The Frontstretch: Driver Review: Paul Menard by Kathy Grindle -- Thursday December 20, 2007

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Driver Review: Paul Menard

Kathy Grindle · Thursday December 20, 2007

 

Paul Menard
2007 Ride: No. 15 Ginn Racing / Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
2007 Primary Sponsor: Menards
2007 Owners: Teresa Earnhardt (Feb. – July); Bobby Ginn / Teresa Earnhardt (July – Nov.)
2007 Crew Chief: Tony Eury, Sr. (Feb. – June); Dave Charpentier (June – Nov.)

2007 Stats: 30 Starts, 0 Wins, 0 Top 5s, 0 Top 10s, 34th in points.
Best Finish: 12th: Michigan – June.
Average Finish: 27th place.

High Point: Menard's best finish of the season was at Michigan International Speedway, where he finished a career-high 12th in the Citizens Bank 400. Starting back in 38th, he methodically worked his way up through the pack, even leading a lap in the process – one of only three he’d lead all season in the Cup Series.

Low Point: With this being Menard's rookie year, it hardly seems fair to pick on the guy for his low points – but 2007 was less than mediocre. A preseason darkhorse for Rookie Of The Year, he was only the highest rookie finisher four times, chump change compared to winner Juan Pablo Montoya's 16 and David Ragan's 14. In general, solid finishes were hard to come by; the No. 15 went the final fourteen races of the year without a Top 20 result.

Menard also had a heck of a time qualifying early in the year; he missed six of the first sixteen races, including the prestigious Daytona 500. Things got so bad, it took a merger with Ginn Racing at Indianapolis for Menard to get a guaranteed spot in the field; DEI took the owner points from one of that team’s guaranteed cars (the No. 14) and transferred it over to Menard, forcefully stopping those dreaded DNQs.

Summary: Menard's year clearly didn’t turn out as planned after moving up from NASCAR Busch Series competition. Longtime DEI supporter Tony Eury, Sr. was out as crew chief by June, and the chemistry between Menard and replacement Dave Charpentier just never happened. Even when things did go right, parts and pieces went wrong; the rookie scored two DNFs and several more poor finishes because of mechanical failure, something that heavily plagued DEI for much of the season.

Despite Menard's low race finishes, however, he did prove himself to be a skilled and patient driver that rarely tore up his equipment. He played it cool throughout the season and earned the respect of his peers by not wrecking other cars on the track each week.

Menard (left) talks strategy with teammate Mark Martin earlier this season – the sophomore-to-be hopes the 35-time winner can help him improve on a disappointing start to his Cup career.

2008 Outlook: Changes are happening for Menard's No. 15 team heading into next season. Charpentier has been promoted to technical director, and DEI has hired Doug Randolph to replace him. Randolph was former crew chief for the No. 43, spending four months helping Bobby Labonte over at Petty Enterprises.

With a Top 35 exemption entering next year, Menard can wipe the chalkboard of his rookie season clean and get a fresh new start. If he can continue to stay out of trouble on the track and keep getting the experience, this sophomore may start to surprise us with steady top 20 finishes.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: N/A.
2007 Grade: C-.

Editor's Note : The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close - which means it's time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from A.J. Allmendinger to J.J. Yeley. Want to know when your favorite driver's getting featured? Check out this link for our writing schedule, and be sure to keep coming in every weekday this offseason for even more original content by the Frontstretch!

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James Collins
12/21/2007 06:12 PM
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Tony Stewart hit the nail on the head when he said Paul Menard was a rich boy using Daddy’s money to play racecar driver. The guy ran like crap in the Busch series and still got bumped up into the Cup. The only time he’s ever ran as a frontwinner was superspeedway races in Busch. The guys had enough chances with talented/accomplished drivers like Sterling Marlin getting bumped from their rides I think it’s time to call Menard out on this. He can’t drive a racecar. I applaud your neutrality however because I personally find it hard not to blatantly say the guy doesn’t have the talent.

Evan Oslund
12/21/2007 06:35 PM
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James,

Menard did win a Busch race in 2006 that was not on a road course. And Tony Stewart will tear people up in or out of their racecars, we’ve seen this before and it’s a guarentee that it will happen again. You are correct in saying that Menard is mediocre at best…so far. It’s not like the kid’s been racing forever, this was his first full-time season in Cup; and you talk like he’s a veteran. Leave the kid alone, he has room to grow in Cup; and DEI saw this whenever he finished 8th in Busch points in 2006. THIS is what brought him to Cup, not daddy’s money.

No fan of DEI
12/22/2007 10:14 AM
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Considering that Menard’s final Busch season was the season overly-heavy with Cup drivers, Paul held his own. Perhaps you weren’t aware that he was the top finishing Busch-only driver in 2006? Given the DEI mechanical woes of last season, at least he has a top 35 position in points. There are veterans who’d like to be able to say that.

scottb
12/25/2007 05:35 PM
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James,

I have to agree with you. This kid is in Cup becuase his family’s money is sponsoring the car. He’s not awful, but he’s not as talented as some drivers who are currently rideless. It can’t last forever.

Anybody remember Brent Sherman’s run at Cup?