FORT WORTH, Texas – Entering Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500, the season has seen a rise of unlikely faces at the top of the Sprint Cup championship standings. The relatively quiet and forgotten man at Richard Childress Racing that has been the one leading the banner this year is none other than Paul Menard.
Heading into Saturday night’s race Menard was sixth in the standings, with his best finish this season coming at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
The Wisconsin native qualified a solid eighth, stayed among the top five for most of the night, and inherited the lead for a short bit.
However, shortly after green flag pit stops Menard noticed a mechanical issue with the No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet and was forced to retire from the race on lap 222.
“It looks like a water hose broke, spit a bunch of water out, the motor stopped running,” said Menard. “The water gauge never came up so I really had no warning. I was coming down the backstretch to pit and slowing down and it just broke. Popped the hood, didn’t see anything went back out and had no power. It started pushing water out of the exhaust.”
“It was good all weekend, drove good, had decent speed. We worked on it early in the race, when the sun went down it came to life. My guys gave me really good pit stops. We got blocked in the first stop, lost a lot of track positions. My guys made it back up with adjustments and really good pit stops.”
The mechanical failure left Menard and the team with a sour finish of 41st, dropping them to 16th in the championship standings.
If the Chase for the Championship began today Menard would be the last driver to make it in, currently holding the tie breaker over Stewart-Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick by virtue of having a higher finish this season.
Image: Matthew Bishop/About.com NASCAR