MENSC Las Vegas Race Advance – Paul Menard

Motorcraft NASCAR Las Vegas Advance
Pennzoil 400 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018

Paul Menard, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion, talks about the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Wood Brothers Racing driver currently sits ninth in MENSC Driver Points heading into the three-race West Coast swing.

Paul Menard – No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion – THE CUP SERIES BEGINS THE THREE-RACE WEST COAST SWING THIS WEEKEND IN LAS VEGAS. ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC CHALLENGES TO THE DRIVER OR TEAM THAT MAKE THIS A TOUGH GRIND COMING UP? “Not so much for the driver. It puts a lot of stress on the team with logistics of getting cars back and forth. Our hauler typically stays out West. We have to get cars back and forth to swap out. Logistics are tough. Just being out there you pretty much have what you have. There’s not too much that you can do to improve the race cars if you find something. If you find something in Las Vegas, it’s hard to get that implemented into Phoenix or Fontana.”

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THE NEXT THREE RACES WILL BE A GOOD LITMUS TEST FOR ALL THE TEAMS: “For sure. We just came off a mile-and-a-half in Atlanta. The surface in Atlanta is very similar to Fontana where it’s really hard on tires. There’s a lot of falloff in race pace. Atlanta was a good test for the speed of Las Vegas and the banking of Vegas and falloff of Fontana. Then you add Phoenix in the middle, that’s a totally different animal. Fresh paved, short track mentality. Brakes, brake cooling come into play at Phoenix.”

TALK ABOUT THE RACING CHALLENGES OF LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY: “I looked at the weather and it’s going to be really cool. Speeds will be up, and it won’t be so hot in the race car. The track itself, ever since the repave, it has these ‘chatter bumps’ into Turn 1. Even when the asphalt was fresh 10 years ago the track still had them. Every year we go back they just keep getting worse. Turns 3 and 4 are pretty smooth. When you enter Turn 1 you have to try and figure out how to get through or get around the chatter bumps. We’re going 200 mph into Turn 1 and when the front tires start picking off the race track, you better find a way to keep them down on the surface.”

IS THE FIRST REACTION HEADING INTO TURN 1 THAT YOU’D RATHER DRIVE AROUND THE CHATTER BUMPS THAN OVER THEM? “Yes (laughs). In qualifying you have to drive through them and in the race a lot of guys will move up the line and drive around them.”

DO THE CHATTER BUMPS REALLY AFFECT RESTARTS? “Restarts are tricky. Obviously, somebody has to drive through those bumps and make it stick so that don’t wash up into you. The race actually opens up a lot of possibilities where you can move your line around where in qualifying you’re pretty much stuck to the bottom”

ONLY THREE WINNERS OUT OF THE LAST 10 RACES AT LVMS HAVE COME FROM STARTING POSITIONS OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 10. HOW IMPORTANT IS GOING A FEW ROUNDS IN QUALFYING THIS WEEKEND? “You always want to qualify up front and get a good pit stall. I’m actually surprised by that stat because Las Vegas is a multi-groove race track and you can make passes there. I hope we qualify in the top 10 and run there all day. Let’s skew that statistic and win the race.”

PIT STOPS, TIRE CHANGES AND PIT GUNS ARE AN EARLY BUZZ INSIDE THE PADDOCK. DO YOU HAVE TO ADJUST YOUR MENTAL “CLOCK” AS A DRIVER KNOWING THAT PIT STOPS ARE STILL A BIT OF A WILDCARD? “Yeah, your internal clock for a 12-second pit stops is still trying to get used to a 14-second stop. Right now, you don’t know if it’s a good stop or bad stop because your internal clock is just off. You really gauge by who you came onto pit road with and who you leave with to see if it was a good stop or bad stop.”

ATLANTA WAS THE FIRST NON-SUPERSPEEDWAY TRACK WITH FIVE CREW GUYS OVER THE WALL HOW WAS IT FOR THE 21 TEAM? “My guys were great on pit road last week in Atlanta. We did a couple four tire stops in Daytona and it wasn’t really under the gun. We took our time to look at some repair damage and things like that. Atlanta all day was four tire stops and my guys improved every single stop.”

YOU’RE NINTH IN POINTS, WHAT’S THE MINDSET GOING INTO LAS VEGAS? “You want to maximize your points and stake a win too. There’s a risk-reward thing going on at the end of the race with strategy. We’re ninth in points. We were disappointed with our finish in Atlanta. We had an issue in the rear of the car throughout the race. We could have come away with a better finish. A lot of the knowledge that we gained from Atlanta we’ll be able to apply in Vegas.”

FIVE FORDS IN THE TOP 10 LAST WEEKEND ON A MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACK. THE FUSIONS SEEM TO BE HAPPY RIGHT NOW: “The Fords were really strong in Atlanta. We had a lot of us running in the top 10. I feel like we can do the same thing in Vegas. The Fusion is the oldest body, but we have the most notes of all the other manufacturers for Las Vegas and all the tracks. The bowtie guys have the new body, so I think we’re a step ahead of them right now.”

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