‘Gutsy call’ delivers Paul Menard first top five with Wood Brothers Racing

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On a day where it dominated the top 10 with seven cars in the top eight, Ford’s “company car” pulled off its best result of the season.

When the rain put an end to Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway after 133 of 200 laps, Paul Menard and Wood Brothers Racing found themselves in fifth, earning their first top five together.

It’s Menard first top-five finish since last July’s race at Daytona. It’s his first top five on a non-restrictor plate track since March 2015 at Auto Club Speedway, the sister track of Michigan.

“We had a good car today and all weekend,” said Menard who qualified 15th. “We didn’t qualify as good as we would have hoped and went from the back and got put to the back twice.”

The first setback came on Lap 27 when Menard was caught speeding on pit road during the competition caution.

As he came back through the field, Menard had a close call on Lap 66 when he was “door slammed” by Daniel Suarez as they exited Turn 4. The contact sent Suarez sliding through the infield grass.

Back in the pack again, Menard’s crew chief, Greg Erwin, made the “gutsy call” to keep Menard out of the pits on old tires following Kyle Larson‘s spin on Lap 86.

That allowed Menard to restart first on Lap 92 before Kevin Harvick took the lead. Menard finished Stage 2 in fifth setting up the last short sprint before the rains came.

“I am really proud of my guys,” Menard said. “We made a gutsy call to stay out on no tires with a bunch of laps on it. Gutsy call. We had the car to hold on though, so it worked out.”

Five of Menard’s 20 career top fives have come at Michigan.