Paul Menard of Eau Claire spent most of the first half of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup race running among the top 10 at Texas Motor Speedway in his #21 Wood Brothers Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang.
However, a loose wheel early in the final session while running third had him back in the pack and pushing forward after an unscheduled pit stop.
He managed to get back to 19th and while certainly disappointed, Menard and his crew had to be inspired by knowing they could run at the front.
Menard turned in a solid qualifying time of 28.397 seconds around the 1.44-mile oval, good enough for 14th best time just .349 seconds off the pole pace of Jimmie Johnson.
The Wisconsin racer jumped from his seventh row starting spot into sixth place by the end of the first 86-Lap session and 86-Laps later he pushed his way to fifth.
The wheel issue, just a few laps into the final session took him off the lead lap and while the team looked for a caution to get back on the lead lap, they ended up one lap down in a race that saw just the top 15 on the lead lap at the end.
The 19th position finish is the fifth Top-20 showing in seven races so far this season for the Mustang racer. He collected 29 points for the result and currently sits 21st overall with 149 points.
Next up for Menard and the Wood Brothers team is a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee where they will take part in the Food City 500 on Sunday at noon. Leading up to the race, the Monster Energy Cup Racers will be on track for the first practice session today (Friday, April 5) at 12:35 Central time.
Qualifying will take place at 5:10 p.m. this afternoon with other practice sessions Saturday at 8:35 a.m. and 10:05 a.m. Every practice, qualifying and the race itself can be seen on FS1 or heard on PRN Radio.