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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brickyard win shows Paul Menard is more than just his daddy's money

A name can mean a lot in life.
Sometimes it can bring you success you do not deserve, other times it can take away success you might have achieved.
And in the sports world, including NASCAR – a name often comes with expectations. Kyle Petty was inevitably going to be compared to King Richard, which I would argue is unfair. Same for Dale Jr.
Then there is the curious case of Paul Menard. His dad was not a 7-time Cup champ … No, he is just a billionaire. One of the richest men on the entire planet, which isn’t easy to do.
A side effect of being so rich is that you can pursue your dreams, and your children can be a part of those dreams. For John Menard, those dreams are racing glory, at Indy and elsewhere.
For many years, John’s son Paul Menard has been trying to become a Cup star, but had little success to show for it.
In the process, he has had to endure a reputation that he must have resented … as many people thought of him as someone unworthy of a ride in the Cup series, who was there only because his daddy had money.
I will admit that I made this very comment many times as he struggled throughout his Cup career, and wondered whether he could make the leap to competitive driving in the top level of NASCAR.

Move to Childress
I remember last year when Menard first announced his move to Richard Childress Racing, as the fourth team, of course bringing his father’s sponsorship money along with him.
At the press conference, many of the questions were of a nature that questioned the decision by RCR. Was Menard worthy of a ride with a top NASCAR team? Was the deal all about his dad’s money?, etc.
You could tell Menard was a little annoyed answering the same questions he’s heard for years, but at the same time he seemed eager to prove everyone wrong

Winner at last
As the early part of the season wore on, people started to notice Menard. He put together some good runs, in part because he was finally in equipment that finally could compete, and in part because he had matured as a driver over the past handful of years. People started to mention him as a possible winner, something that had never really been said about him in the past.
And that win finally came Sunday at the Brickyard – the second biggest stage on the NASCAR circuit. The win was even more special due to the fact that John Menard had tried so long to sponsor a winning driver in the Indy 500, and the Brickyard success he had so long hoped for finally came via his son and NASCAR.
Of course, the rce came down to fuel mileage, a point of contention that some fans will use to continue saying that Menard is not yet a proven winner. But the thing about fuel mileage racing is that in order to win one, you have to be up front to begin with. In his past years, Menard would have been running in 25th, not the top 10, and wouldn’t have a shot at winning, even in a fuel mileage situation. So the doubters on this point are off base I my opinion.
And beyond that, a simple look at Menard’s numbers for the year tell the tale. In 20 races so far, he has 4 top 5s and 6 top 10s, which shows he has been competitive moreso than he ever has been in his career. In 147 races prior to 2011, he had 2 top 5s and 8 top 10s. (and most of that came in 2010, with just 1 top 5 and 1 top 10 prior to last year).

Chase contender
Paul Menard, at this moment, would make the Chase. This is something almost no one would have predicted at the start of the year. I’m not saying he’s going to win a bunch more races and contend for a title, but there is no denying he is now a presence in the sport. All those who questioned whether he was worthy of a Childress ride … including myself at times … are now being shown that he is.
And good for him. Like I said, a name can mean a lot, and for Paul Menard his name has meant a lot of doubt about his worthinesss as a competitor in NASCAR. To see him succeed on such a big stage, with the promise for a bright career in the future, is something that the entire garage seems happy about, as many of his competitors have known for years that he had the potential to do very well in the right equipment.
Now, if Menard is running up front in future weeks, we won’t think it’s a fluke or a strange occurrence, and we’ll actually believe he can win.
I still doubt he’ll become a superstar and win tons of races or compete for titles with Jimmie Johnson and the like, but one thing is for sure now in my mind: Paul Menard is not just in a racecar because of his daddy’s money. The boy knows what he’s doing on the track, and everyone should recognize that by now.

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Blogger Tank said...

C'mon let's not get carried away with the guy that drives daddy's car. He has done nothing in nascar until sunday. He would be sweeping the floors at Home Depot if it weren't for being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile. He is the next Michael Waltrip, can't win on a track that takes talent. Fuel milage win, what a joke!!

August 4, 2011 at 8:30 AM 

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