Tag:Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Posted on: August 2, 2011 2:53 pm

Brickyard 400 ratings increase

Posted by Pete Pistone

ESPN's NASCAR telecast season got off to a good start on Sunday with the Brickyard 400 generating a higher rating than the 2010 edition of the race:

From News Release

ESPN's live telecast of the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 31, earned a 4.6 household coverage rating, averaging 6,377,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The rating rose from a 4.2 for last year's event. Continuing a trend that has been seen across NASCAR telecasts this season, the Male 18-34 demographic was up 20% from last year's race. 
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Posted on: August 1, 2011 11:40 am

Video of the Day: Four wide at Indy

Posted by Pete Pistone

Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, David Ragan and Landon Cassill decided to try going four-wide at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Sunday's Brickyard 400 with less than stellar results:

Posted on: August 1, 2011 11:34 am

Around the Circuit: weekend web wrap

By Pete Pistone

News, notes and nuggets from the World Wide Web in the aftermath of Sunday's 18th running of the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 

MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL: "The Only Hardware Menard Ever Wanted"    

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: "Paul Menard Breaks Through, Kisses the Bricks"   

USA TODAY: "Paul Menard Scores First Sprint Cup Victory at Brickyard"  

RACIN' TODAY: "Back Home Again at The Brickyard"  

VIRGINIA PILOT: "Did Menard's Upset Win Make it Easier to Overlook the Racing at Indy?" 

NASCAR EXAMINER: "The Little Track that COuld Won't Anymore" 

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Posted on: July 31, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 11:37 am

Jeff Gordon, Regan Smith post Indy comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

We just got to figure out how to perform on the rest of the stages, we'll be in shape.          

The Chevy was good today.  It was probably a top-10 car, ninth or 10th place car.  Didn't have track position for a long time.  When the 51 car wrecked, played our hand for us, didn't have a choice but to come in and clean the grill off because we were overheating right away almost immediately.  Cleaned the grill off, looked at the fuel strategy, and said, you know what, let's top it off.  We had nothing to lose.  We got to start in the back of the pack anyway.           

They kept pulling me back, pulling me back about saving fuel.  We'll see how much is left in the tank after all is said and done.  I felt like I had a little bit to go a bit further.           

But certainly can't be disappointed with third, and in particular when somebody like Paul wins, I have very many close friends on this circuit, that's one of them.  He was at my victory celebration; I plan on being at his tonight or tomorrow or whenever it is.           

KERRY THARP:  We'll take questions for Regan.            

Q.  You talked a little bit before you came in about the fuel mileage races, absolutely hating them.  Could you expand on that a little bit.           

REGAN SMITH:  I think it's pretty simple.  I hate 'em.  I don't care I don't think they're fun racing.  I don't think there's anything good about them.  I'm certainly sure there's cars that ran up front, led a lot of laps, that ended up 10th or 12th.  I don't know who was up front most today, I was just worrying about our race and what we had to do to get track position.           

It's a product of how we're racing right now.  I think every week we know it's going to be a fuel mileage race and we try to plan for that, to work around it accordingly.           

That's what we're doing.  Even when it's races that aren't necessarily fuel mileage races, they still play a part in how much track position you can get, who can pit sooner so you have that track position.           

It's here to stay.  It's not going to go away.  We'll learn to like it and to adjust to it.  I guess I should be happy for it today because we had a good day and Paul won.  So, you know, I'll take back that statement.  I love fuel mileage races right now (laughter).            

Q.  You won the Southern 500.  Running top three at Indianapolis.  I know you're kind of busy in the car, but did you let your mind wander to think you might be able to win Indy and Darlington the same year?           

REGAN SMITH:  Hell, yeah, I did.  I saw Jamie do it last year with the Brickyard and the 500.  I certainly thought we had a shot to do that.           

The thing that was going to hurt us, if I would have pushed a couple laps earlier to catch the lead pack, we would have had to pass four guys.  If I would have pushed a little bit sooner to do that, we would have used up too much fuel, maybe run out.  If we wait till they go, we're going to have that same gap no matter what.  Unless I got the most incredible restart in the world, passed 10 cars right away, that was what we were going to have to do today, accept a third-place finish and be happy with it.           

We tried doing this at Loudon.  Had a good car.  Did the fuel mileage there, ran out way short.  So this meant a lot to me to be able to save it and actually be able to make it to the end of this one.           

Q.  Can you talk about the balance that you've got to strike over the next six races?           

REGAN SMITH:  Well, from my team's standpoint, I don't think we're looking at the top 20 right now.  We'd have to win out at this point to have a shot at getting back up there.  Certainly we'd love to do that.  The reality is, this is such a tough series, it's going to be really hard to do.           

We're going to focus on winning races.  If it puts us in position to get top fives, great.  If we can sneak up there and maybe get top 20, and the right things play out, then cool.  If not, we're working hard to make sure we can do this every week next year and this just isn't a thing we did a few times this year.            

Q.  Regan, you mentioned how thrilled you were that if you couldn't win it, that Paul won it.  What do you think it means to his dad in particular to put so much into winning here?           

REGAN SMITH:  Well, Jeff can probably speak better to that than I can, being from Indiana, being up here as much as he was.  I just know what it means to Paul.  I know how hard he's worked.  One of the really good close friends that I have on this circuit, always go to if I have a question or need something.           

