Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 351 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s AAA Texas 500. This Chevrolet was last raced at Kansas Speedway in October where Menard drove it to his season-best finish of third. This chassis was also utilized at Atlanta Motor Speedway in September, where Menard started 18th and finished eighth, in numerous test sessions this year and was raced last season at Texas Motor Speedway (April – started 19th/finished fifth), Kansas Speedway (June – started ninth/finished 19th) and Dover International Speedway (October – started third/ finished 16th).
Slightly different colors on the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet in the Lone Star State … The No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet will sport a different look this weekend when the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Texas, carrying a special paint scheme of “Quaker State green” and “Menards yellow.”
Texas Tidbits …Menard will make his 217th Sprint Cup Series start this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
In 12 previous starts at TMS, Menard has earned one top-five and two top-10 finishes, completed 95.5 percent of his laps (3,836 of 4,018) and led for two circuits.
He has an average starting position of 19.6 and an average finishing position of 20.8, with his best finish of fifth coming in his April 2011 visit to the 1.5-mile facility.
Menard logged his best start of fourth in the 2011 AAA Texas 500 (November).
By the Numbers in 2012 … With 33 points-paying events of the 2012 season complete, 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 16.1, an average finishing position of 15.5, maintains an Average Running Position of 17.311 and has completed 99.6 percent of his laps (9,488 of 9,521), tying him for the most laps completed among all drivers.
There’s No Place Like Home … Traveling to TMS takes No. 27 team mechanic and interior specialist Chad Tigert as close to the Sooner State as the Sprint Cup Series gets. Though Tigert now calls North Carolina “home,” he is originally from Caney, Okla., located two hours northeast of the Fort Worth, Texas-based motorsports facility.
Race Rewind to 2011 … Menard and the Quaker State/Menards team started from the fourth position and brought the No. 27 Chevrolet home with a top-15 result in the 2011 AAA Texas 500, taking every opportunity to adjust the car’s handling as the track’s conditions changed with the dipping sun in the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
In the Rearview Mirror: Martinsville Speedway … Menard started the No. 27 Zecol/Menards Chevrolet from the ninth position in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 and persevered through handling challenges to earn a 12th-place finish, his career-best at Martinsville Speedway.
You recently tested the 2013 Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway. Will that test help you out as you head to TMS with the current Chevrolet? “Testing the 2013 Chevrolet at Texas (Motor Speedway) won’t help us as much as if we’d had the real car that we were racing this weekend, but any time you can log laps around a race track and collect data, you can apply it to what you’re doing. It wasn’t as beneficial, but we learned some things.”
You have finished as high as fifth at the Fort Worth, Texas-based race track. Is it a track that you like? “Texas (Motor Speedway) is one of my favorite tracks. If Atlanta (Motor Speedway) is the best track to race at, Texas is right up there with it because it is worn out. Tires give up, and anytime that happens, it makes the racing good because you can move your car around and find where it works the best.”
Talk about the challenges of getting out of turn two and getting down the backstretch at Texas Motor Speedway. “Coming out of turn two you lose the banking real quick so, you drive it really low off of the corner. Of course, that’s not always possible and the higher you get the more the transition is from banking to the flat straightaway. It’s a tough place; a tough corner.”
During the NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Texas Motor Speedway in April you led 100 of the 200 laps but finished second. Is it easy to lose sight of how great of a run you had when you come up one lap short? “Yes. It was frustrating because we were leading and probably would have won the race but the lights went out and then we had a late caution after that. But, it’s part of the deal. We probably had the best car. Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) came on really strong at the end. It was kind of a two-horse race.”
What is the toughest part about racing at Texas Motor Speedway? “Texas Motor Speedway is bumpy and worn out, which is good. During the transition off of turn two you lose a lot of grip on exit. Every place that there is a tunnel there’s a huge bump and everywhere there isn’t a tunnel there are still bumps, so you have to have a good shock package. You need to have a good aero package because you’re running 200 mph in turn one and trying to keep the tires under you.”