Paul Menard Wins the Brickyard 400; Chevrolet takes Ninth Consecutive and 13th Overall Victory at Famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Team Chevy Drivers Score Top-Four Finishing Positions and Six of Top-10
Paul Menard became the newest first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) winner today as he took his No. 27 Nibco/Menards Chevrolet to the Brickyard 400 (BY400) Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). The Richard Childress Racing driver started 15th and led four times for a total of 21 laps on the way to the checkered flag. The win also gave Chevrolet is ninth consecutive win in the prestigious race and the 13th of the 18 NSCS races held at the famed 2.5-mile speedway.
It is the third trip to the IMS Winner’s Circle for team owner Richard Childress who scored wins in 1995 with Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and 2003 with Kevin Harvick.
Pit strategy and a smooth throttle to conserve the needed fuel propelled the Wisconsin native to not only his career-first win, but at a track where his family has a storied history of 35 years of competition in open wheel racing.
With the victory, Menard becomes the first driver eligible for the Sprint Summer Showdown $3 million payout. He moves to 14th in the NSCS standings and is in position for a wild-card berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
With Menard’s victory, Chevrolet has now tallied nine wins in 20 races this season and continues to lead the NSCS Manufacturers’ Cup standings.
It was a great day for Team Chevy at the Brickyard with Bowtie drivers capturing the top-four finishing positions and six of the top-10 finishers. A total of seven Chevrolet drivers remain in the top-12 in the NSCS standings.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, crossed the finish line in second place. The four-time NSCS champion and four-time BY400 winner started eighth in the 43-car field and led four times for a total of 36 of the 160 laps. Gordon remains seventh in the standings with two wins on the season with just six races remaining until the start of the Chase.
Regan Smith, No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, was third at the stripe. It is the Darlington winner’s second top-five and fourth top-10 of the season.
Last year’s BY400 winner Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet, finished in fourth place for his third top-10 of the season.
Two-time NSCS champion and two-time BY400 winner Tony Stewart brought his No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet to the checkered flag in sixth place. Stewart jumped two positions in the standings to ninth place.
Mark Martin, No. 5 Quaker State/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, finished in eighth place. Martin is 18th in the standings.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, remains second in the standings with one victory on the season. The five-time defending NSCS champion 19th after late race contact with the wall slowed what was a very fast Chevy.
Kevin Harvick moved up to third in the points order after brining his No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet to the finish in 11th place. Harvick has three wins to-date in the 2011 season.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, finished 12th and remains eighth in points with one win so far this season.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, sits 10th in points after finishing 16th in today’s race.
Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, was 13th at the finish and remains in the 12 points position.
Matt Kenseth (Ford) was the fifth place finisher.
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 NIBCO/MENARDS CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER-HIS FIRST CAREER NSCS VICTORY:
WHAT IS THIS MOMENT LIKE? "You know I've been coming here since I was a kid and my Daddy has been trying to win this race for 35 years,so this is for my Dad. A lot of emotions right now. Slugger Labbe (crew chief) and all of these guys just do a hell of a job. I can't believe we won Indy."
THIS MORNING I TALKED TO YOUR CREW CHIEF SLUGGER LABBE AND HE TOLD ME THE ONE THING THEY HAD GOING WAS THIS FUEL MILEAGE AND IT ENDED UP WORKING IN YOUR FAVOR, WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN HE TOLD YOU YOU'RE FREE GO FOR IT? "I was saving a little bit and maintaining with the No. 5 and No. 1 and I started backing up a little bit more and they kind of kept backing up with me. I knew that we saved plenty of fuel. I was more worried about the guys that pitted for fuel and coming hard. Slugger had told me where Jeff (Gordon) was and how fast he was coming. The car was really good. Clean air was so important. We stayed out one caution, no tires, took off. Finally got in the back and couldn't do anything so clean air, ECR horsepower, NIBCO is on the hood. Menards and my dad have been coming here for 35 years and its Indianapolis."
WE TALKED TO YOUR DAD UP ON THE PIT BOX, HE'S SO EMOTIONAL, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOUR FAMILY? "It's big you know. My first year here was 1989 that I can remember anyway and I think I was here when I was like three or four years old, just spent a lot of time in the garage area. I didn't miss the Indy 500 from 1989 to 2003, I was here for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. Just a really special place for my family and myself. Thanks to all the fans. Indianapolis, this is the greatest race track in the world, we've got the best fans here too."
WHEN YOU SIGNED WITH RCR WHAT WAS THE REALITY THAT MAYBE YOU WOULD HAVE THE CHANCE OF MAKING THE CHASE BECAUSE NOW YOU ARE A WILD CARD. "We are a wild card. We've had an up and down year. We've had fast cars just struggling to put the deal together, be consistent week-to-week. It's not the lack of effort. Slugger, he's in the shop seven days a week, when he's not at the track he's in the shop. All these guys just bust their tails. Beautiful race cars, ECR horse power is fantastic and we got great fuel mileage thanks to ECR."
IF YOU COULD PICK YOUR FIRST RACE TO WIN, I CAN IMAGINE YOU CAN’T THINK OF A BETTER PLACE THAN THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY: “This is the one I wanted to win. My family, my Dad has had IndyCars here since the late 70s, 35 years or so. For 35 years he’s been trying so giving him his first win here after all those years of trying is pretty special. Can’t wait to kiss the bricks. We’re the inaugural Sprint Summer Shootout winner. That’s cool. Man, it’s Indy.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FEELING WHEN SLUGGER (CREW CHIEF RICHARD LABBE) TOLD YOU TO GO FOR IT AND YOU STARTED PULLING AWAY IN THOSE FINAL LAPS? “Knew we had to save fuel, we were two and a half laps short and once we got strung out there, we started backing up a little bit. We were racing the No. 5 (Mark Martin) and the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) there and as I backed up the No. 1 backed up with me. So happy that Regan (Smith) finished third. He is a really good friend of mine and I was so happy for him to win the Southern 500 at Darlington. He’s a great friend. But that last restart we started backing up more, a little bit more and everybody backed up with us. I knew we had several laps of fuel, I knew the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) was coming hard, but the car was really fast. Jamie was trying to push me a little bit to make us run out of fuel there when he passed me and I passed him back. I knew we had saved enough. It was kind of a cat and mouse game. We were better than Jamie all day speed-wise. We were worried about the No. 5, we were worried about the No. 1 and we were worried about the No. 24 but we won Indy.”
HOW DID IT FEEL TO SEE THE CHECKERED FLAG HERE? “I was hoping we weren’t going to run out of fuel, I was checking the fuel pressure guage. ECR gave us great horsepower and great mileage. Everybody at RCR builds awesome race cars. It is a thrill to drive for Richard Childress and I can’t wait to go kiss the bricks.”
JEFF GORDON, DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND:
WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU KNOW HOW CLOSE IT WAS GOING TO BE? "The biggest key to me was when we came out of the pits ahead of Harvick. I thought that was huge, so Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) did an awesome job. First of all what an incredible Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. Right from the drop of the green flag this was a lot of fun day and I had a blast driving. The car was awesome. So when we got in front of Harvick I thought okay, I thought that was the guys we were going to race and then when Alan told me there were guys that were going to try to stretch out fuel mileage all I could do was drive as hard as I could. I was a little bit loose at the beginning and we got in some traffic and the car finally tightened up and then we were really clicking off some laps. Every time I got to a car that was saving fuel they kind of held me up a little bit and made it a little more difficult for me to pass so I knew were weren't going to quite get to Paul (Menard), it was really about him running out of fuel. We tried as hard as we could to put pressure on him and I've got to say as disappointing as it is to not win this race it sure was great to run that good and I've got to congratulate Paul Menard. I don't think there is anybody in this garage area that appreciates a win here at the Brickyard more than Paul. He grew up here as a kid and I think that's pretty special, pretty cool."
HOW BAD DID YOU WANT IT ON THAT LAST LAP KNOWING YOU WERE THAT CLOSE? "Well I wanted it really bad you know leading up to that but on the last lap I knew I was too tight behind him and if he didn't run out I wasn't going to get him. I needed a few laps to work on him, well I guess I needed a few more laps for him to run out of fuel too."
ANOTHER LAP OR TWO AND YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD IT “Oh my goodness what a day. What a day. I am so proud of this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet team. I mean they were just flawless. What an awesome race car we have had all weekend long and we showed it, just how strong it was, throughout the whole day and I tell you Alan called a perfect race to get me out front of Harvick there……….it was huge. And then we had a great car you know and we had fresher tires and we had a long way to make up and you know, all we could do was run as hard as we could to put pressure on those guys and hope they would run out. I passed all of them but one and when I got to Paul he had enough left that he could get going and by that time I had really worn the tires out and I was pretty tight behind him. I can’t think my guys enough for this effort and I got to say that as disappointing as it is to not win this race, I couldn’t be happier for Paul Menard. I don’t think there is anybody in this garage that could appreciate a win here anymore than Paul. He grew up here as a kid with his family and I know how much it means to him and its pretty cool.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING – FINISHED 3RD:
YOU KNOW WHAT ITS LIKE TO WIN FOR THE FIRST TIME AND CAME VERY CLOSE AGAIN TODAY “Yeah it was a great run for the Furniture Row Chevy and my guys worked their butts off all weekend. This is not a great track for me, so I am happy and if I couldn’t win man the guy in victory lane is my best friend on the circuit and I can’t wait to get down there to congratulate him.”
THIRD-PLACE HERE TODAY AT THE BRICKYARD, HOW DO YOU PUT HAT INTO PERSPECTIVE? "Well, that is the most bitter-sweet third-place of all time because you can see the leaders. I saw the No. 27 and I knew he was on the same strategy as us and I wanted to go and he went and we decided to pull the reigns back a little bit hoping some more of them would run out of fuel and then I saw the No. 24 come and I thought we are in trouble now because he doesn't have to save at all so that kind of made our decision for us. The bitter-sweet part is because I'm so happy for Paul Menard down there. I know what this race means to that family and to him in particular. I can't wait to get to victory lane and congratulate him, that's a really cool deal."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THIS TEAM TO HAVE THE KIND OF YEAR YOU HAVE HAD, NOT JUST THE WIN BUT THE STRIDES YOU HAVE TAKEN? "Well we needed to. We felt like we were a team capable of taking strides. We had a top-10 car today, that's what we had. If things played out correct we were going to finish right around ninth or 10th. The strategy was played out for us when the No. 51 car wrecked. We got our grill covered up in grass and actually had to pit and clean it off and go to the tail end. We pitted right before the green came out and it worked out perfect."
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – FINISHED 4TH:
A FOURTH PLACE RUN, HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO GETTING IT DONE? “They said we were a couple laps short on fuel so all of us were saving gas there at the end and I wanted to be the guy out front because I felt like it was going to be hard to pass when we all decided to go. I felt pretty comfortable with the 27 car because they have ECR engines and they tend to race similar and I just wanted to be ahead of him and I tried to go one corner and my car pushed so bad he got back by me. So from that point on I was just conserving.”
HOW CLOSE WERE YOU ON FUEL? "It was really close. I was confused because initially I thought he said two laps then I thought he said half, I just wanted to know if it was half or two and how much I needed to save. I got by the No. 27 because I wanted to be leading the race. I knew it was going to be easier to defend than it was going to be to try to pass when everyone decided to take off. We got a little bit lucky today but really happy. We've had a tough year and a lot of things go wrong and a lot of bad luck and its very nice to have good luck. We had Johnny Morris here form Bass Pro Shops today and the folks from Lift Master. Had a good Chevy and had a good finish."
YOU MADE A PASS ON THE NO. 27, A FEW LAPS TO GO, THE NO. 24 IS IN YOUR MIRROR, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? "When he said the No. 24 was two seconds back I was honestly thinking I would rather lead this and run out of gas than finish second and have enough left and think you could have won again. It's so hard here and the Daytona 500, its so hard to put yourself in that position, you just don't want to ever give them the chance. Certainly congratulations to Paul Menard. He's a really good guy and his crew chief Slugger, all those guys, that's really cool to see someone like that win."
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, FINISHED 6TH:
HOW MANY BATTLES DID YOU HAVE TO WIN TODAY TO FINISH 6TH? “We had the problem on the first pit stop there, the green flag stop, getting on the outside of (Kevin) Harvick and hitting the cone. That was hard to take. But we just fought all day and I am really proud of Darian Grubb and these guys on this Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy. They did it, I didn’t do it. I just fought for everything I could get all day. We didn’t have the best car by any means, they fought hard and ended up getting something.”
YOU GUYS MADE SO MANY CHANGES ON PIT ROAD, DID ANYTHING SEEM TO HELP THE CAR AT ALL? “Clean air, that’s the only thing. As famed as this place is and as much history there is, it’s one of the hardest places to race guys because it is just one groove and the corners are short corners to try to make a run on somebody and you can’t run on the outside of them. It makes it really hard and you’ve really got to plan your run on guys and figure out where to pass and how to play the track position game. Whatever you get here, you appreciate it because you had to earn it. You don’t get anything free here.”
