BUSCH: Las Vegas: 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

After Productive Week Off, Menard Set for Sam's Town 300 at LVMS

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 3, 2004) -- The 2004 NASCAR Busch Series resumes out west after enjoying a weekend off, and Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Paul Menard hopes lessons learned in testing at Kentucky Speedway last week help him and his #33 Menards Chevrolet team from Andy Petree Racing hit the jackpot at Saturday's Sam's Town 300.

"We're definitely ready to get back to work, especially after some gains I think we made in a number of different areas at Kentucky," said the 23-year-old Menard, an Eau Claire, Wis., native now residing in Ashville, N.C. "The team has been working extremely hard building cars and tuning motors and, sooner than later, I think we'll have this program right where we think it needs to be."

Where he thinks the program needs to be is contending for race wins week after week in this, his first full-time season on the hotly competitive NASCAR Busch Series. With sights firmly set on Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, he and the team are hoping that breakout race comes this weekend on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile tri-oval.

They opened the season with a little tough luck, getting caught up in a multi-car accident early in the Hershey's Kisses 300 at Daytona, where Menard qualified a solid 12th. But he rebounded from the accident, albeit dozens of laps down, to salvage a 32nd-place finish. Menard and the team followed that up with another solid qualifying effort of 15th on the mile oval at Rockingham, and came home in 22nd on race day despite being hampered, in part, by a drive-through penalty for a pit road entry violation.

"I think if we can hit the ground running here in 'Vegas with the momentum we picked up at Kentucky, it could turn out to be our best weekend, yet," Menard said. "We definitely learned a lot in my first race at Rockingham -- not necessarily car things but off-the track things -- that should help us down the road. It's going to be my first trip to the Las Vegas track, as well, but I'm ready to go. It's the flattest of the mile-and-a-half ovals, which suits me just fine. That's my kind of racing."

Practice and qualifying begin Friday for the Sam's Town 300, with SPEED-TV's live qualifying show set to begin at 4:30 p.m. EST. Race time on Saturday is 1 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EST), with live coverage on the FX cable network starting at 3:30 p.m. EST.

PAUL MENARD CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

--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 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 class wins in the 2002 Grand Am Cup Series

--Ninth in 2001 NASCAR ReMax Challenge Series drivers standings

--Won first NASCAR ReMax Challenge Race at Elkhart Lake in 2001

Growing up in Wisconsin, Paul Menard spent numerous years as a child racing go-karts before moving up to ice racing, something he took up with his father, John Menard.

His racing career begin to take shape at the age of 8 when he won the Briggs Junior Class Championship in his native Eau Claire, Wis. He later emerged as Briggs Medium Class Champion as he worked his way up the racing ladder. He began ice racing at the age of 15 and has won 10 International Ice Racing Association events in his career. He continues to compete in IIRA events in and around Wisconsin.

In 2000, Menard moved up to the NASCAR ReMax Challenge, where he finished 13th in the drivers standings running a limited schedule. His official "rookie" ReMax Challenge season in 2001 netted ninth in the standings, highlighted by a pole position and race win at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The 2002 season saw a mixed bag of ReMax Challenge (two poles, seventh in drivers points), SCCA Trans-Am (one front-row start, four top-10 finishes), Grand-Am Cup (victories at Fontana and Phoenix) and the NASCAR Southwest Tour. He capped his season in thrilling fashion in the latter series with a dramatic last-lap pass of veteran Kenny Schrader in winning at Phoenix.

The 2003 season saw even more of a mixed bag of racing activity as Menard joined Andy Petree Racing for events in NASCAR Winston Cup, the NASCAR Busch Series, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and the ARCA series. Menard started on the front row and finished fourth in his very first ARCA event at Salem, Ind. Later, he started on the pole in the ARCA race at Winchester, Ind., and scored his first ARCA victory at Talladega. He also registered top finishes of ninth in the Busch race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, and eighth in the Truck series race at Kansas Speedway.

For 2004, Menard embarked on the full NASCAR Busch Series campaign as driver of the #33 Menards Chevrolet fielded by Andy Petree Racing with sights set firmly on Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.

-apr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Andy Petree , Paul Menard