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July 1, 2017

Clint Bowyer

Paul Menard

Daytona Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We will go ahead and start tonight's post‑race media availability for the Coke Zero 400, and we are joined by the third‑place finisher Paul Menard, driver of the No.27 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Paul, wild, wild race as it always is here at Daytona. Congratulations on the third place finish. Could you walk through how you got there?
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, I mean, on Thursday when we practiced I knew that we had a really good handling car. Sucked up pretty good in the draft, but I knew it was going to handle well tonight, and it did. We wanted to race hard all night long, but I forget who wrecked up in 1 and 2 but we got in the wall pretty hard and had to work on some damage so that put us back right at the end of the first stage and couldn't go anywhere, so kind of bailed out of the stages and was a bunch of attrition obviously, and we kind of passed some cars that way, but got some really big runs towards the end and made up a lot of ground and Bowyer pushed the hell out of me the last lap. I just couldn't get a run off Turn 4 coming to the checkered. I guess I used it all the lap before. All in all, really good weekend for us, for RCR, for ECR. We had a lot of RCR race cars up front with ECR horsepower, so a lot of speed this weekend.

Q. This is actually a question for both of you guys. Y'all were battling pretty hard there for second, and I guess this is more for Clint because you were kind of the aggressor in that situation. Was there any thought of maybe trying to line up with Paul in the last lap and trying to make a run at Ricky, and for Paul, do you wish Clint was a little bit easier on you?
CLINT BOWYER: Off of Turn 4? Was that your first race?
PAUL MENARD: He pushed the hell out of me the lap before, and we didn't have a run coming to Ricky. Ricky was fast. Ricky was kind of moving around blocking the wind, and I just wasn't very good with air on my hood. I needed to be behind somebody or‑‑
CLINT BOWYER: He needed to be behind me.
PAUL MENARD: I was at the end.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, that's Turn 4, pay window is open. Time to cut off all friendship.
PAUL MENARD: We didn't have a run.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, we were racing each other at that point. I knew it wasn't any run coming behind me that I was in jeopardy of getting us both in trouble. It was kind of whoever ‑‑ we were racing for second at that point.

Q. I know it seemed like everybody had a chance there at the end, but with the way Ricky had won Talladega, was he kind of the guy to beat or was he kind of the guy that you were watching there?
CLINT BOWYER: Hey, let's face it, you get down to the end of that thing and look who the fastest car was. He qualified‑‑ where did he qualify, third or fourth, I think? I mean, he's the fastest car right then. He did a good job getting it to the front, and she set sail. He does a good job of blocking. He's learned a lot. He's become a good plate racer. I remember when he came in, he was a little bit chaotic, but he's not now. He's got it figured out, and he's won two of them. I mean, hey, it's so hard. You do all that stuff, you block, you push hard, you do things that you don't want to do because, hey, it works, and it's a necessity. I mean, that's part of it. You've got to block hard. You've got to cut people off. You've got to push hard. You've got to stick your nose in there where it doesn't belong, all the things that you know are capable of disaster, but if you don't, the next guy is going to, and nine times out of ten, it works. That's just the nature of the beast.
PAUL MENARD: I mean, track position means something at Daytona. It's kind of crazy to think about.

Q. Clint, with the playoffs quickly approaching, does this run provide for momentum or frustration for you and your team?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, it's definitely a momentum thing. Look at the last two weeks, we've been second, runner up. Second sucks, but it's better than third. You know? We finished second two weeks in a row, so that's a huge confidence booster for our team, but nonetheless, the pressure cooker is turning up. You're sitting there looking up there that green‑white‑checker coming to the green there, and you're thinking, oh, no, somehow, some way, I've got to get up there and keep one of those guys that are going to be first time winners out of this thing. That's real, it's alive, and it's something you're going to have to pay attention to. You hope you keep riding this wave and turn one of those seconds into a win.

