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2012 Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis): Paul Menard NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Preview
Posted by: newsla on Jul 26, 2012 - 09:21 AM
2012 Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis): Paul Menard NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Preview

This Week's NIBCO/Menards Chevrolet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 380 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was built new for the 2012 season and will be utilized in competition for the first time at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.


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Back to the Scene of the First Win ... Menard made history in the 2011 Brickyard 400, becoming the first driver to earn his first career Sprint Cup Series win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The victory proved to be emotional for the entire Menard family after having a presence at the historic track for more than 35 years. Despite a number of IndyCar championships as a team owner, it was son Paul who delivered John Menard his first trip to kneel and kiss the famous yard of bricks.

By the Numbers at Indy ... In five previous starts at the Speedway, Ind.-based track, Menard has completed 94.5 percent of his laps (756 of 800). He has an average starting position of 26.8 and a 21st-place average finishing position. He claimed his best starting position of 15th and finished first in his last visit to the famed 2.5-mile flat oval (July 2011).

Getting Loopy in 2012 ... With 19 points-paying events of the 2012 season complete, Menard sits 15th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, 79 points out of the final Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup spot. In his sophomore season with RCR, Menard has an average starting position of 17.8, a 16th-place average finishing position, maintains an average running position of 18.5, and has completed 99.6 percent of his laps (5,468 of 5,488), the fifth-best of all drivers.

Menards is a familiar sight at IMS ... Entries fielded by Team Menard, owned by Menards founder and owner, John Menard, were fixtures at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway long before NASCAR made its first visit to the Brickyard in 1994. The first Menards open-wheel entry that qualified for the Indianapolis 500 was driven by another Eau Claire, Wis., native, Herm Johnson, in 1982, earning a ninth-place finish. Johnson followed up his rookie performance with a top 10 in 1984. Another notable performance came in 1995 (and was repeated in 1996) when Scott Brayton claimed the pole position for the historic event. Other well-known wheel men who drove for Team Menard at Indy include Nelson Piquet, Al Unser, Eddie Cheever, Arie Luyendyk and Buddy Lazier. With the CART-Indy Racing League split in 1996, Team Menard joined the IRL full time, winning back-to-back championships with Tony Stewart in 1996 and 1997. Greg Ray brought the team their third championship title in 1999. In 2004, Team Menard merged with Panther Racing, with Menard eventually withdrawing from motorsports as team owner. Today, the recognizable neon yellow paint scheme adorns entries in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (No. 27 Chevrolet), Nationwide Series (No. 33 Chevrolet), and Camping World Truck Series (No. 88 Chevrolet Silverado) and the No. 44 entry in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.

Double Duty Weekend ... In addition to his driving duties with the No. 27 Sprint Cup Series team, Menard is scheduled to drive the No. 33 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet for RCR in Saturday's 250-mile Nationwide Series race at IMS. The event will air live on ESPN at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

Meet Menard ... Menard is scheduled to meet with fans and sign autographs alongside NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Matt Crafton and ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards driver Frank Kimmel at the Menards in Avon, Ind. on Thursday, July 26, from 7-8 p.m. ET. The home improvement store is located at 10555 East U.S. Hwy 36. In addition to the Menards show cars, the 2011 Brickyard 400 race-winning trophy will be on display and available to fans for pictures. There will also be opportunities to win general admission tickets to Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race. Details will be released on Twitter via @RCR27PMenard.

Miss Sprint Cup Chat with Paul ... The Eau Claire, Wis., native will participate in a NASCAR.COM Chat with Miss Sprint Cup, Jaclyn Roney, which will be streamed live to the NASCAR.COM homepage on Friday, July 27 at 11:15 a.m. ET. Fans will have the ability to log-in during the chat and ask Menard questions. Menard is also scheduled to participate in a Q&A session with Miss Sprint Cup at the Sprint Fan Experience display on Sunday, July 29 at 9:50 a.m. ET.

Bowties at the Brickyard ... Menard will join all Team Chevy drivers on Friday, July 27 for Chevy Day at the Brickyard. Fan-friendly activities that the 2011 Brickyard 400 Champion will be participating in include a Q&A session from 11:45-11:55 a.m. at the Team Chevy Stage and an autograph session from 12:50-1:45 p.m. Menard will also participate in a Q&A session on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. at the Team Chevy Stage.

