Menard gets his first pole in 10 years at Chicagoland

Cup Practice-5148

Paul Menard makes a lap during practice at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday. Menard will sit on the pole for Sunday’s Overtons 400. Eric Young/The SuperSpeedway

JOLIET, Ill. — Paul Menard won the Busch Pole for Sunday’s Overtons 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, his first pole in 10 years.

Menard has one other pole to his credit in the Cup Series, which came at Daytona in 2008.

Menard turned a speed of 180.012 mph to capture the pole late in the final round, beating out quasi-teammate Ryan Blaney, who posted second. Menard runs for the Wood Brothers with support from Team Penske.

Menard said he was happy about his laps across all three rounds of qualifying.

“All three of them were solid,” he said. “I couldn’t make a lap in practice in qualifying trim, I was so loose. The first round, I drove it in like I wanted to drive it in. … I drove it in and it stuck. Got to the gas and it stuck.”

When asked about it being 10 years since his last pole, Menard said he’d lost track of time.

“It’s been 10 years?” he asked.

He was then told it would be 10 years next weekend at Daytona.

“So it’s been nine years, and 51 weeks,” Menard said. “I’ve never been a really good qualifier in these cars, I have a couple poles in Xfinity. I don’t put a real big emphasis on it.”

Menard was coming off an eighth-place finish in the Xfinity Series just prior to qualifying, one in which several drivers had issues due to the extreme heat. Menard said he was OK, but had to change his clothes a few times.

“I think I’m on my fourth or fifth pair of underwear. My third firesuit,” he said. “I went back to my hauler and drank some pickle juice.”

When asked about the benefits of pickle juice, Menard said it replenishes the body’s salt.

“I haven’t drank pickle juice in a while, but I thought today was a good day to do it,” he said.

Chase Elliott qualified third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.

There was still one unknown Saturday though after qualifying was completed, and that involved tech inspection. Because of the enhanced weekend schedule this weekend at Chicagoland, NASCAR did not require teams to pass through pre-qualifying inspection, though teams were allowed to go through voluntarily. Instead, all teams will have to pass a post-qualifying tech inspection. Penalties will be issued each time a team does not pass inspection, according to NASCAR.

Of what many have coined “the big three,” Martin Truex Jr. will have the best starting spot after qualifying 12th. Kevin Harvick was bumped out of the final round at the very last second and will start 13th, while Kyle Busch qualified 18th. Kyle Larson, who won Saturday’s Xfinity race, qualified 20th.

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