Paul Menard may have wanted to end his 2013 Sprint Cup season with a bang, but chances are he did not mean that in the literal sense. Unfortunately for him, that’s what he got toward the tail end of tonight’s Ford Ecoboost 400.
With 37 laps to go, flames began to lick outwards from the rear end of Menard’s No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and as the fire began to increase in intensity, he pulled the car into the pits.
But just moments after he had parked the car and with his crew ready to put out the fire, one of Menard’s rear tires violently exploded, forcing NASCAR to throw the yellow flag.
The blaze on Menard’s car quickly grew bigger than it had been before, but eventually, Menard’s crew and track safety officials were able to put it out. Luckily, neither Menard – who quickly scrambled out of the cockpit – or anyone else was injured in the incident.
Menard, who wound up with a 39th-place finish, later pointed to the restart with 74 laps to go that saw most of the field stack up behind cars up front that had spun their tires.
“On that restart, everybody kind of checked up and we got some right rear damage and had a flat tire,” he said. “I guess a bunch of rubber got wrapped up underneath around the axle, I guess. [We] came in a couple of times trying to fix the damage and try to get the rubber off. We didn’t get it all and I guess it just caught fire.
“I didn’t really know it until there was a little bit of spark coming in the car and landed on the window net – I thought that was kind of weird. About a lap later, they said I was on fire; I lost my brakes, then the damn wheel blew right off.”
Menard said when the tire blew, he was thinking about the safety of his crewmen and was glad to know that everybody came away unscathed.
“We’ve seen tires blow before and they are pretty violent,” he said. “I’m just glad everyone is OK.”