CONCORD, N.C. — Brickyard 400 winner Paul Menard came to Charlotte Motor Speedway with dozens of NASCAR starts on the track’s oval and ROVAL configurations, but none at the track in the Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli.
The racing veteran started Round 2 of the TA season from the pole and it seemed he would easily cruise to victory, but tire trouble at the halfway point put Menard down a lap. Fast work on pit road by the Showtime Motorsports team and obstacles encountered by other competitors allowed Menard to fight his way back to the front, and after a heated battle with Tomy Drissi, Menard earned the top spot on the podium.
Menard’s No. 5 Franklin Road Apparel Chevrolet Camaro started from the pole position following a track record-breaking lap in yesterday’s qualifying session. A quick full-course yellow brought out by Menard’s team owner Ken Thwaits reset the field, but Menard showed his dominance as he maintained his lead, followed closely by 2021 champion Chris Dyson in his No. 20 Altwell Ford Mustang.
After running the fastest lap of the race thus far on lap seven, Dyson appeared poised to challenge Menard, but a flat right-front tire sent his Mustang careening into the frontstretch wall, prematurely ending his day.
Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval configuration is one of the most challenging loads on the circuit for tire construction, and after leading the field for 25 laps, Menard was forced to pull onto pit lane, relinquishing his lead to Tomy Drissi in the No. 8 Lucas Oil Mustang. As Menard came to pit lane for fresh tires, Drissi led the field for five laps before he also required a change of tires on pit road. This allowed two-time TA champion Amy Ruman to take over the lead in her No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette.
Ruman led the following eight laps, but with consistently fast lap times, Menard and Drissi were able to slowly close the gap and regain their lap, with each passing Ruman with only six laps to go. This led to an exciting and close battle between Menard and Drissi, running first and second, respectively. Although Drissi briefly passed Menard in the closing laps, the NASCAR pro was able to regain the top spot, and drove his Franklin Road Apparel machine to the checkered flag and into Victory Lane.
The win also earned Menard the ChillOut Cool Move of the Race and the EMCO Top Gear Award. Ruman finished third, followed by Ryan McManus in the No. 07 McManus Agency Chevrolet Corvette. GT winner Natalie Decker in the No. 29 PlantFuel Audi R8 finished fifth after starting at the rear of the field, and SGT victor Danny Lowry finished sixth in his No. 42 BridgeHaul Porsche GT3 Cup despite a late-race spin.
“It is really cool to be back up on top of the podium,” said Menard in Victory Lane. “It was a chaotic race but an awesome weekend. My crew was great, and my Franklin Road Apparel Camaro has been fast every session we’ve been in. Ken Thwaits is building Showtime Motorsports up to be a contender, and I think we showed today that we have the tools and we have the speed.”
“That was like a storybook romance: I got the girl and then I lost her,” said Tomy Drissi. “When we had our issue, my guys stayed calm on the radio and said ‘come in, let’s change our right-front tire.’ The next lap, they told me that I could catch Menard and that we should both be able to pass Amy [Ruman] with a few laps to go. We made it, and we got the lead for a second there, but Menard’s a pro and he knew where to put his car. Overall, this was a good day, and we got a lot of points towards the championship.”
“Tires, tires, tires,” said third-place finisher Amy Ruman. “I was trying to be conservative, so we took a more conservative pace while we were leading to maintain our tires. When we got the lead, I was hoping that we could hold onto it there at the end. I’m happy to be up on the podium, but I would have loved that win. I knew that there was going to be attrition today, but I’m glad I wasn’t a part of it.”
“I came from the back to win my group, and we were fifth overall, so today was amazing,” said GT winner Natalie Decker. “I am exhausted; that was a long race. I am going to go celebrate with my family and my team.”
“That was exciting, a little bit more exciting than I was looking for,” said Danny Lowry, who won the SGT class despite a spin at the end of the race. “Fortunately, it was close to the end of the race and I didn’t hit anything. The car fired up and we were ready to finish up. I will be back next weekend and I’m looking forward to having a good time with Trans Am at Road Atlanta.”