2010 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest: Friday news conference transcripts
January 15, 2010
An interview with Paul Menard
DENISE MALOOF: We have Paul Menard in the house. Do anything fun during the off-season? I know you probably own a snowmobile if i had to guess.
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, snowmobile and snow skis. I didn't do a whole lot of snowmobiling. I did some snow skiing, Colorado and Wisconsin.
We're going to run the 24 Hours of Daytona, so I've been down here, I think, a total of seven days just doing the two open tests that they've had. Getting to know the team, it's a Daytona-based team. I've never driven one of those cars before, so it's a learning curve understanding what makes them tick and how to drive them fast.
Q: You're also with a new team, Richard Petty Motorsports, so lots of changes.
PAUL MENARD: Lots of changes. It's been good. I thought it would be more of a stroll than it was with the transition. Having the team -- Yates was based in Concord, that's where RPM ultimately is going to be based is Concord. Right now we have to redo the shop, so we're out of Statesville. Everything is a recipe for things not getting done, but things are getting done.
I was at the shop for about five hours today and just amazed at how well everybody is mixing together, the Yates people and the RPM people combining. There's no -- from what I can see, there's no egos getting involved and everybody is working hard with the goal of getting cars ready for Daytona and Fontana and Atlanta and Vegas and start out the season right.
Q: Going back on a full-time Nationwide schedule for the first time in a few years when you were running full-time in the Busch Series, what's your anticipation of that? How difficult will it be balancing two whole schedules? And again, you ran sixth place in the championship two years in a row, I mean, you get back to that form?
PAUL MENARD: Well, 2008 I didn't run any Nationwide races. Then 2009, I ran 16, I believe it was. I kind of understood -- 2008 was the first year with the COT. With the cars being so different, I didn't think there would be a big advantage of running Nationwide cars.
Last year it opened my eyes to racing on Saturday is going to help you on Sunday, driving and understanding what the tires are doing. You know, what the tracks are going to do, just general racing stuff. So this year we put together a deal to run the whole year. Some races will be a struggle, Road America, the Kentucky, Nashville, there's some races where we'll be traveling. But it's all for a competitive season, and it's going to be with Roush Fenway. They've got fast cars and I get to keep my crew chief from last year Matt Puccia, and pretty much the core group of guys that we had part-time last year will be going full-time this year.
Q: On the 24, can you talk a bit more about the car you're driving and the differences, and any respect now it gives you for the guys that race in that series?
PAUL MENARD: The most amazing thing about those cars is just how well they stop. In a Cup car at say Watkins Glen, we put about 400 or 500 pounds of brake pressure to the brake pads, and these things are like 1,200 pounds, and things just stop on a dime. For me anyway, for the guys that have driven Toyota Atlantic and open wheel cars, they don't stop very good compared to what they're used to. The biggest thing for me is learning how they stop. They don't have as much power as they Cup cars do, so the power on and the application of that is not an issue but it's making your braking zones as short as possible.
You know, our fastest lap in a Cup car is lap 1, and lap 2 is slower, lap 3 is slower yet. These cars it takes about three or four laps to get up to where you're on a flying lap. That takes a little bit of getting used to, too. You can't push to hard when you come out of the pits. You have to build up to it. They're a lot of fun to drive, real rigid race cars. The Cup cars move around a lot on the banking here. The GrandAm cars are just -- it's like they skip over the bumps. It's a real stiff car but fun to drive.
Q: How about the driver change?
PAUL MENARD: Well, we did one, and it was kind of a disaster, so we're going to concentrate on that when we come back for the race. It's really not -- basically have one guy that comes into the side. The driver sits on the right side of these cars. It's a Coyote chassis, so we'll have a guy that comes to the left side of the car to do the belts and everything while the driver comes around the right side. The driver doesn't have to do a lot except to undo their belts, pull their radio cord and hop out. But they're small cock pits, and we have a bunch of different sized drivers, so you have to get the belts right and you'll be adjusting your belts and going down pit road.
Q: Am I right in assuming that Slugger is your crew chief, and if so, can you talk about working with him?
PAUL MENARD: We're going to talk more about that on Tuesday, but yeah, that's right.
Q: You're going to get the opportunity to race some against Danica in the Nationwide Series. What do you expect her learning curve is going to be and how do you think she'll be received coming in?
PAUL MENARD: I mean, I've met Danica a long time ago. I've never raced against her in anything, so hard for me to really comment on that, except that she's going to bring a lot of exposure to the sport, which is good for us, it's good for her, good for the Nationwide Series. And eventually it'll probably be good for the Sprint Cup Series if that's where she goes to.
As far as how she's going to do, I would have no idea. I'm not sure what kind of driver she is, but she didn't get to where she is, she's won a race and been competitive in the Indy 500 -- she hasn't gotten to that point with being slow, so she'll be fine.
Q: Paul, a couple of the RPM guys, particularly A.J. and Casey are already talking about how nice it is to have seven teammates, referring to the Roush relationship. You're a guy that's already been in a situation where you've had an affiliation with Roush. Do you view it as really an eight-car team, and is the dynamic for you going to change in that respect?
PAUL MENARD: I think of it as an 11-car team. There's four RPM, four Roush Fenway, two Front Row and two Wood Brothers, and there might be another one out there that I don't know about. But Ford Racing, everybody under that banner has been -- the last couple years have worked really well together, shared a lot of information, and last year at Yates, we received a lot of information from Roush, but we struggled to give any information back. At RPM, RPM made the Chase last year with Casey. They've got their engineering base and their simulation programs and everything is in place to run up front and win races, so there's a lot more lateral sharing of information.
Q: You've had a lot of experience with changes. Do you think that crew chiefs and drivers, do you think they have a special ability to be able to -- changes can be good or bad, but it's usually always a hurdle.
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, that's true. You know, sometimes you just need a little change to spark something good, and that's we're looking for this year. Last year was a frustrating here. We had really good runs, we had really bad runs. Nothing really in between. We had a car that easily could have finished Top 5, won the race in Chicago and had a tire cut down. Some of our strongest runs were where we had problems and just couldn't capitalize on a finish. So very frustrating. But by the same token, we need to consistently run better, and with everything that's happened in the off-season that's our plan.
Q: Does your dad have any ownership involvement in racing right now? What is he doing with respect to Motorsports, anything?
PAUL MENARD: No racing, ownership, nothing, no. He's a lifelong race fan, always will be. He tried the ownership deal with IndyCars for years and got to be more of a job and less fun for him. So he got out of that. He's just running his business and enjoying racing.
DENISE MALOOF: Paul, thank you. We'll see you back soon.
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