After solid third-place run, Paul Menard turns his thoughts toward home

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 09:  Paul Menard drives the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – MARCH 09: Paul Menard drives the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — After struggling in the second half of last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix, Paul Menard came back with a vengeance at Las Vegas, even though his thoughts might have been elsewhere.

With wife Jennifer expecting the couple’s first child – imminently – Menard led six laps in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, running down Jimmie Johnson for the top spot on Lap 199 of 267, and ultimately finished third behind race winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr.

As it turned out, Menard didn’t need the services of Matt Crafton, who was standing by as a potential relief driver in the event Menard’s wife went into labor.

“It’s big for sure,” Menard said of his strong performance. “We’ve had a really good car the first three races… just missed it about halfway through the race in Phoenix.

“This is good redemption. The guys never give up. Had a great car in Daytona, obviously led a bunch of laps. But this Quaker State/Menards Chevy was hauling ass on long runs. Had a lot of those today and it kind of played in our favor.”

Asked how quickly he would make the return trip to North Carolina, Menard replied, “As soon as possible—I’ve got a plane to catch.”

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