He always talks about coming up here.  He always talks about how much he loves this place.  I know if he had to highlight one race to get his first win, I'm sure he'll tell you in a minute he couldn't be happier.           

It's cool.  You only get one chance to get your first win.  It's a special thing, especially when you do it here.           

KERRY THARP:  Jeff Gordon has joined us at the podium.  Finished a strong runner-up today.  Jeff has moved up to seventh in the points, with two victories on the season.           

Jeff, you were coming like a locomotive at the end of that race.  Talk about your effort today.           

JEFF GORDON:  It was awesome.  What a fun race for us.  From the time we got here, probably even prior to getting here, I felt really positive about the effort that was put into our racecar.  The guys were really fired up about getting here.  But you still never know until you get out there on the track.           

The first couple laps on that track, it just had that feel, you know, it had a great feel.  Struggled a little bit getting ready for qualifying, but qualified better than I thought we would.           

When they dropped the green, I knew we had a car that could win this race.  It was a lot of fun.  Kasey Kahne looked to be one of the best.  He had some issues.  We got up there and were able to kind of control the race.           

It was just a lot of fun.  It's been a while since we had a car like that here at Indy.  Just a flawless effort by the team.  The pit stops were fantastic.  I thought Alan called a great race.  When we came off pit road the last time, we were able to get ahead of Harvick, I thought that was a huge moment for us.  That put us in position to win.           

I knew that shortly after that, there were some guys that were going to try to stretch it on fuel and all I could do is run as hard as I could to put pressure on them and hope that I got there in time.           

We got there just a little bit short.  But Paul did a great job saving fuel because when I got there, even Regan and other guys, they were still pretty much checking up when I got there.  It was easy to get by them.  But Paul had saved enough to where he could go back to a full pace.  By that time, my car was just too tight behind him.           

Back to what Regan said, you know, I don't know Paul as well as he does.  But I was with him the other day.  I thought it was pretty cool.  We were talking about him coming here as a kid with his family I think from like, I don't know, late '80s or something all the way to 2000, some ridiculous thing where every year he was here for the 500, knowing what his dad has done here in IndyCars.  I don't think there's anybody that could appreciate a win, even if it is his first win.           

I think he's in awe right now.  I went and saw him.  His eyes, he's like a deer in headlights.  I'm so happy for him, I think a lot of people are.  It's one thing to get your first win here, but it's another when you can appreciate how special it is to win here.  I think Paul certainly has that.           

KERRY THARP:  We'll continue with questions.           

Q.  Jeff, I guess second kind of sucks, but what does this weekend and effort today say about your team's championship drive?           

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, it says a lot.  Obviously we wanted to win this race, but we also wanted to make a statement.  I think we certainly did that.  You know, this team is for real.  We showed that today.  You always hear about people talking about, you know, the team that wins here at Indy, their chances for the championship.           

While we didn't win, I think we definitely showed that we're a championship-caliber team.  We've been knocking on the door, getting closer every single weekend, won a couple races.  For me this is going to be a huge boost for this race team and hopefully a bit of a statement to the competition as well that we're serious about our efforts at a championship this year.           

If we can run like we did today here at Indy, you know, I know we're capable of winning just about anyplace we go.            

Q.  Jeff, do you have any theory as to why out of the four major races, three have been won by first-time guys this year?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, Daytona's different.  The type of drafting that you do.  So I don't know if you can necessarily -- you got to kind of put that in its own category.           

But when Regan won at Darlington, I mean, that was a risky move that they made, kind of like what Paul did today.  But he drove the wheels off that thing to keep Carl behind him.  So you got to give him a lot of credit.           

I'm not sure which other one?  The 600?            

Q.  The 600.           

JEFF GORDON:  I don't even know who won the 600.            

Q.  Harvick won the 600.          

JEFF GORDON:  So three of the four.  Got you.  It was a good thought (laughter).            

Q.  Regan, you mentioned Paul being one of your closest friends out here.  How did that develop?           

REGAN SMITH:  I think the same thing, we came into the circuit the same time, around each other a lot, a lot of different appearance, stuff like that.  You start seeing guys more and more, get comfortable with them, just like that.           

We're both kind of similar personalities, quiet, a little bit shy if you want to call it that, keep to ourselves a little bit.           

But he's been knocking on the door for a while.  Had some really strong racecars.  Certainly happy for him.            

Q.  Jeff, you won the first Brickyard here.  You know how you felt.  Compare it with what you think he feels today.           

JEFF GORDON:  I think the comparison's probably very similar.  I think, you know, it was a dream come true for me just to get a chance to race at Indy.  That first event, you know, was unbelievable.  I was definitely in shock that we won that race.  That race changed my life forever, certainly my career has never been the same since.                       

This is not just a fluke.  They took a big risk.  But they had to beat a lot of other guys that were trying to save fuel.  There at the end, you know, I couldn't have passed him.           

Again, just because he's been here so much as a kid experiencing Indy, he knows how special it is to compete here, let alone win here.  So I think the feelings are probably very similar.  He probably has a greater appreciation for it than I did in '94, because while I was watching from a distance and my heroes were Indy 500 drivers, I wasn't in the garage like he was.  So he could probably appreciate it even more.            

Q.  Jeff, you've won a couple times, basically locked into the Chase.  In these next six races, where is your team's focus going to be?  Business as usual, R&D?           