YOU WERE LEADING WITH 20 TO GO AND THEY SAID MAYBE A LAP AND A HALF SHORT ON FUEL, DID YOU THINK ABOUT GOING FOR IT? “I was trying to roll the dice and go for it. They said a lap and a half but it was three laps I found out from Darian when I got back to the trailer so there is no way we could have saved that kind of fuel and done anything productive on the race track. It is like he said, give me everything you can give me. We ran that last 10 laps as hard as he could.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SIXTH TODAY? “That is a long day at the office. Thanks for giving me the time to cool off, I appreciate that. That is a hard way to do it man. We had to fight from the back a couple of different times to get up there.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT JOHN MENARD’S SON WINNING TODAY? “I don’t care about John Menard, but I am really happy for Paul Menard. Paul’s been around this place for a long time, he’s been here since he was a kid. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy, that is a pretty deserving win right there. I’m happy for him getting his first one that way.”
WHAT HAPPENED THERE ON PIT ROAD WITH YOU AND HARVICK? “It just was what it was. Kevin lifted earlier than I did coming off of turn four and versus running into him, I went to the outside of him and when we got to the cone there, I was in the wrong spot. It was just one of those things, you are trying to get everything you can get. It was either hit the cone or run over the guy in front of me so I chose to hit the cone. We got the penalty for it. I’m proud of our guys for working from back and getting us where we got there at the end.”
HOW DID YOU FINISH SIXTH THROUGH ALL OF THAT? “Man, I don’t even know. It was a lot of hard work by Darian Grubb and the guys on this Mobil 1/Office Depot team. We just had a long, long hard day. To get almost a top-five out of this thing, running sixth was a good day for us.”
COMMITMENT CONE PENALTY, YOU GET BANGED AROUND BY KYLE BUSCH, YOU STAYED IN IT: “It’s a long pit road, but it’s a narrow pit road. I feel bad for Kyle and those guys because they had a good day going at that time too. Just a rough day, but we fought for everything we could get.”
COULD YOU HAVE MADE IT AT THE END IF YOU HAD STAYED OUT? “No, we were three laps short. We did the right thing when we did and it paid off for us. We’ll take it.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO HEAR YOU WERE SHORT ON FUEL? “Come to find out we were three short and there was no way we could make up three. A lap and a half I think I could have got him, but there is no way we could have got him three laps. We inherited the lead anyway because we stayed out and everybody else in front of us came in so we knew it was a borrow lead. But it sure was nice to lead here at Indy again.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET – FINISHED 12TH:
“When you get back in traffic, it’s tough. We never could get to the front and get clean air. We rallied to finish 12th and that will help us in the points, but I wish we could have had a better day with our Haas Automation Chevrolet.”
TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 39 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET – FINISHED 12TH:
WERE YOU CHASING THE BALANCE ALL DAY: “Just traffic. Track position in clean air was perfect. It was good. It’s hard to adjust on a car when you’re in the middle of traffic like that. There’s no air back there. You can over-adjust way too easy, so we just tried to tinker with it. We just knew we were sucking that air and there wasn’t much we could do. The balance was going to change. We just did damage control today. We just tried to finish the best we could without killing ourselves in the points and it worked out good. The No. 14 (Tony Stewart) finished ahead of us and everybody else that we needed to outrun, we did today. That’s what we’ve got to do right now. We’ve got that win, so now we’ve got to just manage our points.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – FINISHED 16TH:
YOU CAME HOME WITH A 16TH-PLACE FINISH AFTER LEADING OUT THERE AND AT THE END YOU WERE ON A GOOD FUEL STRATEGY, HOW DO YOU THINK IT WORKED? "We run 16th, I don't know if that was the best strategy out there. Congratulations to the No. 27 and that gang. Slugger and Paul they are a good racing group and they work hard. We had a good run. Our car drove pretty good. We cycled around and didn't have the track position at the end and that is all it was. Everybody was on a lot different strategies too. We lost a little track position there on one of the pit stops. I come down behind this guy. I got out of my stall and I should have come off of pit road around fifth or third, we came in third.and I came out of my stall and this guy was going really slow all the way down pit road so I lost 10 spots just waiting on this guy to go into his stall which he was way down there and just cost us a lot track position there and you can't get it back. Track position is tough at this place. We didnt' have a good enough car and I wasn't wheeling it good enough to run like a couple of them were. Some of those guys could get up there pretty good but our car was struggling in traffic."
WHEN DID YOU GUYS PIT THE LAST TIME? “As soon as we got inside the fuel window.”
YOU RESTARTED, THEN YOU PITTED “Yeah.”
YOU PITTED REAL EARLY “Yeah; well, not as early as some guys. A couple after the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) and the No. 39 )Ryan Newman).”
