Wait a minute…Paul Menard, daddy’s boy, and Kevin Harvick, heir to the Intimidator’s own ride at Richard Childress Racing?
How are we even comparing these two in the same sentence, much less implying that Menard may have surpassed Harvick?
Strange as it may sound, that’s exactly what seems to be in the process of taking place, week by week as the action unfolds on the track.
Look at the season stats. Four top-10′s for Menard to two for Harvick. Both are in Chase position, but Menard sits in eighth place looking down on Harvick in 12th. Menard’s worst finish this year is 26th, while Harvick has two finishes of 40th or worse.
Yes, Harvick does have one win to none for Menard, but neither has led more than a handful of laps.
Menard has often been overlooked because of the fact that he wouldn’t be driving Sprint Cup cars were it not for the sponsorship of his dad’s home improvement store chain. That may be true, but it’s also true that the man can drive.
Remember his Brickyard 400 win where he somehow managed to stay in front of Jeff Gordon (a beast at IMS), despite having much older tires and fuel conservation concerns? That was no fluke.
And as a matter of fact, he has out-driven Kevin Harvick for a win once before, at the Milwaukee Mile in the then-Busch Series in 2006. That was the first NASCAR race I attended, and boy was it a memorable one.
If Menard and crew chief Slugger Labbe ever figure out how to duplicate Harvick’s penchant for driving his car fastest in the closing laps of races, they would be a threat for wins on a weekly basis.
One thing you can count on from Menard, like his fellow Wisconsinite Matt Kenseth, is consistency. The yellow Menards car invariably hangs around the top 10 or 15 all day, and if the folks at RCR can take that late-race magic switch from the No. 29 and have it installed in the No. 27, look out.
All right, you say, but come on: Harvick is a lame duck at RCR and his career will take off again once he moves to the greener pastures at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
Not so fast. Tony Stewart especially and SHR as a whole have struggled mightily to adapt to the Gen-6 car this season. And Harvick is no spring chicken. Racers can run well into their forties, but age is definitely on Menard’s side. At 32, he’s just entering into his prime years of competition, while Harvick is already pushing 40.
Am I saying that Paul Menard will have a better career than Harvick, who has 20 wins and two third-place championship finishes?
No. But from here on out, don’t be surprised if Menard will out-drive his soon-to-be-former teammate.
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