JEFF GORDON:  Man, we're going to try to put the same kind of effort we just did today and just keep building our team up to be able to be championship caliber when the Chase comes around.  I think we're very close.           

Alan and I, it took us a little while to get to know one another, how to communicate with one another, what I need in the car.  He's been really giving me great stuff to drive.  It's been a blast.           

Today was just solid pit stops, no mistakes, a lot of confidence in his calls, in his adjustments.  I thought today we were a complete team.  We've got to continue to do that week in and week out.  I think there's definitely more tracks that we can win at.  But it's really about building ourselves up to be strong when the Chase comes around.            

Q.  Jeff, when is the last time you've been this happy to finish second?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, this is Indy, you know.  I guess I'm happy because we ran so good today.  We haven't run this good in a while.  I know what it means to run good here at Indy.  This is a tough place.  There's no coincidence that teams that have won here in the past several times have gone on to win the championship because it shows who has the complete package.           

I think that we showed we got a great package.  While we came up short, I guess too because I'm happy for Paul.  If you're gonna get beat, it's pretty cool to get beat by somebody that can really appreciate this win.           

I don't like finishing second.  I was disappointed.  When I came down the front straightaway, I was pretty upset.  But that quickly turned into my thoughts about how great we ran today and how cool it was for Paul.            

Q.  Matt said he thought when you got around him as Burton was coming into the pits, that was probably the pass for the lead.  Did you have that same thought?           

JEFF GORDON:  There was two big moments I thought that happened for us.  That one, when we got by Matt.  I was better than Matt, but I couldn't pass him.  He was good enough to keep me behind him.  If we didn't get in front of him, then he very easily could have won this race.  So when I got by him there, you know, I thought that was big.           

Then the next big moment was when we came off pit road.  I thought this was where Alan was genius today.  I don't know how it worked out.  But when we came in for that last pit stop, we rolled off there and I could see him coming down the front straightaway, and I ran really hard through one and two on that access road to try to get ahead of him.  I just squeaked ahead of him by the time we got to turn three and pulled away.  That was Harvick and Kenseth.           

Those two moments were key moments to put us in position to win.  Had those guys had to come in, we had the position.  We did everything we could to put ourselves there to win this race.            

Q.  How much more time do you think you needed to catch him?           

JEFF GORDON:  I'll be honest with you.  You know, I used it all up getting to him.  There were a couple cars that were saving fuel when I got to them.  They didn't make it real easy on me, which you can't blame 'em.  But that held me up a bit.           

And then when I got to him, I got tight.  He could run a good enough pace where even if I had gotten closer to him, I don't think I could have passed.           

Paul was pretty good all day today actually.  I ran with him earlier in the race.  It was going to be tough to pass him then.  There at the end, where I give him a lot of credit, he saved enough fuel to where at the end he went for it.  The tires are not too burned off because he didn't push the car too hard.  He saved enough fuel that he could run a good enough pace that I don't think I could have passed him.           

I used it all up getting to him.  But another lap, I was hoping he was going to run out (laughter).  I was hoping it was going to be an easy pass.            

Q.  Regan, we know how you feel about Paul and the friendship you have.  Now we know what Jeff thinks.  Among other drivers, do you sense that a lot of them echo Jeff's feelings about Paul, that he has a lot of respect?           

REGAN SMITH:  Yeah, I think so.  A lot of people know what the Menard's name has meant to racing, what the family meant to racing.  Certainly I didn't come to this place as a kid and didn't have my roots around this track, and he did, like Jeff said.           

The other thing is Menard has built a lot of engines and cars to bring to the 500 year after year.  I think pretty much everything has been said.  It's just really cool for him to do that deal, to win here.           

Part of me's happy, part of me's mad.  Maybe these two could have run into each other and then I could have won this thing.  That's what I was hoping for.  Afterwards I said, That's okay (laughter).            

Q.  Jeff, is there any master plan for the fueling system that you can come out with enough fuel to finish big races like this?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, it seems to me like what a lot of guys are doing now to save fuel, used to be a big track like this, if you were one lap short, you better come in, you're not going to make it unless you get a bunch of cautions.           

Now what's happening is guys have figured out how to stretch it and get incredible fuel mileage even under green by pushing on the clutch, shutting off the engine, doing a bunch of things that they can stretch it four and five laps now, even on a big track like this.  Used to be impossible to save that amount of fuel.  But these days guys are figuring it out.           

That's about the only thing.  There's not a whole lot you can do to the tank.  There's not a lot you can do to conserve fuel with the carburetor.  Little tiny things.  But other than that, even just checking up early isn't going to save you a whole lot.  You have to get the rpms down.  It's something that a lot of teams have been working on.  Things to in-car cameras, we've seen other guys, how they've done it, and now we work on it.           

I will say, you know, I really enjoyed there at the end being in a position to not have to conserve.  It was a lot of fun to run hard and try to chase these guys down, even though we came up short.  It's the position everybody prefers to be in.  Doesn't mean you're always going to win the race that way.            

Q.  Regan, after winning Darlington, everybody was saying that the wins may start to pile up for you.  While wins haven't come, you've had four top 10s this year.  Finishing third here is a big deal.  Is this further validating your career and your team's ideology being based out of Denver and proving that model can work for you guys?           

