BUSCH: Las Vegas: Paul Menard preview

(Mooresville, NC) -- Paul Menard will heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway ready for another weekend of double duty racing action. Menard will pilot the No. 15 Johns Manville/Menards Chevrolet in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 and Sunday's UAW -- Daimler...

(Mooresville, NC) -- Paul Menard will heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway ready for another weekend of double duty racing action. Menard will pilot the No. 15 Johns Manville/Menards Chevrolet in Saturday's Sam's Town 300 and Sunday's UAW -- Daimler Chrysler 400.

While Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a successful stop for Menards Racing on both the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series pre season testing tour, NASCAR and Goodyear Tire have opted to return to Las Vegas with a different set of left side tires to use in competition. Menard had logged the second fastest lap overall in NASCAR Nextel Cup testing and had promising results from his Busch program, as well.

The new tire presents a challenge for the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team to work from a different vantage point in the set up to the racecars prior to Friday's qualifying for each event.

UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 Notes

Underneath the neon yellow paint...

Menard will drive DEI Chassis #24 in Sunday's UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400. This will be the first competitive appearance of this racecar. After reviewing the two cars used at the LVMS preseason test (#22 and #24) Crew Chief Tony Eury Sr. wavered on which to bring as the primary car in Las Vegas. According to Eury Sr., chassis #24 was only used in about six or seven runs at the test, but is seen as the "aerodynamically superior of the two cars". Therefore, the team will place all bets on this new car and apply it's learnings from the California race (where #22 was used) to chassis #24.

Menard tops testing...

Paul Menard spent the first day of January's two day test session at LVMS looking for the best line around the super fast racetrack. Menard's effort was rewarded with a lap of 38.622 seconds during the morning session on the second day. The lap allowed Menard to lead the AM session and remained fast enough throughout the day to keep the No. 15 car the second fastest overall in the two day cumulative speeds.

More toils over tires....

According to the No. 15 team engineer, Dave Charpentier, the left side tires which will be used in this weekend's NASCAR Nextel Cup competition are a harder tire with less grip than those the team tested in January. Since the majority of work is done by the right side tires, the left sides are less critical but a new tire will still alter the data gathered during the test. At this point, Charpentier doesn't know to what extent the tire will impact the team's plan for this weekend and said that "no one will know anything until they get a few laps in during Friday's practice".

More breaks for the driver, more work for the crew...

The new, 13-gallon fuel cell that will be used at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will result in a pit stop approximately every 35 laps. This will require the over-the-wall crew to be on top of their game for what could be upwards of 7 pit stops during the course of Sunday's 267-lap event. The No. 15 team's over-the-wall crew is ready for the challenge since they have performed above the expectations of the team's trainer, Walt Smith, in the first few events of the season. According to Smith, who also trains the other DEI pit crews and led the No. 1 team to the last year's NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge title, the Menards Racing pit crew performs sub 13 second stops on a regular basis and are ready for a busy day at LVMS.

Past performance at LVMS...

Sunday will mark Menard's competitive debut in a Nextel Cup car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Menard's career best Nextel Cup finish is seventh (Spring 2006 -- Atlanta Motor Speedway).

Paul Menard on Las Vegas Motor Speedway...

"The Vegas test was really good for us. We unloaded and we were pretty happy with the car but then we hit on some things that we think could really help with our intermediate program overall. I think it's safe to say that what we learned there gives us a lot of confidence heading into this weekend."

Tony Eury Sr. on the "Go or Go Home" situation...

"It's just so tough. There are so many good teams here. It's not like it was last year, or the year before where there was a lot of guys that you knew you were automatically going to beat. Now, there's so many of us over here with no points it's pretty mind boggling on Friday just to get in."

Tony Eury Sr. on Paul's Vegas potential...

"We were so good at Vegas. Vegas had a lot of grip and I think Paul has a lot to get used to in the Cup car with the small spoiler and stuff. The cars don't really drive like the Busch cars. He likes that good secure feeling that the Busch cars have. And just like at California, the qualifying draw is big in making the Cup race at Vegas. We need a late draw to be safe."

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Sam's Town 300 Notes

Underneath the neon yellow paint...

Menard will drive chassis #12 in Saturday's Sam's Town 300. The car was last used two weeks ago at California Speedway, where Menard made a mad charge to the front of the field (the No. 15 car advanced 11 positions in the first three laps of the race) and continued a solid run through the first 100 laps of the event. Misfortune came on lap 120 when Menard reported he was down a cylinder. While Menard retired early from the race, the run left the team confident in the potential for success at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Tried and true at pre season test...

Car 12 was tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during pre-season Busch testing. Menard led the day two morning session and was the third fastest car in the afternoon session of the Busch test. When the team returns to Las Vegas for the Sam's Town 300, Crew Chief Mike Grechi say's he will return with "basically the same set up from the test", with the exception of a new set of spindles.

Tires are the name of the game...

The tire change on the Cup side will also impact Menard's No. 15 NBS entry. With harder left sides, Menard still feels confident that the team can find grip in his Busch car.

Past Performance at LVMS...

Menard has three NASCAR Busch Series starts at LVMS, with a best finish of 20th in 2006 and a best start of 11th in 2005.

Menard's thoughts on the Sam's Town 300...

The car was awesome at the test. The track had a ton of grip so to give up a little on the Busch side won't be a huge deal. We went to California where it's harder to get through the corners and we still managed to stick it there so Las Vegas should be the same. I really like this car, so hopefully we'll have a good run and then we'll take #12 to Atlanta, as well.

Crew Chief Mike Grechi on the Sam's Town 300...

"We're doing the Busch deal at DEI to win races and run up front and that's what we plan to do at Vegas. There's a big emphasis on pit stops, with the smaller fuel cell, so I know we'll be able to get ahead on pit road. It's just a matter of getting the car just right with the new tire and I know if we do that, Paul will get it to the front and the over the wall guys will keep it up there."

-credit: dei/mr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup , NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Paul Menard