Five questions with NASCAR driver Paul Menard

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 1, 2019 at 6:37 PM

Paul Menard is the driver of the legendary No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit.

The 38-year-old Wisconsin native has one career win at the Cup level, although it came on one of the series’ marquee venues: the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Menard would love to win at another marquee venue, Bristol Motor Speedway, in Sunday’s Food City 500.

Currently 21st in the NASCAR points standings, Menard qualified seventh and finished 13th in last year’s Food City 500. Overall, his best Bristol finish is fifth, which occurred in the 2011 version of the race.

When you think about Bristol, what’s your fondest memory?

“The one that really stands out was when I first drove it in probably 2004. It was the old surface and I went up for a test with (crew chief) Andy Petree. I made five or 10 laps and thought there is no way you can get 40 other cars on here and race. Once you get into the race, everything kind of slows down and it’s all relative. It’s definitely one of the few tracks on the circuit that takes your breath away.”

The new surface at Bristol, is it more racy than in the past?

“There are definitely more options than the old surface where you stuck to the bottom. There was no outside groove. With the new surface, you qualify on the bottom and as the race goes on, you can migrate up to the wall. As the race wears on, I would definitely say it’s a more racy surface.”

Your view of the track, is it a favorite or one of your toughest?

“It’s a favorite for sure, a throwback to what we all grew up racing on, short tracks, except there’s a lot more banking and it’s way faster. I’m curious to see how fast we’re going to be in qualifying with 750 horsepower and all this downforce. I definitely see the potential for a new track record.”

Does NASCAR’s new aerodynamic package provide different mechanics around the track?

“You have a lot more grip by yourself, but the grip goes away quickly when you’re behind another car. There is a pretty substantial aero shift and a grip loss because of the tendencies of the new package.”

What does it mean to be racing for Wood Brothers in the No. 21 car?

“They’re great people, a great family, and we’re trying to honor Mr. Glen Wood the best we can after we lost him back in January. They’re the pioneers of our sport and they’re just great people to work with.”

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