Paul Menard, driver of the No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion, is a career-best ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after four races. Menard spoke about his fast start in the Bristol Motor Speedway infield media center before practice...
Paul Menard, driver of the No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion, is a career-best ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after four races. Menard spoke about his fast start in the Bristol Motor Speedway infield media center before practice started on Friday afternoon.
"It's been a good start. The guys improved the cars a lot in the off-season. We've got a good working relationship with Slugger and the merger between Yates and RPM went pretty seamlessly. There's been a lot of moving around with locations of race shops, but in the whole process of moving they improved the cars, so it's been a good start. We haven't had any real bad luck so far, so, knock on wood, hopefully we can keep that going and keep having solid finishes."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RUNNING THE WHOLE NATIONWIDE SCHEDULE WITH ALL THE TRAVEL? "When we run both series at the same track, like this weekend, it gets pretty hectic. When it's a Cup off weekend and a Nationwide race, or like at Atlanta when it was a Nationwide off weekend and a Cup race, that's pretty laid back as far as you can just focus on one thing. Our last off weekend for the year was last week. We're every weekend until November, which is what we love doing. We love racing every weekend. I'll probably miss out on a few things, but I'll still have Sunday afternoons off when we run the Nationwide car."
HAVE YOU GUYS CHANGED YOUR FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH WEEK TO WEEK? "No. Last year we had the same goal of starting off running conservatively, but trying to finish in the top 20. The first three races we had good shots of doing that, and we got in two accidents and broke a transmission so that put us in a big hole. This year, we've kind of had the same focus and just haven't had anything go wrong. We're a lot better off in points and we'll just try to keep that ball rolling."
HOW DO YOU LIKE DOING THESE MEDIA SESSIONS AND CAN YOU STAY IN THE TOP 12 ALL YEAR? "I can definitely get used to it. It's only four races in, so a lot can happen obviously, but we've had fast cars. We've come out of the box pretty strong and we're working on a lot of things to make the cars even better and improve throughout the year, so the spoiler coming into play is gonna be a big unknown. We don't know if it's gonna help our program or hurt our program based on the package that we have, but we'll probably find out at Texas and just go from there. It's cool to be in the top 10, but, like I said, it's early in the year and we've got a lot of work to do."
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO COME OUT OF THE MEETING WITH BRAD AND CARL TOMORROW? "Don't wreck each other. I don't have a dog in that fight. They got mad at each other and they took it out on each other and it hasn't affected anybody else. Hopefully, Brad doesn't retaliate against Carl this weekend and take 10 cars out with them. Last weekend, it was between them and hopefully it doesn't make it between 10 other people this week."
HOW MUCH MORE CLOSELY WILL GUYS BE WATCHED THIS WEEKEND? "No more than normal. Bristol is a short track. It's hard racing and you always get mad at somebody at some point. It's just a fact of short track racing, so you've just got to control your emotions. If you get mad, you're gonna hit somebody, but hopefully you won't tear up many cars in the process."
THIS IS YOUR THIRD TEAM IN THREE YEARS. WHEN DO YOU GET COMFORTABLE AS FAR AS THE ADJUSTMENTS YOU GO THROUGH? "The second team in four years because Yates and RPM are kind of the same deal, but you build relationships as you go. At DEI, I was there for four years between the Busch/Nationwide Series and Cup, and you build a lot of relationships. It's the same deal here. There are a lot of familiar faces from Yates Racing last year, and a lot of new faces with RPM. We're just kind of mixing it all together and right now I'm very comfortable with everyone around me, and I'm just gonna keep building those relationships."
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT DYING YOUR HAIR BLACK AND BLUE LIKE SCOTT SPEED VIA TWITTER? "That's not my style. I'm not even on Twitter. It's something we've talked about because social networking is getting pretty big, but I'm a pretty private guy and I like to keep my stuff to myself."
SO NO SOCIAL NETWORKING? "We talked about it a few months ago and haven't talked about it since, so I might have made my point clear (laughing)."
DOES BEING IN THE TOP 12 CHANGE HOW YOU RACE? "No, not really. Bristol is pretty straight forward. You come in and hopefully you don't pit under green, and when you come in you're probably gonna take four tires. You've got to be aware of who is around you and who you're racing, and when people get mad at each other, stay out of their way. When we go to a place like Texas, you can probably do a little bit more strategy-wise to try and gain some track position. You can do that here, too, but four tires mean a lot here. At Texas, you get a big aero-push going if you get back in traffic, so you need to get a little more track position there. It's not gonna affect our outlook on the race."
HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE DIFFICULTY OF PIT ROAD HERE? "It's confusing, for sure. If you do pit under green, you're reminded for five laps before to make sure you pit off turn four or whatever. It's confusing because both ends kind of look the same. Under caution, you just kind of have to reset and know where you're coming down and know where the speed lines are. It's real easy to speed through turns three and four on the apron under caution because it's such a big, wide area you can really cut the corner and be caught for speeding, but it's what we do every week."
WAS THERE ONE TIME IN YOUR CAREER WHEN A VETERAN DID SOMETHING TO YOU AS FAR AS GETTING IN AN ACCIDENT? DID THEY TALK TO YOU LATER AND DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM IT? "Every week somebody gets mad at somebody. Whether you see people running into each other under caution, or just side swipe each other going down the backstretch, something happens. It's not as dramatic as what happened in Atlanta. I've had run-ins with veterans and talked to them the next week and it's all been good, and I've had run-ins with non-veterans and talked to them the next week and it's all been good. You try not to put yourself in that position, but anger rises and it's part of the sport."
IS THERE ONE OR TWO INCIDENTS THAT STAND OUT? "There are a few that stand out, but it's between us."
-source: ford racing