Paul Menard hasnât missed a NASCAR Cup Series race since the 2007 season when he failed to qualify for the race at Sonoma Raceway in June, and he hasnât not competed in a race whatsoever since the November race at ISM Raceway in the 2006 season.
But that is at risk of changing this weekend in the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The status of the 39-year-old Eau Claire, Wisconsin native is in question for this 188-lap race around the four-turn, 2.66-mile (4.281-kilometer) high-banked Talladega Superspeedway oval in Lincoln, Alabama.
Menard, who drives the #21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, is dealing with ongoing soreness and pain in his neck, which could cause his streak of 446 consecutive starts to come to a close.
Here is what Menard had to say about the matter in a press release, according to NBC Sports.
âDue to neck issues Iâve been battling, and talking it over with my wife, team and doctors, Iâve made the decision to be sure Matt is prepared to finish out the race for me if needed. Iâm a race car driver and a competitor, but I also need to be smart and take care of myself for my family. As I want what is best for the Wood Brothers and my 21 family, I know Matt can get in there if need be and mix it up and will do a great job.â
As a result, Matt Crafton, is on standby for Wood Brothers Racing. He is slated to spend time practicing behind the wheel of the #21 Ford later today to get acclimated to the car in case he needs to drive it for any additional time throughout the weekend.
Crafton is a full-time Truck Series driver for ThorSport Racing who sits in fifth place in the championship standings entering the round of 6 of the playoffs. He, like Menard, is sponsored by Menards.
The 43-year-oldÂ Tulare, California native has competed in just one Cup Series race before, also as a replacement. He replaced the injured Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing in the 2015 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and he finished in 18th place.
Menard, who announced last month that the 2019 season will be his last, still plans to practice and qualify for the race, and he still plans to compete in it, but that is subject to change.
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The qualifying session for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 is scheduled to get underway at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 12, and it is set to be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from Talladega Superspeedway. The NASCAR Cup Series race itself is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 13.