After solid third-place run, Menard turns his thoughts toward home
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
LAS VEGAS — After struggling in the second half of last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix, Paul Menard came back with a vengeance at Las Vegas, even though his thoughts might have been elsewhere.
With wife Jennifer expecting the couple’s first child – imminently – Menard led six laps in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, running down Jimmie Johnson for the top spot on Lap 199 of 267, and ultimately finished third behind race winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As it turned out, Menard didn’t need the services of Matt Crafton, who was standing by as a potential relief driver in the event Menard’s wife went into labor.
“It’s big for sure,” Menard said of his strong performance. “We’ve had a really good car the first three races… just missed it about halfway through the race in Phoenix.
“This is good redemption. The guys never give up. Had a great car in Daytona, obviously led a bunch of laps. But this Quaker State/Menards Chevy was hauling ass on long runs. Had a lot of those today and it kind of played in our favor.”
Asked how quickly he would make the return trip to North Carolina, Menard replied, “As soon as possible—I’ve got a plane to catch.”
BAD BRAKE FOR HARVICK
Kevin Harvick looked like a potential race winner until an issue with the left front hub and brakes forced him to the garage at the 200-lap mark.
Having won last week at Phoenix, Harvick was philosophical about the issue that had cost him a chance at consecutive victories.
“It’s hard to complain,” said Harvick, who led 23 laps before the issue with the hub relegated him to a 41st-place finish, 30 laps down. “These guys on this Jimmy John’s Chevrolet have given me cars that are good every week.”
In his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing and with crew chief Rodney Childers, Harvick and his team are still learning.
“Just a little parts failure there and just we’ll figure out the cause of it and try to just keep that from happening,” Harvick said. “Every week is a new notebook for us. I really think, as we get established and get some foundation for our set-ups and just the little things this, team is going to be dangerous.”
COMING UP ACES
With Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski sweeping the front row, Keselowski sweeping both NASCAR races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the weekend couldn’t have ended better for team owner Roger Penske.
Of course, it didn’t start badly either.
Playing with sons Greg and Mark, Penske notched his first hole-in-one Friday on the 150-yard fourth hole of the par-3 course at Augusta National Golf Club, where Penske is a member.
“The caddie said he thought it bounced over the green into the bushes,” Penske told the NASCAR Wire Service after a Saturday night screening of “Horse Power,” a documentary detailing the preparation of Shell and Scuderia Ferrari for the 2014 Formula One season.
Nope. The ball landed in the cup on the fly and Penske had his first ace, the first of four “number ones” for the weekend.