REGAN SMITH:  I think we're going to continue to prove that that model can work.  It's a model nobody else has tried in a long time.  For the longest time, everybody thought you had to move to the Charlotte area to race.  We're trying to dispel that theory           

I think the times have allowed us to do that, technology has allowed us to do that.  We can be on a live active database back to North Carolina and see different things going on from Denver also.  Certainly with some of the teams having the troubles they've had in the past years, we've been able to get really good people to complement the people we already got in Denver.

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Posted on: July 31, 2011 7:00 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2011 10:36 pm

Paul Menard, team post Indy comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

SLUGGER LABBE:  It was a neat day for sure.  We pitted on lap 35, pit road penalty.  Tire changer didn't get the tire back, fell down, penalized us.  From this point on we really stretched our fuel.  Went 34 laps then to stretch our fuel.  Caution came out later.  We were fortunate enough to stay out and understand what our car was going to do.           

Saturday we made a 22-lap run in practice.  Knew where we were going to be at with fuel mileage.  We knew with 35 it was a gamble we were willing to take.           

We had a good meeting on Monday, myself, Richie Gilmore and all the guys, and said, Look, guys, if we're going to make the Chase, we're going to have to get risky.           

Seems to be a trend in the Cup Series, that people take gambles on pit road.  It was our turn to get aggressive.  I told Paul he had to support me.  He supported me a hundred percent today.  Three times he had an occasion where he could have said no, I don't want to do that, but he did.  Fortunately it worked out.           

We left pit road running third.  Got penalized, running 38th.  That was a big emotion.  Just to work our way through it and not lose our cool and to come up with a big plan and win the race is very fortunate.           

KERRY THARP:  Team owner, Richard Childress.  Certainly a big win for your racing team and organization.  Paul has moved up to 14th in points.  With the win and the new wildcard berth, if we set the Chase field tonight, he would be in the Chase.           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  I'm just so proud of that whole Menard team.  I caught a lot of flack back early last year when we decided to go with four teams.  I've been watching Paul ever since he won the Nationwide race.  He doesn't tear equipment up.  He's consistent.  He's really good.  Got a cool head on him in all situations.           

I knew if the right situation come along, we'd win.  To get Slugger to come over, John Menard support us, get Slugger, a couple of the engineers, that was a big jump going in on a fourth team.          

Couldn't be prouder of everyone at RCR or ECR Engines.  Ran great today.  Got fuel mileage.  Got chewed out last week for not getting fuel mileage.  Got the fuel mileage today, proud of 'em.  Couldn't be prouder for the Menard family.  John has been here for many, many years.           

I think we even had a car here one year at Indy.  I think Robby drove it, if I'm not mistaken.  For him to win, to win here at Indy, to win with his son, I couldn't be prouder.           

KERRY THARP:  I might ask John Menard, I think these folks would like to hear from you, as well.  Certainly you've done a lot for the sport.  Your thoughts about the victory today.           

JOHN MENARD:  Well, I wonder where that kid of mine is.  Probably still doing interviews.  He took the money and ran, I think (laughter).           

This is just great.  I mean, it was Paul's day.  But in a way, our whole family has been at the Speedway for so long.  We all tried very hard.  Paul came down here as a very little guy.  I remember smuggling him into the garage because he was too young to be in there.  He would be sitting on the workbench back there behaving himself.  He had to be quiet or the yellow shirts would throw him out.  He was there, always interested (laughter).    

He wanted to be a racecar driver.  You know, I'm just a proud father right now.  I just have kind of elapsed back to him, of thinking of him as my little boy, but he's a full grown man, one I'm very, very proud of.           

I can't say how proud I am to be associated with Richard, with Slugger, with the whole Childress organization.  I'll tell you what, guys, you did this.  It's wonderful.  I just thank you very, very much.  I think this is a good win for the Speedway, for the town of Indianapolis.  By God, I hope we're back here next year sitting right here again.           

KERRY THARP:  While we're waiting for Paul, we'll take some questions.            

Q.  Richard, in the '80s and '90s, the guy sitting right next to you was trying to get an American-made engine to win the Indianapolis 500.  How much did you follow what he tried to do?           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Well, I mean, he has put up a great, great effort to win here at Indy.  I think, John, didn't we have a car together one year with Robby?           

JOHN MENARD:  Run a little short of fuel, though (laughter).           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  I've known John for many years, his family, the passion he has for the sport.  To win today was just unbelievable for the Menard family.  To have Paul pull it off, like you said, he was one of the young kids around watching, had a dream, and today his dream came true.      

Q.  John, all those years you invested into the Buick V6, won some poles, whatever happened, how satisfying is it to finally claim a win here?           

JOHN MENARD:  It's really satisfying to have one that doesn't blow up (laughter).  We have to thank everybody at the engine shop for that.  We worried about that here.  It's really satisfying to see Chevrolet, General Motors in the winner's circle.  You know the success we didn't have with those.  But, by God, we were fast.           

KERRY THARP:  Let's hear from our race winner, Paul Menard.  His first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, at none other than at the Brickyard 400.        

Paul, talk about the significance, your emotion of winning one of the biggest events in our sport.           

PAUL MENARD:  Man, I've been coming here for a long, long time, but not nearly as long as my dad.  To be the first one after all those years of trying to win him a race at Indy, very special.           

