Phoenix II: Paul Menard preview

Nextel Cup Primary Car: Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chassis ...

Nextel Cup Primary Car:
Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chassis #039 / Back up Car #022
Last Raced: Never -- brand new COT car built by Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Fun Fact: Paul Menard and his Crew Chief (Dave Charpentier) both consider Phoenix to be one of their favorite race tracks. According to Charpentier, when a driver likes a racetrack, it helps boost the team's performance.

OVERALL NOTES OF INTEREST

Menard will return to Phoenix with a positive attitude that comes from having learned a lot at the Car of Tomorrow race held at the Arizona short track. Menard hopes to build on the momentum from April's race, when the crew got the car handling very well late in the 500-lap race and Menard was rewarded with Raybestos Rookie of the Race honors for his top-25 finish in the event.

Menard is no stranger to Phoenix Victory Lane

Grand Am Race Winner (2002) -- Menard has a Phoenix Grand-Am win on his racing resume. In fact, Menard will take the Green Flag for Saturday's Nextel Cup race on the fifth anniversary of that memorable win, which cam on April 21, 2002.

Southwest Tour Race Winner (2002) -- Menard returned to Phoenix in November of 2002 for the NASCAR Southwest Tour event. He advanced from his 26th place starting spot to close in on race leader Ken Schrader. Menard completed an exciting last lap pass over the veteran driver, to score his first Southwest Tour Victory.

Menard's thoughts on the Southwest Tour win -- "Ken Schrader is to Phoenix what Dick Trickle is to Midwest short track racing, and to beat Schrader is awesome."

Wisconsinites Strong at Phoenix

The first Cup race at Phoenix was won by Wisconsin native Alan Kulwicki. Kulwicki has five starts at the track, with four three top fives and four top-10's. Another notable Wisconsin racer, Dick Trickle, finished 7th in his Raybestos Rookie appearance at the track in 1989.

Keep on Trucking

Menards Racing hauler driver, Todd Cable, swapped cars in Texas so he could continue on to Phoenix without returning to North Carolina. Cable agrees that this is the best way to make the Texas, Phoenix loop. "The advantage is that I don't have to go back to North Carolina, swap out, load everything up, get ready for Phoenix and turn around and come right back through here [Texas] a day later." Cable said. "I'd be home Monday afternoon and would have to leave Tuesday morning to come back. That's the biggest advantage of it is just time-wise."

Raybestos Rookie of the Year Notes

Currently, Menard stands third in overall Raybestos Rookie ratings. He has 189 points; 45 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya who leads the battle with 234 points. Menard has won Raybestos Rookie of the Race honors in four events this season, including Kansas, Richmond, Phoenix and Watkins Glen.

Standings Status

Paul Menard is currently 34th in Driver's Points, while the No. 15 team maintained its 29th spot in Owner's Standings following last weeks race at Atlanta. The team is has a 355 point cushion on the top-35, meaning Menard is guaranteed a starting spot for the first five races of 2008.

QUOTES ON PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY

Paul Menard on the Checker Auto Parts 500: "We definitely have come a long way with our COT which is good since next year that's all we'll have. Hopefully we can finally score that top-10 we've been after. Turns 3 and 4 at Phoenix are a lot like Milwaukee, which I have an obvious affinity towards since we won there last year. It's not necessarily a short track but it drives like one so it should be a fun weekend. Lately we haven't been running good but we've been getting decent finishes just from staying out of trouble, but I'd like to think we can run well and have a decent finish in the last two races of the year."

Nextel Cup Car Chief "B" Hoover on the Checker Auto Parts 500: "Our race runs with the COT are going to be good. No doubt about it. The qualifying isn't as much of a concern anymore but a good starting spot still helps at Phoenix. They have a tendency to lap cars quickly here so it would be great to start towards the front -- like in the top-20 or something. It definitely helps to have run well here in the spring. We finished 25th but our car was more like a top-10 car during the second half of the race. We're still looking for a top-10 finish in 2007 and it would be awesome to get it at Phoenix and finish out the year on a high note."

-credit: dei

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya