Phoenix rising: Menard's quiet demeanor can't hide recent success DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 18, 2006) -- At times, one almost has to strain to hear Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet) speak. He has a quiet, reserved demeanor and prefers to...
Phoenix rising: Menard's quiet demeanor can't hide recent success
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 18, 2006) -- At times, one almost has to strain to hear Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard's Chevrolet) speak. He has a quiet, reserved demeanor and prefers to stay away from the limelight.
That combination is a camouflage for a driver who is quickly climbing in the NASCAR Busch Series points standings.
Thirty-eighth in points following Daytona, Menard comes to Phoenix for Friday's night race ranked sixth, his highest standing of the year.
"We really only started out 38th because we had an unlucky episode at Daytona," he said. "The car was capable of winning and we just got caught up. But unlike last year at the beginning, we've made the best of some not-so-good races. Finishing in the top 20 in those was really a sign of our experience. A year ago maybe, I didn't know the car wasn't capable of a top 10 and would over-drive it.
"Right now, I think we're back to hitting our stride and coming to the track confident that we belong in the top five and maybe have to settle some days for a top 10. Hopefully, there are a few where we're the best, too, and win."
That consistency is showing as Menard has posted three top 10s in his last four races. "Confidence is really king," he said. "[Crew chief] Dan [Stillman] and I work really well together with this team where we expect to be up front and make the changes to get us there."
In addition to besting his points standing after every race this year, the 25-year-old from Eau Claire, Wis., has also improved his finishes each year in all but one NASCAR Busch Series race at the one-mile track in the desert.
"Phoenix is one of my favorite tracks," he said. "It's a lot like the tracks I grew up racing on in the Midwest in that it's shorter and pretty flat. Those places to me are fun because it really puts a lot of the racer into the equation.
"Winning here back in the (NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest) Series [in 2002] was a big day for me and my career, so I definitely look forward to coming to Phoenix."
Despite his hope to be more incognito, Menard, runner-up for the NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year award in 2004 and a top-10 finisher (sixth) in the final points standings last year, is a rising star in a series packed with gifted drivers. "The NASCAR Busch Series is tough, no doubt about it," he said. "We've got the added competition of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers racing us most weekends, but I like that. Certainly, if you win here in the NASCAR Busch Series, you've earned it and beat some great drivers and teams."