ON THE DAY OVERALL: “We did okay. We had a pretty good car. Track position was everything like I thought it would be. You couldn’t pass. You could run as fast as the guys in front of you were running and that was it.”
FOR A WHILE THERE, IT LOOKED LIKE WHEN YOU GOT GRASS ON YOUR GRILL IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS GOING TO TURN AROUND YOUR WHOLE DAY “It was running hot; yeah. It was running over 300 degrees on the oil and the water temp.”
DID YOU EXPECT THIS RACE TO BE TREATED LIKE THAT WHERE IT WAS ALMOST LIKE A ROAD COURSE FUEL MILEAGE RACE “Yeah, because you can’t pass. It’s just like on road courses that’s the reason we do the road courses like that because you can’t pass on them. So you don’t want to be hanging around out there on the race track when everybody else is already inside a fuel window. So yeah, I can understand why it turned out like it did. Even if I had new tires or better tires, I couldn’t pass people.”
SO ONCE YOU CAME OUT OF PIT ROAD THAT LAST TIME, YOU PRETTY MUCH KNEW WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO FINISH? “Yeah, behind whoever was in front of me (laughs); as long as he had enough gas! I caught the No. 4 (Kasey Kahne) by a lucky break. He got bound up behind a guy who was running out of fuel and I got a spot there, but otherwise I didn’t go up through there. Some guys did. Now the No. 2 (Keselowski) ran up through there pretty good. I don’t know if he had different tires or put tires on, but some guys were fast enough to get up through there and some of us weren’t.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAD A BETTER CAR THAN WHERE YOU FINISHED TODAY? “Yeah, I think so. I do. We played it out and that’s the result we got. I don’t really know if I was to be too angry about it, what to be angry about. So.”
ARE YOU GOING TO LOOK AT THE POINTS AFTER THIS OR TRY TO NOT WORRY WHERE YOU’RE AT? “We’ll try not to worry about it. We’ll go to Pocono and try not to let that overwhelm us or consume us and try to focus on the next race track. We’re going testing next week and try to go to Pocono and do better than we did last time and we had a pretty decent finish there and we’ll try to do better.”
WHAT’S YOUR REACTION ABOUT PAUL MENARD WINNING THE BRICKYARD? “Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. He’s been running great all year long. He’s a good talent. He’s got a really, really good crew chief in Slugger and it’s a matter of time. He had been doing well in the points earlier in the season and like us, had some ill fortunes and he’s done great. It’s a good program for him.”
ON THE RACE OVERALL “Well, we had a pretty good car as long as we had track position. I thought we were maybe a fifth place car all day. And we just couldn’t pass anybody. We was too tight behind people. I just couldn’t even get to them; if I was a little bit quicker I just couldn’t get to them. It was like this invisible wall keeping me back from getting there. My car would just get real tight with no air. We got to the checkered at least. I haven’t done too well the last few times I’ve been here.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – FINISHED 28TH:
AS MESSED UP AS THE RACE WAS AT THE END HOW DID IT PLAY OUT FOR YOU GUYS? “It sucks when you run good all day but I think Jim Pohlman and all the guys did a really good job all day. We unloaded really bad and at the end we were a really competitive car.”
DOES IT PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOU FOR WINS? “No, we have to work really good with Jim and understand each other and if the wins come, good, if they don’t they don’t you know? Right now its all about looking at the future and long term I think its pretty good.”
OVERALL HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS TODAY “It was good. We had the fastest car but when we could see the front it seemed like I could get a little more out of the car and I was pushing really hard. We tried to go longer on the lefts and that didn’t work but it’s okay.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – FINISHED 35TH:
HOW WAS YOUR FIRST RACE TODAY WITH LUKE? “We had a little miscommunication on pit road and the radios blanked out and I couldn’t hear him and I drove by pit road and it put us in a hole the rest of the day but we were fast and it was just the same old deal we just had a lot of crap go on and had an ignition problem there at the end and we had a fast race car and this weekend went as smoothly as we could have asked for we just……..that thing on pit road was just……….the radio blanked out and I didn’t hear anything for like three seconds and by then I was past the pit box.”
EVERY ONE OF THESE RACES IS COMING DOWN TO THE LAST PIT STOP AND GAS, WHY? “You have got to really be in a position with not a lot to lose. I mean you look at like the top guys and they are guys that if they finished 35th it’s not the end of the world but if they won, it’s a huge gain. And if you look at three of the top-four that is the position they were in so they were all in a position to gamble and we were just a little bit off in fuel mileage today to do that. We wanted to do that, but we just couldn’t. “
By: team chevy