1989, I think was my first year here.  Spent 14, 15 years in a row just hanging out in the infield being a fan.  2007, I got to race here.  It was definitely the highlight of my career up until that point.  Here we are in Victory Lane.  It's unbelievable.           

KERRY THARP:  Open it up for questions again.            

Q.  A couple weeks ago you said if there was anyplace you could win, first-time win aside, this was the place.  Talk about your childhood here, what your dad accomplished, Tony's championship, making the move with Slugger, why that was the right decision going to Childress.           

PAUL MENARD:  A lot of great drivers have driven for my dad, Johnny Rutherford, Herm Johnson was the guy that got everybody started in racing, back in the '70s.  A lot of great drivers.  He's had a lot of great friends through the years from Indy.  One of them was Richard.  Robby and Richard, you know, came up and met.  I was in a meeting, we were at a little pizza shop or something in Eau Claire.  They wanted to put an IndyCar program together.  Kept in touch ever since.          

The time was right in 2011 to pull the trigger and get it done.  You can't thank Richard enough for kind of going out on a limb with me and allowing me to bring Slugger with.  Slugger is a great friend, works as hard as anybody in this garage.  He's won a Daytona 500 and now he's won at the Brickyard 400.            

Q.  Paul, growing up here, being around from the time you were a kid, why did you chose to drive stockcars rather than IndyCars?           

PAUL MENARD:  That's pretty easy.  Grew up in Wisconsin.  There's no feeder series for IndyCars.  You can't race IndyCars being in Wisconsin.  There's a lot of short tracks, a lot of legends, late models.  Go-kart thing.  15, 16, started racing legend's cars.  Hooked up with Bryan Reffner.  Actually brought out Richard's truck team.  He was selling his truck team.  Brian came in to buy that.  Let me drive his car.  We won a heat race, finished fourth.           

Got a late model, started racing that.  At one point we were racing three or four nights a week.  That's Wisconsin short track racing.           

Q.  Paul, you get a lot of flack because of your sponsorship.  Slugger said earlier, That's not fair, he's not a kid with a silver spoon in his mouth, he wants to be good at this.  Does this make that more gratifying to you?           

PAUL MENARD:  I mean, we're winners in Sprint Cup.  That's the big deal.  To do it at Indy, even bigger deal.           

Can't change people's opinions.  They're going to say what they want to say.  That's fine with me.  We'll celebrate this.  We'll enjoy it.  We're going to work hard for Pocono, try to make the Chase.          

Whatever they say, they say.  Can't control it.  I know what I'm capable of.  I have total belief in Richard, Slugger and everybody.  I think we can win a couple more.            

Q.  I was fascinated to listen over the final 10 laps.  Slugger seemed to be the only one talking.  You were totally silent.  Crossing the finish line, everybody erupts in celebration.  You're like, That's the checkered, right?           

PAUL MENARD:  I didn't see it.  I was looking at my fuel pressure (laughter).            

Q.  We know you're quiet by nature.  What does it take to excite you?           

PAUL MENARD:  That's probably about as much emotion as you'll see out of me.  I've always been kind of a low-key guy.  Doesn't make it any less special.  It's very special for me.  It's just something that we work hard for, something that Richard expects us to win.  He's won a lot of races.  Just really gratifying that we could pull it through.            

Q.  Has anyone seen any kind of emotion from you?           

PAUL MENARD:  My dad has.           

JOHN MENARD:  I've got him mad a few times.           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  He'll get fired up on the radio occasionally.          

PAUL MENARD:  I think I yelled at you today, didn't I (laughter)?          

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Probably did.            

Q.  How soon after the race did you find your dad?  Do you remember the first thing you said to him?  How much fuel did you have left?           

PAUL MENARD:  I'm not sure about the fuel.           

I saw my dad as soon as we pulled into Victory Lane.  He came up to the window, said something like, 35 years of trying here, here we go, this one's for you.  Definitely for him.  He's been trying to put a lot of time and energy into winning at Indy.  It's just a big deal.            

Q.  Paul, how confident were you those last 10 or 20 laps that you were going to make it to the end and be able to hold everybody off?  Also, you mentioned earlier at the end of the race that you were here for the inaugural Brickyard 400.  What were you doing at that time?           

PAUL MENARD:  Sitting up in a suite at turn four for the inaugural one.  Saw Rick Mast win the pole.  I think I was here the whole weekend.  The Skoal car won the pole.  I think Harry Gant was second.           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  I think we were second.  I think we hit the wall coming off the corner trying to lead the first lap with Earnhardt.            

Q.  How confident were you in the last 10 or 15 laps that you had enough to make it to the end and that you were going to hold him off?           

PAUL MENARD:  As soon as the jack dropped, we took out of pit road, Slugger said, Save me fuel, long gears.           

So under caution, had another lap, I think we were going green, caught up, killed the motor, coasting as much as possible.  The restart, you got to go.  Passed a couple of cars.  Once I kind of got cycled out, just started trying to maintain some kind of lap time being easy on the throttle, easy off, earlier than normal, easy on.           

Once it got really strung off, I mean, I was lifting at the 250 mark when normally you drive to the 1, just trying not to use any brake, but trying to use the tires to keep your roll speed fast.  Probably about a 15-lap, maybe 20-lap run or span where I wasn't even wide open.  Just get it up to like 8500 rpm.  If I would see Mark catch me a little bit in my mirror, I would give it more.  If I saw him back off, drop it back.  Watching in the mirror, trying to maintain some kind of lap time and gap with the cars behind me.           

