NASCAR Preseason Fan Festival
January 17, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
RAMSEY POSTON: We're now joined in the infield media center by driver of the No. 98 Menard's Ford, Paul Menard. Tell us a little bit about your off-season and what you're looking forward to here in the 2009 season.
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, it's been a busy off-season. Obviously switching teams, switching manufacturers, had to trade in my Chevy for a Ford, building up the racing over at Yates, Larry Carter coming over from Roush-Fenway, getting to know him, good guy, bringing some people that he's worked with for a long time with him. So he's got some pretty talented guys from the 26 car that he's bringing over. Then we hired some new guys, and just trying to get everything squared away.
When you start with a new team, you have to do everything from the bottom up as far as myself, fire suits, gloves, driving shoes, helmet, everything is new, trying to get that all organized.
I got to spend a couple weeks out in Colorado skiing, a couple weeks in Wisconsin snowmobiling, and now we're back here. Did a couple days in Rockingham Thursday and Friday of this week, so it's good to get back behind the wheel. So this is my third day in a row at a racetrack, so it feels pretty good.
Q. Has any determination been made at Yates what the point affiliation will be for your team? Are you going to start from scratch? Are you going to get one of the other cars on points, and is there more concern or more excitement about starting out the year with a totally new bunch and how critical is it going to be to gel quickly with that group?
PAUL MENARD: As far as I know we're getting points so we'll be locked in. I'm not sure if it's 28 or 38 points, but one of them will slide over. Like I said, I've been getting to know Larry pretty well the last couple months, spent a lot of time together, and I think our communication clicked at our test the other day in Rockingham. Pretty important to start off on the right foot. This is one of the years where you'd like to be testing, a new team like this, just try to get to know everybody, know how they do things, everything from how they change a spring in the car to their simulation programs and trying to understand all that.
Luckily a lot of that stuff, I mean, like I said, Larry has been with these guys before, a lot of them. So he's pretty comfortable with how they work on the cars. I just have to get to know them a little bit better, and we'll do that throughout the year.
Q. Your dad was pretty visible when he was a team owner in IndyCars. What involvement in motorsports does he have now, and will he be around some with the NASCAR operation?
PAUL MENARD: Well, I mean, his involvement now is purely sponsorship. I mean, he doesn't own any race teams or anything. As a sponsor would do, he'd be interested in weekly performances, but also has very little say in the race team and operations, nor does he want to. I mean, that's why he sold his race team. He doesn't want to be a race car owner, he just wants to hang and have fun at the racetrack. When you're an owner that's not easy to do.
He enjoys racing. He's owned teams since before I was born and been involved with it as an owner and a driver for a long time, so he just enjoys the sport of racing.
Q. How close did you come ever to ending up on the IndyCar side?
PAUL MENARD: I mean, obviously that's what I grew up around, but man, I like to walk. Those guys, there's hardly an IndyCar driver out there that doesn't walk without a limp. I got to drive an IndyCar a few years ago in I think it was '02 out at Pike's Peak, and it was a great experience. It's hard to beat NASCAR racing. The way these guys drive, you have to drive them so hard, and they move around on you. It's almost like a bucking broncho, they're trying to pitch you off at any turn. IndyCars you had to be real smooth, real precise with, real line sensitive, and makes for great racing like at Texas Speedway, but most of the other tracks, the racing is by far better in NASCAR.
Q. You're going to have kind of a unique situation in your shop this year where Hall of Fame owns Bobby Labonte's car but Yates is going to operate it. How well do you know Bobby and are you looking forward to that relationship and working with him?
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, when I heard that they're working out of the same shop as us, that was pretty exciting news for me. I've got to know Bobby fairly well the last few years. Obviously I'll get to know him better now. But just a good, solid, humble guy. I mean, he's won 20-some races and a championship, and in talking to him you never would have known it just because he's not boastful about it. But he's got a quiet confidence about him, and I'm just looking forward to picking his brain.
I think he's -- as a teammate he'll be right in there with his sleeves rolled up and digging hard.
Q. Was there a point in your career when you thought that this was really a point where -- that you thought you really could do this, and then was there a point where you thought, this is really tough?
PAUL MENARD: When I was eight years old I figured I was pretty damned tough, when I first got in a race car, and it hasn't changed since. But this is the most competitive series in the world, I mean, more competitive than Formula One. It's just fun to be a part of. It's a headache at times and it's fun at times, so it's a really fun job.
Q. Are you going to do any Nationwide stuff this year, maybe something with Roush, or what's going on there?
PAUL MENARD: I'm actually going to run, I believe, 16 Nationwide races. It's going to be through Yates racing in affiliation with Roush. But it'll be an under the Yates banner. I think we're going to announce something this week as far as who the sponsor is, but it's pretty exciting.
Q. You mentioned that you tested a couple days ago at Rockingham. Do you have more testing scheduled here in the next month, and is your testing as much to try to get to know each other and how things work as it is to find speed?
PAUL MENARD: Yeah, I mean, we weren't testing at Rockingham to improve our California and Las Vegas setup. It was purely for Larry and myself to get to know each other, and the rest of the team to kind of shake off a little bit of rust, so the right hand knows what the left hand is doing when they're working underneath the car. It's the first time I've been in a race car since Homestead, so it was nice to get back to the racetrack. It was the third day in a row I've been at the racetrack, so it feels like the season is starting.
As far as future plans, I believe we have a day blocked off next Friday, again, at Rockingham. I'm not sure if we're going to use it or not. I'll have to wait until Monday to see.
RAMSEY POSTON: Thank you, Paul. Appreciate it.
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