The traveling motorsports circus we all know as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup heads to Arizona this weekend to ISM Raceway — the track formerly known as Phoenix Raceway. Paul Menard and the No. 21 Wood Brothers Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Fusion team head are optimistic about the first race of the 2018 season on one of the shorter tracks on the MENCS circuit.
Short[er] Track Time
The nearly flat track now called ISM Raceway, outside of the city of Phoenix is the first race of the season on a one-mile oval. Thr fourth race of the season follows races on the 2.5-mile superspeedway at Daytona Internation Speedway, along with the pair of intermediate-length tracks at Atlanta and Las Vegas.
Utilizing Past Data
Menard, in his first year with the No. 21 team of the Wood Brothers, said that he and crew chief Greg Erwin plan to take advantage of the data gathered by the Wood Brothers team. The team will also lean on data and insight from their Ford teammates at Team Penske.
The new No. 21 driver has plenty of short track experience he plans to lean on. Early in his career, he raced Legends cars and Late Models on short tracks in his native Wisconsin, including State Park Speedway in Wausau and Marshfield Motor Speedway in Marshfield.
“We never ran a weekly program,” he said, adding that he chose to move around and race on different tracks in the area.
Menard said there are some short tracks that he likes better than others, and ISM is on his preferred list.
“Phoenix is old enough that the cars move around and the track is slippery on old tires,” he said.
“It’s pretty fun.”
Menard said his outlook for the weekend is optimistic based on his season so far. The No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford has posted a pair of top-10 finishes, putting Menard ninth in the points standings.
Menard said they’ve got a good group of people working well together both in the shop and at the track.
“We have a good pit crew, and we’re firing off good each week,” Menard said.
The new-for-2018 driver of the No. 21 said he has a lot of confidence in where the team can go together,
“There’s a lot of potential yet to come,” Menard said.
Race Weekend Schedule
Qualifying for the ISM Ticket Guardian 500 is set for Friday at 5:15 pm Eastern Time, while Sunday’s race is set to start at 3:30 Eastern Time. TV coverage is on FOX.