Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team spent most of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway working to make up lost ground.
Despite their best efforts, Menard wound up 28th at the finish.
Starting 24th in the 400-lap race meant the team’s best bet was to try some pit strategy in the opening 100-lap stage to hopefully move up through the field.
Crew chief Greg Erwin called Menard to pit road midway through the stage, with the idea being that Menard could use the fresher tires to rejoin the lead lap and be in a better position entering Stage Two.
He was able to gain positions through the strategy but came up a couple of spots short of getting back on the lead lap.
From that point on, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team was in catch-up mode, but the breaks didn’t go their way. The team opted to take the wave-around, sometimes with success and sometimes without, as taking the wave-around means restarting at the back of the pack, which makes it difficult to keep from being lapped again.
Making matters worse was damage to both front fenders due to contact when drivers became bottled up just after restarts.
Eddie Wood said that his team didn’t run as poorly as a 28th-place finish indicates, but the results show just how difficult it is to make up lost ground on a track like Richmond.
“We didn’t qualify that well, and that makes you have to take chances, like short pitting,” Wood said. “When you gamble, there’s always the chance that the cautions won’t fall like you need them to. And once you get a lap or more down, it’s a struggle to make it up.
“You kind of have what you have, and that makes for disappointing finishes like tonight’s.
“We’ll just have to put this one behind us and move on.”
Next up for Menard and the No. 21 team is the Bank of America 400 on the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sept. 29.