Menard Set To Go Racing Again as ...
Menard Set To Go Racing Again as #11 Menards Chevrolet Heads to Daytona for Season-Opening Hershey's 'Take 5' 300
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2005) -- A brand new NASCAR Busch Series season gets underway when the green flag falls on Saturday's Hershey's "Take 5" 300 on the legendary Daytona International Speedway 2.5-mile tri-oval. That means a fresh start for Paul Menard and the #11 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet team from Dale Earnhardt, Inc., who joined forces just last July but certainly left their mark with a series of inspiring runs the latter half of 2004.
The 24-year-old from Eau Claire, Wis., has been ready to go since stepping out of the car at last season's finale at Homestead, where he qualified third and was flirting with a much-anticipated top-five finish before an ignition problem sent him to the sidelines in the closing laps.
"Daytona seemed like a long way off at the time, but we've been working hard ever since and the time actually has gone by pretty quickly," said Menard, who welcomes fellow Wisconsin native Dan Stillman as his new crew chief this season. "We were solid in testing at Daytona, and out west at Fontana and Las Vegas. All I can say is we're ready to get the show on the road."
Stillman comes to the #11 Busch team after spending the last four seasons with the #8 Nextel Cup Series team of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. His particular expertise in the area of shocks and spring packages should pay huge dividends as the team adapts to new softer tire compounds and smaller rear spoilers for the 2005 season.
"It's been really great working with Dan, so far," Menard said. "He's very technically oriented. We definitely see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and we seem to speak the same language -- not just because he's from Wisconsin! I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can get done this year."
No longer the Rookie of the Year contender that he was in 2004, Menard has even loftier goals in mind as he prepares for the 35-race campaign that begins this weekend -- namely a shot at the Busch series championship that teammate Martin Truex, Jr., won last season.
"If we do everything we're capable of doing with this organization, it's a definite possibility," said Menard, last year's polesitter at Kansas and second-highest-finishing rookie in the season-ending points standings. "Everything we did the latter half of last season was in preparation for a full-scale assault on the championship this year. Maybe there are 20 or 30 other teams out there who feel the same way, but for us it's very realistic."
Practice for Saturday's 120-lap race begins Wednesday afternoon, with qualifying set for Friday at 3 p.m. SPEED-TV will broadcast Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon sessions live. Race time Saturday is 1 p.m. EST with the FOX network providing live coverage.
PAUL MENARD CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
--Earned first career NASCAR Busch Series pole at Kansas in October, 2004
--Was second in NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings in 2004
--Won 2003 ARCA race at Talladega
--Won 2002 NASCAR Southwest Tour race at Phoenix
--Started on the pole in 2003 ARCA race at Winchester, Ind.
--Qualified second and finished fourth in first ARCA race in 2003 at Salem, Ind.
--Finished eighth in 2003 Kansas NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event
--Finished ninth at 2003 Indianapolis Raceway Park NASCAR Busch Series race
--Finished 12th in first NASCAR Busch Series race at Nashville in 2003.
--Four top-10 finishes in 2002 SCCA Trans-Am series
--Two American GT class wins in the 2002 Grand American Rolex Series
--Ninth in 2001 NASCAR Midwest Series drivers standings
--Won first NASCAR Midwest Series race at Elkhart Lake in 2001