined his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang up at the front of the pack on pit road.
“I want to be up front because you have way more options,” he said. “If you’re in the back it’s hard to get around for two laps, so if you’re up front you can kind of force your way in the line where you want to be.”
Even though he came a couple of spots shy of advancing to the final round, Menard said he felt good about where he and his team are when it comes to preparation for Sunday’s race.
“We were just too loose in qualifying,” he said. “We were really good in practice and just too loose in qualifying, so we’ll just go back and look at it.”
Sunday’s 500-miler is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Time) on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.