Paul Menard closed out his full-time Cup career, and a two-year stint in the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, with a 17th-place finish in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Menard started 19th after qualifying was cancelled because of rain and the starting line-up set by car owner points. He spent the early portions of the race running around the top 20 and fell a lap down midway through the second stage as the race leaders set a torrid pace in a relatively caution-free race.
When a caution flag did fly with just over 20 laps left to run in Stage Two, crew chief Greg Erwin elected to take the wave-around even though Menard faced an uphill battle to remain on the lead lap while riding on worn tires.
But the veteran driver came through and finished Stage Two in 19th place and still on the lead lap.
He began to move forward in the third and final stage, driving up to 13th at one point before finishing 17th as the entire third segment of the race ran without a caution flag.
Eddie Wood said Menard turned in a solid performance in his final Cup start.
“It was a hard race for everybody,” Wood said. “There weren’t many caution flags so you really didn’t have opportunities to work on the car.
“Our race was pretty uneventful, no mistakes, and we were glad that Paul was able to be still running good at the end of his last race.”
Menard’s finish secured the 19th place in the final points standings for him and his Wood Brothers team, which means the No. 21 team will be eligible to participate in the rotation of future Goodyear tire tests. Those tests allow teams and drivers a rare opportunity to get experience on the various race tracks, which are off limits for testing according to NASCAR rules.
Wood also said that among the bittersweet moments of the weekend was that it was the final installment of Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Next year, the final races move to ISM Raceway near Phoenix and Homestead will host a race in March.
Since 2002, Ford Motor Company has been the title sponsor of the entire weekend, including the season-ending races for all three of the top NASCAR series – Cup, Xfinity and the Gander Outdoors Truck series.
“It’s been a good run for us and for everybody in NASCAR,” Wood said. “It’s the same with our family and the Menards.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!