Saturday, May 7, 2016

CUP: Paul Menard’s engine leaves him with first last-place finish since 2013

SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums
Paul Menard picked up the 3rd last-place finish of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in Saturday’s 400 at the Kansas Speedway when his #27 NIBCO / Menards Chevrolet lost the engine after he completed 129 of 267 laps.

The finish, which came in Menard’s 338th series start, was his first of the season and his first since July 6, 2013 when he lost an engine in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, 101 races ago.

Menard enters his sixth season with Richard Childress Racing coming off his first Chase appearance and a career-best 14th in the 2015 standings.  This year, however, Menard came to Kansas just 26th in points with a single top-ten finish at Martinsville, where he came home 8th.  In 14 previous Kansas starts, Menard finished a track-best 3rd in the fall of 2012, one of five Top Tens, and didn’t have a single DNF.

Menard was 23rd-fastest in the opening practice, 25th in Happy Hour, but found extra speed in qualifying, racing into the final round with the 11th spot on the grid at a speed of 188.114 mph.

The 40th spot on Saturday belonged to Reed Sorenson, back in Premium Motorsports’ #55 following Michael Waltrip’s one-off last week at Talladega.  Sorenson held the spot for most of the early laps, and was the first to be passed by the leader on Lap 1.  The first change for last came on Lap 33, when Jamie McMurray served a penalty for his crew manipulating the side skirts, costing him two laps.  Next was Joey Gase, with returning Talladega XFINITY sponsor Spark Energy on Go Green Racing’s #32 Ford.  Gase made what appeared to be an unscheduled pit stop for four tires and came back out three laps back.

On Lap 57, the caution fell for Matt DiBenedetto scraping the wall in Turn 4.  At that same moment, Cole Whitt pulled his #98 Tweaker Energy Shot Chevrolet into the garage area, citing electrical and ignition issues.  Whitt took 40th from Gase on Lap 58 and looked to be the first retiree of the night.  However, the team got the #98 back out on the track no less than three times, eventually getting him out for good on Lap 107, 51 circuits behind race leader Martin Truex, Jr.  With just over half of the race to go, last place was still up for grabs.

By that point, Menard was having a difficult day of his own.  On Lap 104, his #27 spun off Turn 2 and made light contact with the outside wall.  He returned to competition, but the engine started to lay down.  Around Lap 130, Menard pulled behind the wall, where the crew found the problem to be terminal.  Done for the night, Menard dropped to 39th on Lap 134 and last on Lap 183.  Whitt finished under power, 55 circuits behind, in 39th.

38th and 37th went to Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, who both crashed with Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson as the four raced for a top-five finish on Lap 242.  Hamlin slid into the path of Logano, damaging both cars.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was Josh Wise, whose unsponsored #30 The Motorsports Group Chevrolet ran several laps down before retiring with suspension issues in the final moments.

*This is the first last-place finish for Menard, the #27, and Richard Childress Racing in a Cup race at Kansas.

40) #27-Paul Menard / 129 laps / engine
39) #98-Cole Whitt / 212 laps / running
38) #22-Joey Logano / 240 laps / crash / led 3 laps
37) #11-Denny Hamlin / 240 laps / crash
36) #30-Josh Wise / 245 laps / suspension

1st) Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise (2)
2nd) Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Cole Whitt (1)

1st) Premium Motorsports (3)
2nd) Richard Childress Racing, The Motorsports Group (2)
3rd) BK Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (9)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (1)

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