BUSCH: Indy IRP/Indianapolis: Paul Menard preview

Menard Ready for Indy 'Double Duty' Mooresville, NC -- As Wisconsin native, Paul Menard, prepares for a return to his Midwestern roots, Menards Racing commences the busiest weekend of the 2006 race season. With plans to race in ...

Menard Ready for Indy 'Double Duty'

Mooresville, NC -- As Wisconsin native, Paul Menard, prepares for a return to his Midwestern roots, Menards Racing commences the busiest weekend of the 2006 race season. With plans to race in Saturday's Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park and Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Menards Racing puts talent to the test in a 600-mile Indianapolis relay.

Remarkably, Menard's arrival in Indianapolis will be met with a mixture of advantage and challenge. Menard's advantage comes in the shape of the .686-mile O'Reilly Raceway Park oval race track. Similar to his short track upbringing, ORP resembles the tracks that Menard raced weekly before breaking into NASCAR competition. Menard's familiarity with short tracks like ORP helped the driver score his first ever top-ten finish in NASCAR competition, finishing ninth at the track in the 2003 Busch Series event.

Menard's performance in last year's 200-lap event was equally impressive -- finishing seventh after looking poised to contend for a win in the race day practice sessions. Menard's Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate, Martin Truex, took the checkered flag in first in 2005, but Menard returns to Indianapolis with the same racecar from last year, but his sights are set on his own checkered flag.

"This is a great racetrack because you can actually race on it," Menard said. "I knew we had a chance at a win there last year, but we were just a touch loose all night long. This year we'll have that information going into the race and we'll do our best to get the win."

The track itself has a storied history. As one of only seven tracks that have hosted races since the series inception in 1982, O'Reilly Raceway Park was the precursor to the arrival of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing at the Brickyard. In addition, race sponsor Kroger has also been on board for the quarter-century of racing. This is the only race on the NASCAR Busch Series schedule that has had the same sponsor during that span.

Unlike his familiarity with the short track event in town, Menard will challenge the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway to make his first career start at the Brickyard, driving the No. 15 Johns Manville/Menards Chevrolet. Until recently, Menards opinion of the famed track came only from his childhood dreams of racing at Indy.

"It's a dream come true to race at the Brickyard." Menard said. "I think most drivers grow up watching all sorts of racing and setting goals for themselves, but for me Indianapolis was at the top of my racing to-do list."

Menard tested at the Brickyard last month, with a new DEI car (# 037). Upon returning from the two day test, the team updated the body to match the No. 1 and No. 8 cars of Menard's teammates, Martin Truex Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Menard is one of thirteen drivers pulling "double-duty" this weekend at O'Reilly Raceway Park and the Brickyard. Crew Chief, Dan Stillman, knows this sort of schedule requires a team to have all hands on deck.

"It is going to be a real hard weekend for our team," Stillman said. "We have very capable people on both the Cup and Busch side to make sure our cars will be prepared well and ready to race. The schedule does overlap some so we will bring in Matt Crafton to practice the Busch car Saturday morning while Paul is qualifying the Cup car."

Menard will have help on track at the Brickyard, as well. Not only will he join DEI teammates Truex Jr. and Earnhardt Jr., but Menard will also have fellow Menards Racing driver, Robby Gordon to offer support. Gordon will sport a similar to Menard's Chevrolet on his own No. 7 Johns Manville, Menards Chevrolet.

"Indy is a pretty special place for me." Gordon said. "We kind of put all our eggs in one basket with the car we chose and hopefully our gamble will payoff for Menards, Johns Manville and all of our other sponsors."

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Series NASCAR Cup , NASCAR XFINITY