Obviously we kept track -- Slugger kept telling me where Jeff was, the 24.  When he got to two, three seconds behind us, he said, Take off.  The car was really good.  Clean air is so important.  We had it right there.  The car is awesome in clean air.           

We got behind early.  Wasn't as good.  But played strategy to a T.            

Q.  Paul, you really took a big step toward making the Chase today with that victory.  Talk a little bit about that.          

PAUL MENARD:  Yeah, I think we're 14th now with the wildcard.           

Yeah, I mean, it's great.  We got five or six races left.  We got a lot of work to do.  We have Richmond and New Hampshire -- Richmond before the Chase starts.  Those are two of our worst tracks honestly.  We have a lot of work to do.  We'll rely on our teammates a lot.  They typically run well at the short tracks.  Got to get that program figured out.  We have a couple intermediate tracks, have a couple of those, looking forward to that.  We have Atlanta for a million bucks.           

KERRY THARP:  You're eligible for the Sprint Summer Showdown and also the 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.           

PAUL MENARD:  That's right.  Forgot about that.           

Q.  Also the fact that today was a perfect example of guys who were prepared to make bold moves.  Slugger might want to answer also.  How much can we expect to see some other guys between now and Richmond making win-or-go-home type of gambles to try to get in as a wildcard?           

PAUL MENARD:  You're going to see it.  Anytime fuel mileage comes into play, you'll see guys run out, probably guys going to win the race.  The Sprint Cup Series is just so competitive, so hard to pass, everybody runs so close together, you got to gamble.  Very rarely do you see a car just check out and win the race.  A lot of strategy, a lot of clean air.  You're going to see it happen the next few races.           

SLUGGER LABBE:  For us, I mean, I think we still got to be pushing.  We're 14th in points with a win.  That doesn't guarantee you a thing.  There's a lot of things that could happen.  Ryan Newman is currently in the top 10.  Could fall out, take a spot away from us.  We have to keep pushing, be aggressive, make it that way, not rely on this victory today.            

Q.  Slugger, you've been really high on this team all year.  I know you wouldn't trade your first win being the Brickyard.  Are you surprised it took this long?           

SLUGGER LABBE:  Well, we had big shoes to fill.  When we started the Monday after Homestead, we didn't have a truck, trailers, racecars, nothing.  To be a first-year team and win a race is just short of amazing to me.  We had great people at RCR.  Nobody bellyached.  They opened their arms, receptive people.  Don't tell Richard, but this is our 15th new car this year.          

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  I see it in the financials.           

SLUGGER LABBE:  They didn't give us hand-me-downs.  Richard let us hire the people we needed.  Got a great pit crew.  He let us do our job.  We run the race teams like we own them, manage our money, try to make sure we don't waste money.  But we take what we need to be successful, and today was living proof of that.           

Q.  Richard, what do you make of first-time winners in the races this year?           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  I think it just shows how competitive this sport is.  This car is so equal, you got to have the right people, the right driver.  Everything has to come together to win in today's sport.  You're not going to see anybody just take off and run away with it.           

Today you saw Jimmie Johnson sitting there running second for quite a while, then gets back in traffic, it's hard to go.  Like Slugger says, Paul can tell you, track position is everything.            

Q.  Paul, in this room about 45 minutes ago Regan and Jeff got asked more about you than they got asked about their own performances.  They were thrilled to talk about you.  They both said you're a highly respected driver among drivers.  I know it's an awesome day for you, but what does it mean that other drivers are genuinely happy for you today?           

PAUL MENARD:  I hope Regan would say that.  I'm in his wedding (laughter).           

But for Jeff to say that, we've had run-ins on the track, everybody has.  But for a guy of his caliber to say that, it means a lot.  He came to Victory Lane, Regan came to Victory Lane.  I didn't realize that Regan finished third.  Really happy for him, too.           

I watched Jeff win the inaugural Brickyard 400.  To have him come down in Victory Lane after finishing second to us, very special.  I've always gotten along great with Jeff, and Regan obviously.            

Q.  John, after more than three decades in racing, what did it mean to you to finally get Paul in a position with an organization where the money you had invested, and you invested in so many different disciplines throughout motorsports, but to see that money put to optimum use to give Paul the kind of opportunity he deserved to have?           

JOHN MENARD:  Well, first of all, a lot of investment we made in motorsports over the year has been good for our business.  I think it's really a good form of advertising.  I believe it's a good form of promotion.  I think that motorsports promotions are underrated a lot by some of the people in advertising.          

If you look at what you can buy a sponsorship for of a race team versus some golf or some of the ball-and-stick-type sports, motorsports is a pretty good buy.  From a business standpoint, I'd say that investing in motorsports is a fairly wise investment.           

From investing in motorsports teams, there are some that give you a better return, let's say, for your investment than others.  Richard's team gives a very, very good return because he takes the money and he puts it back into the cars, the people, the research, the engines, the things that you need to win.           

If there's anybody in motorsports that knows how to do it, it's Richard.  I'm proud to be associated with him.  I'm proud that Paul can do what he does.  By God, guys, you've done a great job.  Money well-spent.           

Q.  Richard, you were in Victory Lane three times.  Talk about being a three-time winner, how important it is for you to win this race.          

