BUSCH: Daytona: Paul Menard preview

Paul Menard NASCAR Busch Series -- ...

Paul Menard
NASCAR Busch Series -- #33 Menards Chevrolet
Team -- Andy Petree Racing, Flat Rock, N.C.
Sponsors -- Pittsburgh Paints, Energizer, Peak, Turtle Wax, Moen, Morton Salt, Empire Levels

Menard Opens Quest for Busch Series Rookie of the Year Title at This Weekend's Hershey's Kisses 300 at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2004) -- Paul Menard, of Eau Claire, Wis., embarks on his first full season of NASCAR Busch Series racing as driver of the #33 Menards Chevrolet at this weekend's season-opening Hershey's Kisses 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Looking ahead to this year's quest for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title on the Busch circuit, the 23-year-old Menard drove a mixed schedule of Winston Cup, Busch, Craftsman Truck and ARCA events in 2003 with the Andy Petree Racing team. There were some impressive results in that mix, including a victory in last September's ARCA race at Talladega, and a pole qualifying run at Winchester, Ind., in August.

"I'm definitely looking forward to being able to focus on one series week in and week out," said Menard, who in five NASCAR Busch Series starts last season recorded a top finish of ninth at Indianapolis Raceway Park. "The ingredients for success are definitely there -- the sponsorship, the strength and experience of Andy Petree and his team, and the equipment -- so it's up to us to go out and do what it takes to achieve our goals. I think of all the series I've competed in the last few years, I've probably felt best about our overall performances in the Busch car, so I'm ready to settle in and run the full season. It's a great series and I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot before it's all said and done."

Other top finishes for Menard last season included a front-row start, 28 laps led and a fourth-place finish in his very first ARCA race at Salem, Ind., as well as an eighth-place finish in the Craftsman Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway.

Two seasons ago, Menard caught team-owner Petree's eye when he won a NASCAR Southwest Tour race at Phoenix with a dramatic, last-lap pass of veteran Kenny Schrader.

"His win over Schrader was no fluke -- the kid can drive and he's shown that to us race after race," said Petree, who won a pair of Winston Cup titles with the late Dale Earnhardt in the early 1990s before starting his own team in 1996. "Honestly, Paul has done nothing but continue to impress me. We took him to Talladega last year to get some Superspeedway experience and he went out and drove like an old pro to get us a big win in the ARCA race. He's very confident, but he's also a got a good head for learning. It's been a very positive experience for us and we look forward to moving further along with him this season."

An avid ice racer with numerous titles in and around his native Wisconsin, Menard tuned up for this weekend's Hershey's Kisses 300 by competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona two weekends ago, and then last weekend's Advance Auto Parts 200 ARCA-ReMax Series event. He co-drove with his cousin Charlie to fourth place in the Super Grand Sports class in the 24-hour race, driving the Planet Earth Motorsports Porsche. He qualified third for the ARCA race last Saturday in the #33 Petree Racing Chevrolet and battled for the lead most of the way before a Lap 45 accident ended his day early.

Practice begins Thursday (Feb. 12) for this weekend's Hershey's Kisses 300 with qualifying set for 10:15 a.m. EST Friday (Feb. 13). Race time Saturday (Feb. 14) is 12:30 p.m. EST with a live broadcast slated for NBC-TV.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Andy Petree , Paul Menard