LAS VEGAS – Paul Menard wasn't sure if he would even race Sunday, but the NASCAR driver had one of his better finishes in recent years.
Menard finished third Sunday in the Kobalt 400 after leading six laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At one point he passed four-time Las Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson for the lead.
"Just had a really solid car all day and all weekend," said Menard, who drives the No. 27 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing and has one career Sprint Cup Series win, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2011.
Menard and his wife were expecting their first child, and Childress had Matt Crafton ready as a backup driver this weekend in case Menard suddenly had to leave.
That wasn't necessary. But when Menard finished talking to reporters after the race, he quipped: "Thanks. Got a plane to catch."
The Kobalt 400 was a race to forget for the four drivers of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Team co-owner Tony Stewart finished 33rd, four laps behind the leaders. Danica Patrick finished 21st, one lap down, and Kurt Busch was 26th, three laps down.
Kevin Harvick, who won last week's race in Phoenix, finished 41st in the 43-car field after a mechanical problem in his left-front-wheel assembly forced him to the garage for repairs.
"Just a little parts failure there, and we will figure out the cause of it and try to just keep that from happening [again]," Harvick said.
Truex keeps gaining
Martin Truex Jr. had his best finish so far, 14th, in his first year with the one-car team Furniture Row Racing.
Truex, who took over for Kurt Busch this season, was last in the season-opening Daytona 500 when his No. 78 Chevrolet suffered a blown engine. He finished 22nd last week in Phoenix.
On Sunday, Truex often ran in the top 10. But during the final caution period, his team opted for two new tires and fuel while some teams gambled on fuel only or didn't pit at all and moved ahead of Truex.
"It didn't turn out to be the right strategic decision," he said. "We were better than 14th."
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