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  David told me earlier it's eight years from 2005 to 2003 [sic], and eight more years till today.  It doesn't seem like we've been coming here 18 years.  I remember coming in here the first time I think in '93 to do our test with Dale.  The first time the cars ran down that front straightaway, thought, Man, would it be cool to win at Indy.           

To be here again 18 years later and win, to win with Paul, Slugger, this whole group, to win for RCR, I couldn't be happier.  Kind of got to pinch myself.           

I hope it ain't eight years more before we win it.  I'll be an old man by then.            

Q.  Paul, when you were having the battle with Kenseth for the lead, when he got around you, that looked pretty close to not only winning the race but maybe losing the racecar.  How close a call was that?           

PAUL MENARD:  Yeah, I didn't hear him.  My spotters say that Matt was inside me.  Stevie is my primary spotter.  He was on the backside of the pagoda.  We had Jeff on the front side.  I don't know if he didn't talk loud enough or what, but I had no idea that Matt was there.           

I felt it kind of get loose.  Looked at my side mirror, saw his nose was in there.  Matt and I are great friends.  Luckily he let me go.  He could have laid in there a bit more.  I had to check up and he passed us.           

But, yeah, it was close.  I heard the tires squealing.  I had flashbacks from Montoya last year with kind of the same situation.            

Q.  Paul, the fact there weren't too many cautions today, do you think that helped you?           

PAUL MENARD:  You know, I mean, again, our mileage has been really good.  We run better on long runs.  It seems like historically we've had great long-run racecars.  You know, today we just had a great racecar overall.  But it comes down to track position.  Restarts, so many things can happen.  If you have a great racecar, you can get a fender tore up, we had a little bit of damage on pit road, nothing major.  A lot of things like that happen with all those restarts.           

I enjoy races that have long runs.  You can analyze the car, relay information and work on the racecars.            

Q.  Richard, you've done the four-team deal now.  How gratifying is it to see these guys make it to Victory Lane?          

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  For a first-year team to come out like this, it's very gratifying.  They work hard.  I mean, Slugger is as hard a working guy as you'll see around the shop, the racetrack.  The first time with the four-car team, I don't think we were as prepared coming in.  I said we'll be more prepared, we know the mistakes we made, and we're sure not making them now.           

And Jeff, don't call it luck, whatever you want to call it, it and because of a fourth team, I can't figure it out.  We're working very, very hard.           

PAUL MENARD:  He was probably the best RCR car most of the day today.           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  Then the ignition went out.  I keep telling him, it will turn as fast one way as it does in the other in this sport.  I've been on many ends of the stick I haven't been on.            

Q.  You said back in 1994 you were sitting up watching Jeff win.  What were your thoughts when 17 years later you're told over the radio that, Here comes Jeff Gordon after you?           

PAUL MENARD:  Is he a three- or four-time winner?            

Q.  Four.           

PAUL MENARD:  He's trying for five and nobody's done that before.           

Yeah, he was fast all day long.  Front straightaway is obviously really long.  You can look at the pylon, see where everybody is at.  You saw him up front a lot of the day.  He had a solid racecar.           

But, again, it comes down to clean air.  Him catching us would have been one thing, but him passing us would have been another thing because we had a really strong racecar.           

Again, to beat Jeff Gordon at Indy, big deal.            

Q.  Richard, if I asked you this morning which of your four race teams was going to win this race, what would you have said?           

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  You know, I thought all of our cars was really good.  I told Paul before the race, I went over and I leaned in the car, I said, This will be your day, good luck.           

I think one of the things, the reason I knew his car was really good, all of them were good, Jeff was really good, but they did a 20-lap run, and he ended up at a 51.65 and kept hitting the 65, 65.  When you could do that, and he was really strong in traffic, when I went and talked to him, he said, A little loose, but we can really pass.  That's what you really want here.  Although it's really hard, the car looked good Saturday.

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Posted on: July 31, 2011 6:34 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2011 9:14 pm

Speed Read: Brickyard 400

By Pete Pistone


Brickyard 400 Race Recap

INDIANAPOLIS – We should have seen this one coming. 

In a season punctuated by first time winners, Paul Menard’s dramatic win in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 makes absolute perfect sense

Trevor Bayne started the year with a Daytona 500 triumph, Regan Smith followed suit at Darlington in the Southern 500 and David Ragan was victorious in Daytona’s Coke Zero 400. 

On Sunday it was Menard’s turn to join the first-time winner’s club.

“It’s been an incredible season for guys to break through,” Menard said. “I’m glad I was able to join the list.” 

Getting his first win at Indianapolis only added to the incredible story of the unheralded Menard finally getting to victory lane in his 167th Sprint Cup race. 

His family’s legacy at the storied track includes his father John’s long quest for an Indy 500 victory as both a team owner and sponsor. Although that goal was never fulfilled, Menard’s Brickyard 400 win erased nearly three decades of frustration. 

“This is the one I wanted to win,” Menard said. “My family, my Dad has had Indy Cars here since the late 70s, 35 years or so. For 35 years he’s been trying so giving him his first win here after all those years of trying is pretty special. Can’t wait to kiss the bricks.” 

It would be understandable if Menard wanted to show the same kind of affection to team owner Richard Childress and crew chief Slugger Labbe. The long-time car owner brought Menard into the fold this year after a couple of mediocre years at Richard Petty Motorsports and kept him paired with the veteran Labbe, who worked with the driver at RPM. 

