PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 CERTAINTEED/MENARDS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed his strong start to the season, the importance of finishing well with the new points system and more.
TALK ABOUT YOUR FAST START OUT OF THE GATE: “Well we’re off to a good start. We’ve have three solid races and in each race I feel like we could have finished better so something Slugger and I have been talking about is how do we close these races. We ran better in all three races than where we finished. Knock on wood we haven’t had any trouble. With the new points system that is such a big deal. If you stay out of trouble you can gain some points. The guys that have trouble, finish 30th on back, they don’t pay a lot of points back there. So that’s our goal, to be smart. Obviously we have fast race cars we’ve just got to capitalize a little better at the end and keep our nose clean.”
DO YOU DETECT CONCERN IN THE GARAGE THAT HAVING A BAD DAY COULD MAKE EVERYTHING GO AWAY IN REGARDS TO THE POINTS? “We’re concerned about it in that you want to get 20 or 30 points not two or four. It’s across the board. It’s the same for everybody. We could have just as easily blown an engine and not be sixth in points. Do we need to be a little more conservative going forward with engine packages and stuff, I don’t know. ECR engines have been really strong. They have been really reliable. It’s kind of a fluke deal what happened at Daytona, but in the future if we have more than that it’s going to be a big issue and something that maybe just be a little more conservative to make sure you finish these races instead of running strong and not gaining points at the end.”
A MANAGER AT RCR SAID THEY ARE COMMITTED AT GIVING YOU FAIR TREATMENT AND EQUAL EQUIPMENT, HAVE YOU ALWAYS FELT THAT YOU’VE GOTTEN THAT SAME KIND OF RESPONSE AT OTHER ORGANIZATIONS? “I’ve got all confidence that Richard (Childress) is going to give me what I need. I’ve never seen anything different from Richard. In the past without getting into details yes we’ve had issues with that. We’ve brought it to the attention to the people that mattered and it kind of seemed like it fell on deaf ears sometimes, other times it seemed like they cared. Richard cares. Richard wants the No. 27 team to succeed. He’s very personally invested in it and it’s cool to be a part of.
CAN YOU COMMENT ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SLUGGER THAT HAS GROWN OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? “Slugger and I are great friends. We talk almost every day. If I don’t call him he calls me and vice versa pretty much once a day. It’s just one of those things where it kind of clicks. Before coming over here we sat in the hauler with him and our two engineers and just kind of brainstorming stuff. We’re already talking about California and what we’re going to do there. They said there might be some tire issues in Nationwide practice today, so talking about that. Just open conversations and feeding off each other.”
WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE IS THE REASON FOR YOUR FAST START? “For one we haven’t had problems. That’s just a huge part of it, even with the points and everything. We’ve had fast cars. Daytona we had a legitimate shot at winning, Phoenix we had a shot at the top-10. In Vegas we ran in the top-10 a lot of the day. Had a bad pit stop at the end and that cost us. But we’ve had fast race cars and our equipment is as good as anybody’s in the garage. I don’t feel in the least that I’ve been short changed as far as that goes. Our motors are strong. It’s just trying to be consistent some. We started pretty strong last year and we fell off around April, May… May, June, July we struggled. I think we are a lot better prepared right now, we are way more prepared today than we were a year ago to go into kind of the long stretch, this 16-race stretch that we’re having coming up. Just a lot more prepared. A year ago everything came together so late in the off season, we started off pretty strong and that surprised a lot of people. It surprised us and it kind of probably hurt us in the long run when we got into the stretch run.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT YOUR HISTORY HERE AT BRISTOL AND YOUR STRUGGLES, WITH YOUR POSITION NOW IN THE STANDINGS IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO COME OUT OF HERE WITH A SOLID FINISH? “Bristol is always a tough place to have a clean race and finish where you are capable of. It’s a lot like a restrictor-plate race where a lot of things happen out of your control that effect your day. We’ve run good here in the past, we’ve struggled here in the past. We have a few top-20 finishes, nothing to write home about. We’ve run in the top 10 here quite a bit and then got caught up in stuff. This race a year ago we had a really strong run and something happened at the end and we wound up 16th or 18th. It’s just one of those places where it’s just a tough, tough track. They have 43 cars that all go the same speed and one hiccup ruins your day. Coming in here we will have a fast car, I’m confident of that. It’s hard to finish with all the fenders on and finish where you kind of deserve to finish I guess. We’ll just work hard and try to be up there.”
DID YOU EVER HAVE A TIME WHERE YOU LOST ANY CONFIDENCE THROUGH ALL OF THIS AS YOU ARE NOW WITH THIS TEAM AND HOW DID YOU FACE YOUR STRUGGLES WITH HAVING TO STAY CONFIDENT THROUGH GETTING HERE? “2009 for me was a miserable year. It was not a fun year for me. We started running pretty good last year at times. Inconsistent, yes but we had flashes of pretty good speed. This year I feel even more confident. We’ve taken that step further. Slugger has been really good. He’s a good motivator and he pushes people hard, but he pushes people hard in a way they will listen to him. They will respect him and won’t get that mad at him or angry. He’s been good for me. Sometimes he’s gets up on a chip and I might calm him down a little bit but that relationship is really good for me as a competitor and with his confidence it kind of runs off on you. There’s been down times and right now we’ve got good cars, we’ve been running pretty strong, confidence is up.”
-source: team chevy