BUSCH: Fontana: Paul Menard preview

Paul Menard NASCAR Busch Series -- ...

Paul Menard
NASCAR Busch Series -- #33 Menards Chevrolet
Team -- Andy Petree Racing, Flat Rock, N.C.

Rookie Menard Set To Tackle California Speedway Oval At NASCAR Busch Series 1-800-PIT-SHOP.COM 300

FONTANA, Calif. (April 27, 2004) -- Paul Menard is happy to already call himself a race-winner at California Speedway. But the 23-year-old Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender has another, more high-profile victory on his hit list when he and his fellow NASCAR Busch Series competitors come to town for Saturday's 1-800-PIT-SHOP.COM 300.

The 23-year-old Eau Claire, Wis., native's victory here was on the California Speedway road course in a Team Flis Corvette during the 2002 Grand American Series event. This weekend, he'll be behind the wheel of the #33 Menards/Turtle Wax Platinum Series Chevrolet of Andy Petree Racing, which he piloted to a 16th-place finish last weekend at Talladega -- a highly disappointing result considering his performance in practice and qualifying before the race.

"I've had California on my mind since the checkered flag at Talladega," said Menard, who qualified a Busch series career-high eighth last weekend, was fasted in Happy Hour the day before the race, ran with the leaders on numerous occasions on race day, but was caught up in the virtually inevitable "big wreck" just 17 laps from the finish and had to fight back to 16th. "We've been snake-bit at both restrictor-plate races this year, and I have to say I'm just relieved to be headed to a racetrack where the driver has more control over his own destiny. I've had success at Fontana already, which is a good thing. Now, we'll just have to prove what we can do in the context of NASCAR racing."

Menard was 14th at Texas and 16th at Nashville in the events leading up to his 16th at Talladega, illustrating the consistency not of a series rookie but more a longtime veteran. Despite getting caught up in the "big wrecks" at the Daytona season-opener and Talladega, he's certainly shown the poise of a longtime veteran while learning the intricacies of NASCAR's racing ovals, most of which he's seeing for the very first time.

"In ways that aren't apparent to the casual observer, we're getting better and better every weekend, and we feel it's only a matter of time before we have that breakthrough weekend," Menard said. "It'll come if we just keep our head down, our nose clean, and work hard like we have so far this season."

Practice for the 1-800-PIT-SHOP.COM 300 begins Friday, with SPEED-TV carrying qualifying live at 1 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EDT). Race time Saturday is 1 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EDT) with a live broadcast set for the FOX network.


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Drivers Andy Petree , Paul Menard