Ever watch a NASCAR race and wonder how certain drivers always manage to find a ride no matter how poorly they do on the track? I have. Two drivers in certain ranks of NASCAR have intrigued me in particular.
The first is Paul Menard. Menard has been working his way up through the NASCAR ranks and has actually had some success in the Sprint Cup series, picking up his first ever win at Indianapolis last year. For years there were people who wondered how that could ever happen. That success was not entirely due to Paul Menard’s driving talent (which has improved enough to get him one win in his career) but mostly due to the undying support of his sponsor, Menard’s Home Improvement.
|A Menard’s Home Improvement store.|
Menard’s Home Improvement is privately owned by Paul’s father John. When Paul needed a sponsor to go racing, Menard’s was right there ready to back him up through thick and thin. Little did Paul know that there would be a lot of thin times throughout his NASCAR racing career which first started in the Nationwide Series with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
|Paul Menard’s #11 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Busch (Nationwide) Series car.|
After nothing notable happened in the Nationwide Series (then called Busch series) after a few seasons (between 2002 and 2003), Menard would eventually catch a break when Dale Earnhardt Inc when Michael Waltrip left that team to form his own. Paul Menard and Menard’s Home Improvement would fill the void.
|Paul Menard’s #15 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Sprint Cup Series Car.|
Paul Menard’s introduction to the Sprint Cup series was much the same results as their Busch series program. That meant there was not much to get excited about in four seasons of racing for Dale Earnhardt Inc. at NASCAR’s top level from 2004 to 2008. (He also made Busch Series starts for that #11 team on occasion during this time).
After four years of relative disappointment Dale Earnhardt Inc. realized that Paul Menard was not the chosen one. Subsequently, Menard was released. Menard’s went with him as well, so Paul had no trouble picking up a ride with Robert Yates Racing…which was subsequently absorbed by Richard Petty Motorsports. (Menard kept the same number while driving for both of these teams.
After even more disappointment driving for Ford teams, Paul Menard would catch his big break in the 2010 season when he would drive the #27 Menard’s Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Menard would go on to have two of the most successful seasons of his career, topping things off with a win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season.
|John Wes Townley’s Richard Childress Racing car.|
|John Wes Townley’s RAB Racing car (#09)|
Often for teams to keep competitive sponsors involved with their organizations they need to have drivers who are consistent all the time. However, in the case of Menard and Townley…they only have to race hard enough to keep their fathers happy. It is obvious that Zaxby’s and Menard’s are not pressuring either of their drivers to be champions just yet as they know that there is still learning to be done. It’s great to have a sponsor that will stick with you when you’re a race car driver.