Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR circuit, but on Sunday Paul Menard of Eau Claire enjoyed his best result of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup season so far.
Menard enjoyed an awesome final stage run rallying back from 16th after the second stage to a sixth place showing thanks in part to a gutsy call by the pit crew late in the Food City 500 with his #21 Wood Brothers Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang.
But it wasn’t just the race. Menard improved his position every time he took to the track, beginning with a 22nd best lap time of 15.106 seconds in the opening practice session until he crossed the line sixth in the race.
In two other practice sessions Menard finished 21st and 12th and crossed the line ninth with his best lap time of 14.757 seconds in Qualifying.
For a second straight race, Menard collected Stage points, collecting three with an eighth place ranking at the end of the first 126-Lap session although he slipped back a bit and used a wave around at the end of the second session and again on a caution with 80-Laps to go to get back on the lead lap.
The strategy paid off as another caution put Menard on the same pit sequence as the front runners and when his crew called for him to stay on track during a Lap 486 caution moved him up to fourth place. Despite the used rubber, he held on and crossed the line sixth.
Menard collected 34 race points which gives him 183 on the season, good enough for 19th spot overall and just four behind Ricky Stenhouse who holds the 16th and final qualifying spot for the playoffs which will come into play late in the summer.
The race win went to Kyle Busch, the winningest driver in NASCAR history and winner of events in all three divisions this season.
Menard and the Wood Brothers team will move on to Virginia for the running of the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway, another short track (.75 mile) event, the first night race of the season for the NASCAR crew since the Qualifying Duels at Daytona in February.