While some doubted the two would continue building on the promise they showed at times in the Petty organization, Childress saw something that has obviously blossomed this season. 

“I caught a lot of flack back early last year when we decided to go with four teams,” said Childress.  “I've been watching Paul ever since he won the Nationwide race.  He doesn't tear equipment up.  He's consistent.  He's really good.  Got a cool head on him in all situations. I knew if the right situation come along, we'd win.  To get Slugger to come over, John Menard support us, get Slugger, a couple of the engineers, that was a big jump going in on a fourth team.” 

And it’s now team suddenly outperforming established RCR teams featuring drivers like Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer as well as contending for a Chase spot as a Wild card candidate. 

But Menard isn’t surprised by his performance and isn’t about to tell any of his detractors who labeled him not a worthy Sprint Cup talent but more of a driver with a built-in family business sponsorship I told you so. 

“I mean, we're winners in Sprint Cup,” he said. “That's the big deal.  To do it at Indy, even bigger deal. Can't change people's opinions.  They're going to say what they want to say.  That's fine with me.  We'll celebrate this.  We'll enjoy it.  We're going to work hard for Pocono, try to make the Chase. 

“Whatever they say, they say.  Can't control it.  I know what I'm capable of.  I have total belief in Richard, Slugger and everybody.  I think we can win a couple more.” 

Winning at Indy will do that to a driver’s confidence.



Regan Smith 

The big Southern 500 winner was right in the mix for another potential victory in a NASCAR major. He wound up third behind Menard and Gordon but the Furniture Row Racing team bears little resemblance to the one hit wonder some believe the small organization was after its Darlington victory.

Jamie McMurray 

The forgotten man was back in the spotlight at Indianapolis trying to back-up his 2010 Brickyard 400 victory. Wasn’t able to fulfill the challenge of pulling off back-to-back Indy wins and give Chip Ganassi another trip to victory lane at the storied track but after a disappointing first half of the season McMurray’s fourth place finish was a very needed shot in the arm. 

Brad Keselowski 

After his Nationwide Series win Saturday night at Lucas Oil Raceway Keselowski was hoping for an Indianapolis sweep. He qualified well and stayed in front of the field finally coming home with a Top 10 that at least kept him in contention as a possible Chase Wild card candidate.



Jeff Burton

Even a change in crew chiefs couldn’t stop Burton’s miserable season with more bad luck getting in the Richard Childress Racing driver’s way on Sunday. Pit road miscues played a big part in Burton coming home with a very disappointing 35th place finish. 

Juan Pablo Montoya 

Montoya came so close to winning the Brickyard 400 in 2009 before his pit road speeding penalty ended that dream. You have to wonder if he’ll ever have a chance that good again. He was in the mix for a while Sunday until pit strategies and circumstances shuffled him back to a 28th place performance. 

Joey Logano

The weekend was filled with speculation and several unconfirmed reports that Carl Edwards would take his spot at Joe Gibbs Racing next season. Despite doing his best to brush off the pressure, Logano has to be feeling the heat and finishing 25th couldn’t help his mood.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

``Go ahead and go, We're turning you loose.” – crew chief Slugger Labbe to Paul Menard in the final laps.

"He was like a deer in the headlights." – Jeff Gordon after congratulating Paul Menard on the win.

"I can't even frickin' drive this." – Joey Logano 

“God Almighty. I suck at this place!" – Kyle Busch

"This whole (blank) place is for Indy cars!" – Dale Earnhardt Jr.


On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Brickyard 400 a solid four. In terms of drama, excitement at the end and a compelling storyline there wasn’t much missing from NASCAR’s 18th visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. All the talk leading into the weekend of attendance issues and dwindling interest in the race was forgotten in the final 12 laps as Menard furiously outran Jeff Gordon to the finish line. Yes there were segments of strung out racing and fuel mileage once again was front and center but it all still added up to one of the most enjoyable Brickyards in recent years.



Do not adjust your television or radio. The Sprint Cup Series will compete again at Pocono Raceway next weekend – just as it did eight weeks ago. The quirky schedule brings NASCAR’s top division right back to the equally quirky triangular track, which is similar in nature to the flat, 2.5-mile track in Indianapolis. Hopefully back-to-back races on virtually the same kind of layout won’t lull fans into a mid-summer nap.

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Posted on: July 30, 2011 4:46 pm

David Ragan grabs Brickyard pole

By Pete Pistone

INDIANAPOLIS - David Ragan has been one of the hottest drivers in the Sprint Cup Series and he continued that roll Saturday when he won the pole for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Since Ragan scored his first career Cup win at Daytona earlier this motnh, he has moved from 21st to 13th in the point standings.

Ragan is looking to become the third driver in history to win the Brickyard 400 from the pole position.

Kasey Kahne will start outside the front row. Defending race winner Jamie McMurray will take the green flag from the 16th starting position, 


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Posted on: July 30, 2011 1:26 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2011 1:29 pm

Brickyard Happy Hour to Greg Biffle

By Pete Pistone

INDIANAPOLIS - Greg Biffle kept Roush Fenway Racing's practice weekend perfect at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by leading the final session Saturday morning prior to qualifying for the Brickyard 400 later today:


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