Daytona Preseason Thunder - Menard press conference

CHEVY NSCS AT DAYTONA PRESEASON THUNDER TESTING DAY TWO, SESSION TWO JANUARY 15, 2008 PAUL MENARD, No. 15 Menards Impala SS, met with members of the media in the Daytona International Speedway Media Center during day one of the second session...

JANUARY 15, 2008

PAUL MENARD, No. 15 Menards Impala SS, met with members of the media in the Daytona International Speedway Media Center during day one of the second session of Preseason Thunder Testing and 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500, on the affect of winning the Daytona 500, expectations of running the Impala SS full-time in '08, expectations for Daytona in the Impala SS and other topics. The transcript of the press conference follows:

Q: Talk about how the first day of testing went and expectations for 50th anniversary of Daytona 500.

PAUL MENARD: "We have learned a lot. It is nice to come down for the second session; two of our team cars were here last week. They ran through a lot of different aero things, chassis things. Coming down here this week, we learned a lot from that so we were a couple steps ahead of where we would have been otherwise. Unloading we weren't very fast at all, toward the bottom of the sheet. We have kept working on it. Doug Randolph, my new crew chief, we are still learning each other. This is our second test together. He got the car going over a half of a second faster from where we unloaded, which at a plate track like this is big. We have two more days of it.

"I will take any of them (Daytona 500 wins). Being the 50th, obviously with the history here, it is pretty special. I grew up around the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 was right there along side of the Indy 500. I grew up an Indy car guy, but the last about 15 years, I have really gotten in to the stock car racing and watching Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and all of those guys, go at it was how I started my racing season. Growing up in Wisconsin where in February there isn't a whole lot to do, so we would watch the Daytona 500, then go play around on our snowmobiles. It is a privilege to be in it."

Q: Talk about all the open wheel drivers entering NASCAR this year.

PAUL MENARD: "I think it was Talladega last fall, David Reutimann and I were sitting in the rookie meeting and look over at Jacques Villeneuve, Sam Hornish, Jr., Patrick Carpentier and all the guys have the Indy 500 ring on, we felt a little out of place there. It is cool to have them all coming in. I have known a couple of those guys from before. Patrick and I have known each other for about four years or so. It is just neat. Different faces and different styles of driving. They will catch on in a hurry I am sure."

Q: Speak to overall strength of DEI now.

PAUL MENARD: "We have lost a few people and gained a few people. You try to make the right decisions on replacements. It is hard to get better than Mark Martin. With the addition of the two Dougs - Randolph and Reichert as crew chiefs to combine with Kevin Manion and Tony Gibson, I think the crew chiefs are four of the best in the garage.

"With the management of Max Siegel and John Story, it is a strong team. They are making good decisions. Right now the big thing is getting everybody moved into the new shop, which is the former Ginn shop, all four cars have been there since a week or two after Miami, just getting everything going. The building of the cars, the process in place, was probably the biggest struggle of the whole merger. DEI as a whole is very strong."

Q: Talk about Trevor Bains involvement at DEI and development program.

PAUL MENARD: "Trevor works on my cars. It is kind of cool to go in the shop and see Trevor running around, fabbing up crush panels, doing whatever he is doing. He is a cool kid. When I was 16 I had just started racing Legends Cars, a lot different deal for me. I have been to a test with him. We tested an Impala SS at South Boston and he hopped in the backup and just logged some laps for us and did a good job. Good things will come of it.

"Jesus Hernandez is working in the shop also. Jeffrey Earnhardt has been working in the shop. I guess he is going to graduate in May then he will be there full time, a lot of young faces running around."

Q: On pressure he feels for this season.

PAUL MENARD: "No more than anybody else. Our goal is to run the first five races conservatively but run them as hard as we can obviously to stay in the top-35 and keep chipping away at it. It is awesome the way it worked out last year, I wasn't expecting that at all. But it worked out and we are in a better position to build for a strong year."

Q: On potential of Jeffrey Earnhardt.

PAUL MENARD: "He is funny. We did a road course test together at VIR, he was getting ready for Lime Rock and we were getting ready for Watkins Glen. I was supposed to drive his Busch East car, I was supposed to sit in the seat, but the kid is this (makes small width gesture with hands-laugher) I could probably get a leg in there. I went out in my Busch car and he was following me in his Busch East car and trying to learn the lines and he picked up something like 20 seconds a lap, it was pretty cool. He is a neat kid. Definitely a chip of the old block, it is cool to see him to well."

Q: Talk about how tedious testing is.

PAUL MENARD: "You have to keep it in perspective, there is a hell of a lot of worse places to be than a race car in Florida. It is what we do. You hear a lot of people complaining, I don't complain about it.

"I enjoy getting strapped in to a race car and going out and trying to learn what makes a car go faster. I lot of it I don't understand because there is some kind of voodoo that goes on here, but, I just take it all in stride and learn what I can."

Q: Anything on schedule for Nationwide Series in '08?

PAUL MENARD: "Not right now. We are working on doing the road course, possibly a few more. But with the differences between the two cars now, there wasn't a whole lot of focus on trying have a Nationwide program to support the Cup program because that is essentially what it is. It is support to get the Cup program better. There is not a whole lot of translation there between the two. I would like to do the road courses just for pure enjoyment, maybe some of the other bigger races like a Charlotte or something just because it would be fun to do.

"There is an ice race this coming weekend this weekend in Wisconsin and there is another one the weekend before Vegas so I have actually been on the phone at lunch time to try to figure out how to get up there."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Rusty Wallace , Jacques Villeneuve , Patrick Carpentier , David Reutimann , Jesus Hernandez , Jeffrey Earnhardt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mark Martin