Paul Menard: Finally a contender after move to RCR

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

After years of struggling, Paul Menard is finally in the right place. Menard, who now runs the No. 27 Menards Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, has been somewhat of a surprise this season. He currently is fifth in points, behind names such as Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart. The most impressive fact: Menard is ahead of his RCR teammates Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick.

In his career to date, Paul has raced with Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI), Yates Racing, who later merged with Richard Petty thus becoming Richard Petty Motorsports before landing his current ride. Paul has two top-5 finishes, 8 top 10s and one pole since 2006 when he began running a part-time schedule. (Paul did compete in one race each in 2003 and 2005.)

Now, with a new team things are looking up. No longer is Paul being seen as the driver whose father funded his career. Paul’s father, John Menard Jr., owns Menards, a chain of home improvement stores primarily found in the Midwest.

"I feel bad for Paul because everybody looks at him as a fortunate son, the kid who has a billionaire dad who just buys him rides," said crew chief Slugger Labbe, who moved with Menard from RPM to RCR.

Labbe can be attributed as part of Menard’s success; his experience as a crew chief includes Michael Waltrip’s Daytona win in July 2002. The following year, Labbe returned to the pit box as Waltrip's crew chief when he won the Daytona 500. Labbe also was Menard's crew chief last year with Richard Petty Motorsports.

In the 2011 season, Menard has had a ninth place finish at Daytona, a 17th place at Phoenix, 12th at Las Vegas and a career-best Bristol finish of fifth. All those tracks are different, ranging from a 2.5-mile restrictor plate superspeedway, to the one-mile tracks and then all the way down to the ½-mile short track. Menard is showing diversity and the ability to perform on all the tracks so far this season.
Menard racing Jimmie Johnson at Bristol.  Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Menard and the #27 team are ready to head to Auto Club Speedway this weekend. Paul will be driving a new chassis, and hopes to better his previous top finish of 18th. Menard will feature a Serta/Menards paint scheme this weekend.

In a recent press release from RCR, I found this interesting, as it showcases Paul’s confidence towards working with Childress:

“Intermediate tracks seem to be your thing. The mile-and-a-half to two-mile tracks, you've always run pretty well at them but have never won. Do you look forward to going to those tracks with RCR equipment and, hopefully, turning that around?”

"Yeah, those tracks are horsepower tracks, and we have the best engines in the garage. The cars are really nice. There are a couple things that Slugger is bringing to the table that is going to help excel the intermediate program. I think it will turn around this year. We had some success last year at intermediate tracks. We know what we did, we know what the RCR group did and now we'll make the best of both worlds and come up with an even better package."
Paul Menard: Finally a contender after move to RCR Paul Menard: Finally a contender after move to RCR Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, March 25, 2011 Rating: 5