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, zero wins, zero top fives, zero top 10s, 34th in points.
Best Finish: 12th: Michigan – June.
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 14 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 16 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.
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 AJ Allmendinger to JJ Yeley.