Native "Hoosier" Returns Home ... Spotter Stevie Reeves grew up blocks from IMS' turn three in Speedway, Ind. Reeves grew up racing the bullrings (short tracks) of Indiana, then traveled nationally with the United States Automobile Club, winning back-to-back USAC National Midget titles in 1992 and 1993. His career behind the wheel included competition in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the Indy Racing League and the USAC Silver Crown Series. Reeves got his start as a spotter when Ernie Irvan needed help during a 1999 race, and has been doing it ever since.

Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3 ... Menard and the No. 27 team will travel from Indianapolis to the Irish Hills of Michigan following Sunday's race to participate in a Goodyear tire test session at Michigan International Speedway on Monday, July 30. They will utilize chassis No. 328 from the RCR stable, which was used in competition at Kentucky Speedway in June.

In the Rearview Mirror: New Hampshire Motor Speedway ... Menard started the No. 27 Duracell/Menards Chevrolet from the 13th position and battled handling issues throughout the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 before finishing17th.

About NIBCO ... NIBCO is a recognized industry leader of flow control solutions to the residential and commercial construction, institutional, industrial, fire protection and irrigation markets. Headquartered in Northern Indiana, NIBCO has more than 107 years of manufacturing history with products ranging from valves, actuation, metal and plastic fittings, PEX piping systems, lead-free* fittings and valves, and industrial plastics. Serving a global marketplace, NIBCO operates 10 manufacturing plants throughout the United States, Mexico and Poland. Visit www.NIBCO.com for more information. *≤0.25% lead content.

One of the coolest stories last year was you winning the Brickyard 400. Any race you got back to as the defending winner is a cool thing, but given the history there with your family, how much are you looking forward to going back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
"Obviously, you're going to have a little more bounce to your step. Not just me, but the entire No. 27 NIBCO/Menards team will. You get to see the billboards hanging up. I've heard there's a big picture on the Pagoda. Stuff like that is going to be neat, but I have gone through that tunnel between turns one and two for years and I always get goose bumps. That's never going to change."

What are your lasting memories of last year's win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
"There are a lot of pictures and memorabilia that remind me of that day, because at the time it was very surreal. Seeing everyone's faces in Victory Lane, riding around the track in the convertible with Richard (Childress, team owner) and my dad (John Menard) and kissing the bricks with everyone from RCR. There are a lot of great memories."

You're not an emotional guy, but how emotional did you find yourself after winning such a big race?
"I was as happy as anyone can be when you win the race that you wanted to win the most. It makes you want to go do it again."

When did it hit you?
"There was so much going on from the time I got out of the car to the time we got on the plane. I think it started to sink in when I finally got home."

How satisfying was it to win the Brickyard 400, not only for yourself, but for your dad and your entire family?
"My dad has been trying to win at Indianapolis (Motor Speedway) for longer than I've been alive. I spent a lot of years there as a kid with my brother, sister, my uncle and my cousins. A lot of them were there that day, too. This was a win that the entire family had wanted for a long time, and now we have it."

What was going through your mind in the final laps of the 2011 Brickyard 400?
"It was a busy final 20 laps. Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) was keeping me abreast of where the No. 24 car was because he (Jeff Gordon) was coming fast. I was basically trying to not run out of fuel and do everything I could to maintain speed, using as little fuel as necessary. The last couple of laps it was all or nothing. If we were going to run out, we were going to run out trying to get the win. We made it to the end, made another lap around the track and did a couple of burnouts."

You didn't really have time to think about how big of a win it was going to be, did you?
"No, you'd probably crash if you did something like that."

What did you think of the end of Indianapolis 500 this year? Do you think we'll see something like that in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday?
"I thought it was a great finish. I think they set a record for lead changes and it seemed like the drivers really liked it, too. If the drivers like a new car, that's pretty important, and they seemed to be pretty excited about it. I don't think the Sprint Cup Series race will be three wide coming to the finish like it was in that race, but who knows? Anything can happen."

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