Q. A lot of the drivers who exited early all kind of said the same thing‑‑

Q. All sort of said the same thing, that this was a wilder Daytona race than normal even by Daytona standards. Did you guys get a sense of that, and why was that?
PAUL MENARD: Well, if I remember, the Daytona 500 we weren't three wide very much. It seemed like we were three wide all night tonight. Why that is, I have no idea. Before the race I was trying to figure out if it was going to be a wild race or not, and I knew it was going to be a wild race for some reason, night race, sparks flying, had a crazy XFINITY race a couple hours before. You know, why some races are wilder than others, I don't know. It's pretty damned hot out there, not a lot of grip, and cars are sliding around.
CLINT BOWYER: I think for me, I think part of it is you come from Talladega, our last time we were plate racing, and you're able to run three wide, four wide, relatively easy, and then you get here and you're thinking, three wide is kind of the norm, being at Talladega. But at the end of the day, you're three wide because you can, and then all of a sudden somebody starts slipping up off the corner or something like that, checks up, stacks everybody up, late block or something, and the rest is history.

Q. You guys set a couple records tonight, 14 cautions and also the longest race time ever for this event, so I want to know was it difficult to set any kind of rhythm or with the amount of yellows throughout the course of the evening?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, just the sense of urgency with those cautions, every time you stack them back up, somebody will put them three wide and then you've got to get up there, you've got to block it. Seemed like if they got you three wide on the bottom or the outside and you lost that momentum, the rest was history. I mean, that second‑‑ are we under attack? I think they just blew every firework all at once. It was a malfunction. I bet my wife is pumped right now as she's got a six month old and a two and a half year old screaming. Sounded cool, though.
I don't know, it's fun. We finished second. Third, we did a good job, we didn't crash, didn't flip‑‑
PAUL MENARD: I crashed.
CLINT BOWYER: I'm hot. I want a cold beer. Are we done?

Q. Clint, so near, but that first win is close. But did you see how close the Kyle Larson car came down out of the air and you missed him I'll bet by five inches. It was right there. Did you see that when you were going through, he was to your right just barely when he came down out of the sky?
CLINT BOWYER: I ducked. I'm not going to lie. I may have flinched a little bit. I ducked until the HANS caught. That was as far as I could go. Yeah, that was ‑‑ glad he kind of endo'd it a little bit, got his rear end up in the air so I could go under him. I appreciate that. That kid is pretty talented. He didn't flip, did he? Yeah, it was close.

Q. Clint, with Ford sweeping all the restrictor plate events so far this season, what does that say about the Ford restrictor plate program?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, tonight we just survived, and let me tell you something, at the end of that thing you're looking over there, but with every caution you'd look over and there would be a few of your partners over there in the pile, and you're like, uh‑oh, and then the next caution there would be a few more Fords over there, and then the next thing you know it's kind of me and Ricky there at the end. Let me just say this: Those Roush Yates engines are phenomenal. Doug does such a great job, puts a lot of emphasis on this plate stuff, takes a lot of pride in it, and he should. Those things run amazing. They take a beating out there. At the end of that thing, I was overheating, blowing water, doing all the things that you know are going to happen when we get like that. I mean, I was pushing him all the way down the back straightaway all the way through 3 and 4. It was just kind of one of those deals. We were up against the wall, and I was shoving, and the water temperature was pegged and blowing water. But it's just‑‑ those things are phenomenal. It's amazing any of these engines make it through this stuff. I'm just blown away if you really think about it and look at the mechanics of what those on in them things each and every week, you're looking back at last week, all the rpms and everything that turns, I'm just proud to have that Roush Yates power under our hood.

Q. Clint, second place again. I may have missed you talking about this, but how bad does it suck to get to close to the win? And Paul, the RCR cars did pretty well tonight. Can you talk about y'all's program?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, I guess I can say as long as I get out of here before Ricky gets here, it's pretty good. He finished third, so I need to get out of here before Ricky does, and he'll go back to sucking.
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, as far as us, we had a lot of cars up front. Ty led for a while. Austin was pretty strong until he got wrecked. But we had a lot of RCR cars and affiliates and ECR horsepower and all that. It was all really cool. Really hoped that we could have gotten a win there, got all three RCR cars in the Chase. We definitely had a shot, just couldn't get that run off Turn 4.
CLINT BOWYER: I really did think I was going to win for a little while.
PAUL MENARD: I knew you were going to win if I didn't.

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