Click here to visit the Motorsports page for all the latest news and information.
DEARBORN -- Paul Menard, driver of the No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion, is coming off a fifth-place run at Atlanta Motor Speedway – the best non-restrictor plate finish of his career – and sits ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings heading into Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Menard, who also stands ninth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, spoke about his early success.
Q. THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF POTENTIAL DISTRACTIONS – FROM THE MERGER TO THE SHOP PHYSICALLY MOVING FROM STATESVILLE TO CONCORD, NC. – BUT NONE OF THAT HAS SEEMED TO BE A PROBLEM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AS A WHOLE. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO OVERCOME THAT?
A. It worked out a lot smoother than anybody really probably thought it would because with Yates being in Concord and then merging with RPM, everything moved to Statesville for a couple of months. We all moved back to Concord during Speedweeks, so it could have been a recipe for disaster but that didn’t happen because of all the hard work everyone did within the organization. It would have been very easy to get behind and not make the improvements we needed, but everybody stepped up and made the transition pretty seamless and, in the process, improved the cars.
Q. HAS ANYTHING CHANGED OVER THE LAST YEAR OR SO AS FAR AS HOW YOU DRIVE OR YOUR APPROACH TO THESE RACES?
A. No. It’s the same deal where I go out and the biggest thing is to just make sure you’re there at the end. That’s something I’ve always tried to do because you can’t score any points if you’re sitting on jack stands in the garage. You give-and-take a lot in the early stages and then do more taking at the end.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR EMOTIONS PERSONALLY WITH YOUR SUCCESS THESE FIRST FOUR RACES?
A. I feel like we still have work to do and it’s not gonna get any easier. I don’t sit back and think about all that stuff. I realize that it’s a tough job and we’ve got to work hard to keep it up.
Q. THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO ARE PROBABLY SAYING THAT YOU CAN’T KEEP THIS UP AND WON’T STAY IN THE TOP 10. WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO TRY AND PROVE THOSE PEOPLE WRONG?
A. I don’t want to prove anybody wrong. I’ve got nothing to prove. I just want to go out and do the best job I can, along with the race team. Everybody who support us – from the team owner to the driver to the crew chief to the mechanics – they live and breathe racing and they’re competitive people. Nobody wants to give a half-hearted effort. Everybody wants to go as hard as they can and that’s what we’re doing.
Q. DO YOU FEEL THIS IS A BREAKOUT YEAR FOR YOU?
A. I haven’t thought about it, honestly. It’s just another year and we’re working hard to do the best we can.
Q. IS IT TOO SIMPLE TO LOOK AT THE PERFORMANCE AND SAY THAT SLUGGER LABBE BECOMING YOUR CREW CHIEF IS THE DIFFERENCE?
A. It’s obviously a team effort, but it starts with the chief and that’s Slugger. He gets the guys fired up and they rally around him. He utilizes the tools that he has and makes fast race cars.
Q. YOU, GREG BIFFLE AND KEVIN HARVICK ARE ALL IN THE TOP 10 IN BOTH CUP AND NATIONWIDE. DOES RUNNING NATIONWIDE FULL-TIME HELP YOU IN CUP?
A. The race on Saturday definitely translates to Sunday. Probably the hardest part about doing both is on Friday when you have to jump back and forth between both cars. You get out of your Nationwide car and then jump in your Cup car and go qualify. That’s the hardest part, but it all pays off on Saturday when you’re racing 200 or 300 miles on a race track you’re gonna see again the next day.
Q. BRISTOL AND MARTINSVILLE ARE COMING UP. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THOSE SHORT TRACKS?
A. I’m looking forward to it. We haven’t run a short track yet this year, so I’m really eager to see how the car unloads. If it’s anything like the previous four races, it’ll be fast off the truck and then all we have to do is fine-tune it. Since it’s the first short track race there will be a lot of unknowns, but I really enjoy Bristol. Martinsville is more of a survival race, but they’re two tracks I enjoy going to every year and racing.
Q. YOU MENTIONED THAT THE FIRST FOUR RACES HAVE BEEN INCIDENT-FREE FOR YOU. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THESE NEXT TWO SHORT TRACKS?
A. It’s really no different than Atlanta or even Daytona. Daytona is probably the most comparable because you run so close and are in such tight quarters that if anybody makes a mistake, it generally collects a couple people. You have to be aware of your surroundings and put yourself in smart positions and just try to survive.