Omnicraft – NASCAR Notes & Quotes – Paul Menard Q & A – Daytona 500

NASCAR Notes and Quotes
Daytona 500 – Daytona International Speedway
Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018

Paul Menard, driver of the No. 21 Omnicraft Ford Fusion, talks about his switch to Ford, the upcoming Daytona 500 and racing the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in NASCAR’s premier division.

Paul Menard – No. 21 Omnicraft Ford Fusion – TALK ABOUT THE OFF-SEASON AND THE SWITCH TO THE WOOD BROTHERS AND FORD: “It’s been a good off-season. My family and I stayed in North Carolina pretty much the entire winter. I spent some time at the shop trying to get to know everybody. A lot of new faces. A lot of new names. I spent time with Greg Erwin and Len (Wood) and Eddie (Wood). I saw Leonard (Wood) at the shop one day. Great, great people. We have a lot of talented people. I’m just trying to sort through all the new team growing pains and seeing how everyone interacts with each other. So far, so good.”

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WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF MAKING A CHANGE FROM ONE RACE TEAM TO ANOTHER? “It’s a clean slate. At the end of the day it’s race teams competing against other race teams. We all kind of have the same focus and goals. The way that different teams go about preparing and structure is always a bit different. Learning how the Wood Brothers operate is different to how Richard Childress Racing operates. It’s all about the people and putting fast cars on the race track which I know we do.”

HAS IT SUNK IN THAT YOU’RE DRIVING THE FAMED NO. 21 FORD? “We’re going to try like hell to get the Wood Brothers their 100th Cup win. Len (Wood) sent me a picture of the Motorcraft show car a month ago and it had my name above the door. That’s when it really sunk in and slapped you in the face and that you’re driving the iconic No. 21 Ford. Ford has put so much into the sport that it’s really cool to be part of such a historic team. There are just so many fans dedicated to the Wood Brothers Racing. I did an autograph session at the (NASCAR) Hall of Fame a few weeks ago and there were a lot of Wood Brother Racing fans that don’t care about who’s in the car. They’re just 21 fans.”

AND WITH THAT COME A LOT OF RESPONSIBILITY: “For sure. There’s some pressure that come with that. I don’t want to let the fans down. I’m looking forward to getting up to the shop and museum. I’m learning as a I go. There’s a lot of history to soak in around this team and the 21 car. I’m a history buff, so this is really fun.”

WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE NASCAR CUP SERIES FUSION? The Ford Fusion is fast. The past couple of years I’ve ever gone to Daytona or Talladega, Doug Yates put incredible horsepower on the race track. We saw that last weekend in Daytona. We were fast, but I was a little disappointed that we qualified 12th. I thought we had a shot at a top-five start for the Duel. We had a great car in the draft. I was most pleased with that. A lot of these guys are going out for raw speed and the handling kind of goes away when you’re in a pack. I felt like we had good raw speed with great handling. I’m fired-up for the Duel on Thursday.”

HOW DIFFERENT IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO SWITCH CAR MANUFACTURERS? “A bunch. My seat is totally different. I’m running a new seat manufacturer this year. It starts with getting comfortable in the car. We’ve worked hard over the last few months to get my pedals right. We had to do a different steering column because my steering wheel is far away from my body. Just getting the seat and insert comfortable. The way the Ford guys have their procedures for going through electrical issues, there’s different procedures. A checklist of sorts. And then just how the team runs their fans and switches. Just as simple as where I turn on the car is opposite. When I go to fire-up the car I instinctively reach for my left hand. Now it’s with the right hand. Just a bunch of things that you have to get used to.”

AND NOW YOU HAVE A WHOLE NEW GROUP OF FORD TEAMMATES THAT YOU CAN TALK TO: “For sure. The Chevy guys never talked amongst themselves too much. RCR had their alliance partners that we debriefed with and shared information a bit. Now, this year we’re working with the Penske guys to share information and make everyone better. We did the test in Las Vegas a few weeks ago and Brad (Keselowski) and I shared a bunch of notes. I’ll do the same with Joey (Logano) and (Ryan) Blaney.”

YOU HAVE A BUNCH OF GREAT RESTRICTOR PLATE RACERS DRIVING FORD FUSIONS: “Oh yeah. The Penske guys ran the Clash 1-2-3 most of the night. Brad and Joey finished 1-2 and that gives us a lot of promise. We have good raw speed and can get it done in the pack. We’re sharing great information. Joey wasn’t happy with his car the other day, but we learned some things and got good for Duel on Thursday.”

HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE EMOTIONAL SWINGS OF THIS WEEK? “Thursday is okay. You know you’re in the 500 so there’s no pressure to make the race. But you want to win your Duel. I feel like we can win it. At the same time, you don’t want to ruin your primary car. We want to keep the car intact but win the race. It’s a catch 200; you want to run hard to see what you have for the 500. The Duel is going to be the best practice session that we have. We’ll analyze the car and see what we need. But you don’t want to kill the thing. Friday and Saturday practices are calm. I don’t think you’ll see any drafting at all. Just working on little things, leak checks and things like that.”

ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR ABOUT RACING IN THE DUEL THAT YOU LOOK TO LEARN TO APPLY TO THE 500? “There’s some things that we can do to help handling which comes at a cost of losing raw speed. Some of the guys that qualified well last Sunday could be out of control on Thursday and they’ll work on their car for the 500. For us, we feel good at where we have the car. We’ll tweak here and there. We’ll just have to see how competitive we are on Thursday. There’s a crossover point where speed meets handling. We’ll just have to figure out where that is.”

IS RACING THE 500 A LAP-BY-LAP MINDSET? “Yeah, there’s really not anything that you can do. Obviously, you’re stuck in the pack with 39 guys around you. What we saw from the Clash race is that the guys who laid back usually lost the draft. I think you have to mix it up all day long. You have to stay in that pack. There’s times when you’re stuck in three-wide and you may be coming to the white line for the end of a Stage, you’re going to be a little bit cautious and not push forward and save your car. If it’s the end of the race you’re going to be a bulldog and knock your way up there to make something happen.”

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