What happens in Vegas… well, that goes without saying.
But moments like Ryan Blaney had this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway are more apt to happen in Roswell, N.M., not Nevada.
Blaney won the pole for the Pennzoil 400 on Friday, but prior to qualifying had a somewhat out-of-body experience as he passed his former car—the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford—on the grid.
“It was really, really weird,” Blaney said. “That is the first time they have run the old school Motorcraft scheme. They didn’t run it at Daytona or Atlanta so it was strange watching that car today.
“Then Paul (Menard) comes walking down for qualifying and he is in the same suit I was in last year. Not the same one, but the same style. That was super weird. It was like the Twilight Zone. I am going down pit road and his helmet is white like mine was last year. It is the exact same way that I think I looked. But it was super weird.”
And like Blaney, Menard put the No. 21 Ford up front—at least in the first round of qualifying where he posted the top speed for all 37 cars making a lap. Menard advanced through all three rounds of time trials to start the race 12th, his best qualifying effort at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Menard’s 12th-place starting spot was also his best since moving to Wood Brothers Racing at the start of the 2017 season.
Under the guidance of crew chief Greg Irwin, Menard moved up into the top 10 in the first 30 laps on Sunday. He remained there through the first two stages—picking up stage points along the way. Menard continued to run in the top 10 in the final segment despite contact with a lapped car and damage to the nose. He finished ninth in the race—the last car on the lead lap after Kevin Harvick won for the second week in dominating fashion.
“Just a solid day for the Motorcraft Ford Fusion,” Menard said. “A great weekend for us. We unloaded fast on Friday and fell behind a bit on Saturday.
“We all got together (Saturday) night and talked about what we needed to do and it worked out for us. A solid car all day.”
Menard is currently ninth in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings.
Blaney, who remains close to the Wood Family and the team, is thrilled the transition for both drivers has been so seamless.
“Yeah, I think he is going to do a great job,” Blaney added. “I am happy that they are proving it so far. I thought they have had some good runs and they looked really fast today.
“I am so happy for them. I wish them the best this year. Paul is a great fit for those guys. He appreciates racing and history and it’s really cool to see them running well and I think they are going to do really well this year.”