Originally written October 23, 2012 on Start 'N' Park Blog:
Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 349 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Tums Fast Relief 500. This Chevrolet was last raced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September, where Menard started seventh and finished 12th, his career-best result at the one-mile race track. This chassis was also utilized this season at Martinsville Speedway (April – started 11th/finished 26th) and at New Hampshire in July (started 13th/ finished 17th). By the Numbers at Martinsville … In 10 previous starts at Martinsville Speedway, Menard has completed 94.9 percent of his laps (4,779 of 5,034), has an average starting position of 23.4 and a 23rd-place average finishing position. His best finish of 13th came in the October 2010 event and his best start at the 0.526-mile speedway came in March 2010 when he took the green flag in the ninth position. By the Numbers in 2012 … With 32 points-paying events of the 2012 season completed, Menard sits 16th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings on the merit of one top-five and eight top-10 finishes. In his sophomore season with RCR, Menard has an average starting position of 16.3, an average finishing position of 15.6, maintains an Average Running Position of 17.279 and has completed 99.6 percent of his laps (8,988 of 9,021), the third-best of all drivers. Virginia is for…racing! … No. 27 Zecol/Menards team tire specialist Chris Sherwood is a Portsmouth, Va., native, growing up four hours east of the Martinsville, Va.-based facility. Race Rewind to 2011 … Menard and the No. 27 Richmond/Menards team escaped the 2011 action-packed fall race at Martinsville Speedway with a top-25 finish. Menard started the 500-lap race from the 21st position and by the event’s midpoint, handling had improved on the No. 27 machine and he was scored 15th in the running order. Contact on lap 425 with another competitor left Menard’s yellow No. 27 racer with significant right-side damage. Menard spent the remainder of the race trying to secure track position and ultimately earned a 24th-place result. In the Rearview Mirror: Kansas Speedway …Menard took what he learned of the new track surface at Kansas Speedway during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday and, with crew chief Slugger Labbe back on top of the pit box after a six-week hiatus, turned it into a very strong third-place finish in the Kansas 400 Sprint Cup Series race. As we head to Martinsville Speedway for the last short-track race of the year, how do you feel the No. 27 Chevrolet team has performed on the short tracks this season? “Our short-track program has been our weakness this year. We’ve had good speed at Martinsville (Speedway) in the past, however, it’s just a game of track position – when to pit, when not to and when to put tires on. We’ve had fast cars; it’s just a matter of making the right adjustments, me giving the right feedback and Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) making the right calls to pit when we need to and stay out when we don’t in order to get the finish we should.” You grew up racing on short tracks. How come Martinsville Speedway is so difficult for drivers to ‘figure out’? “The track (Martinsville Speedway) itself is pretty straightforward. It’s pretty easy to drive, to be honest. What makes it difficult is it is a 500-lap race and you have only one lane with 43 cars on the track. It becomes a game of bumper cars for the most part, and it is very easy to get shuffled out of line and to lose a lot of spots.” How difficult is it to get into a rhythm at Martinsville Speedway? “It is really hard to get into a rhythm when you’re surrounded by other cars for 500 laps. You can get into a rhythm for a couple of laps, but then it gets broken when you try to pass someone or you’re getting passed. It’s an ongoing battle. If you have space, you can get back into your rhythm. But, if you don’t have space, you can’t be in a rhythm.” Last year’s race at Martinsville Speedway got pretty physical. Were you surprised that there were so many crashes in that event? “It didn’t surprise me at all. I’m actually surprised that we don’t have more crashes (at Martinsville Speedway) with as little room as there is and how much is at stake when we go there in the fall.” Where does Martinsville Speedway rank in race tracks for you? Do you dread going there? “I don’t really care one way or another, honestly. It’s not my favorite track, but it’s not my least favorite either.”
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