Former Brickyard champ Menard hopes to continue family’s big year at IMS

Published On July 23, 2016 » 2151 Views» By Phillip B. Wilson » Blogs, Brickyard 400, IMS

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Paul Menard has a unique architectural design in mind for the driveway of his future home, one that will always remind the 2011 Brickyard 400 winner of his memorable ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I’ve got to get a picture of the Yard of Bricks because when I build a house here in the next few years, I want to put a Yard of Bricks in my driveway,” Menard said last week during testing at IMS. “So I’ve got to get those specs right, how many bricks it is specifically to make it right. When I’m done here, I’m going to go take a picture of that.”

His kiss of those bricks represents Menard’s only Sprint Cup Series win in 347 career starts entering Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard. But it’s special for more than that reason. The son of longtime Indy car series owner John Menard grew up watching his father’s cars race at IMS.

When John Menard was mulling an opportunity to sponsor a Roger Penske car driven by Simon Pagenaud for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 as well as other races, Paul offered his two cents on John returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series as a part-time primary sponsor.

“He was going back and forth on whether or not to do the deal,” Paul said. “I’m like, ‘Dad, it’s Roger Penske’s 50th year (at IMS), it’s the 100th Running of the Indy 500, you’d be silly not to do it.’

“The whole split back in ’95-’96, then all the politics in the 2000s really gave him a sour taste in his mouth for the whole sport, but he was more excited than I’ve ever seen him coming to Indy. He was definitely excited about it. And Simon (Pagenaud) is leading the points this year.”

Five years after celebrating his son’s Brickyard win, an emotional John Menard was back in Victory Lane in May after Pagenaud won the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The elder Menard never won a race at IMS as a team owner. Pagenaud is enjoying a breakthrough season as the series points leader.

“I’m definitely pulling for Simon to win the championship,” Paul Menard said. “We’ll have a sticker on there somewhere.”

As for his own driving aspirations, Paul concedes he’s not where he had hoped to be this season. The 35-year-old driver made The Chase for the first time last season, but is 23rd in points in 2016. He’ll need a win in the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to make The Chase this time.

“Our mind-set is that we have to win to get into The Chase and what better place than Indianapolis,” he said. “It’s obviously a special place for a lot of people, myself even more so than some because of just all the time I spent here as a kid watching Indy car races and I was at the inaugural Brickyard 400.

“I thought we had a good opportunity in Kentucky to maybe sneak one out with fuel mileage but it didn’t work out. We’ve got a couple more opportunities until The Chase starts and Indy is definitely circled.”

Menard doesn’t mince words when summing up his Sprint Cup career.

“We haven’t won a race since then in Sprint Cup,” he said, in reference to the 2011 Brickyard 400. “We made The Chase last year. That’s always a good accomplishment, but winning races is what it’s all about. That’s why we’re here. Making Chases don’t make your career, it’s winning races and that’s something we’ve got to work on.

“Everybody is pushing to make The Chase. It’s no different if you’re in the top 10 without a win or you’re 29th. Tony Stewart, for example, wasn’t even in the top 30. He won a race and as long as he maintains top 30, he’s going to be in The Chase. It’s throughout the field. Everybody every week has got points on their mind, they’ve got strategies on what can you do to pull out a win and obviously the preparation at the shop to get fast cars every week, to run up front, to be in the top five and contend for wins. It’s the same mentality throughout the field where the top 30 in points all have the opportunity to be in The Chase if they can get a win.”

Another Brickyard victory could also help Paul Menard’s future. His contract is up for renewal on Aug. 1 and “nothing is ironed out.”

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Phillip B. Wilson

Phillip B. Wilson came to the Indianapolis 500 as a kid, got hooked and has been coming back every year since. He considers himself lucky to have covered the race for two decades for The Indianapolis Star. In August 2014, he joined the Scout online network as publisher of ColtsBlitz.com and PacersPress.com Web pages. But May is his favorite time of year. He can't be more ecstatic about his second year working for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a correspondent.
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