July 31, 2011
Dull first win for Menard
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
INDIANAPOLIS - Nobody likes a fuel-mileage race — except Paul Menard on this day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — because for the most part, it is boring.
And that proved to be the case on Sunday at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 where Menard managed to run his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet farther on his final litre of gasoline than any of the other 42 cars in the race.
When it is all said and done, however, it is not by any stretch of the definition, racing.
Jeff Gordon, who finished second in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, said as much in the post-race media scrum.
“It is certainly a lot more fun when you don’t have to conserve fuel,” Gordon said. “And nowadays it seems that guys are able to stretch out fuel even under green-flag racing by doing things like pushing in the clutch and coasting or even shutting off the engine completely.”
Think about that for a moment. You are a professional race car driver who is trained from the very first day behind the wheel of a race car that the whole process is about winning; about staying out front; about being the fastest car on the races track.
Yet on Sunday at Indianapolis more than half the grid was in fuel-saving mode over the final 20 laps.
Good on Menard for getting his first Sprint Cup victory and I suppose 10 years from now — heck probably one week from now — people will have forgotten that he won not because he had the fastest car but because he had the car that got the best fuel mileage.
Even his best friend in the series — Matt Kenseth — thought so.
“I wish it wouldn’t have come down to fuel mileage, but I’m glad that he got the win,” said Kenseth, who finished fifth.
In spite of how he won, it must be said that Menard’s accomplishment is a huge relief for the 30-year-old form Eau Claire, Wis.
Ever since he arrived in NASCAR’s top loop back in 2003, he has been tattooed as the kid with the silver spoon in his mouth, who was only there because of the sponsorship dollars that his father could bring.
Sunday’s victory was just the latest step in a season where he has been good every week.
Maybe now, finally, he can be viewed as a legitimate contender for a place among NASCAR’s top drivers rather that a rich kid with family sponsorship.
Quote of the week from Kyle Busch on about Lap 60 at Brickyard 400 when his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was struggling: “God Almighty. I suck at this place!” ... Formula One teams are not happy at the prospect of moving the U.S. Grand Prix date to October from June for its 2012 debut in Austin, Tex. A preliminary calendar obtained by autosport.com showed that in the final 10 weeks there would be seven grand prix, with three back-to-back dates including the final two — the USGP and the Brazilian Grand Prix on different continents ... NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne is hinting broadly that he might be up for running in the final IZOD IndyCar race of the season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That race would pay $5 million US if a non-regular IndyCar driver — like Kahne — won. “I think it just has to make sense,” Kahne said. “There’s no way it could affect my Red Bull (NASCAR) deal at all or I wouldn’t even think about doing it” ... Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski won Saturday night’s Kroger 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Lucas Oil Raceway. The battle for second place was so close between Ricky Stenhouse, who was originally awarded the runner-up spot, and James Buescher that NASCAR officials had to review video. Several minutes after the race ended, second place was taken from Stenhouse and given to Buescher ... Joe Gibbs Racing boss J.D. Gibbs told the Associated Press that a deal could be in the works to meld its engine building shop with Toyota Racing Development’s facility in North Carolina.
Jenson Button and his McLaren team guessed first and best on when to change tires on a wet Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix circuit and that won them the race.
The victory came on Button’s 200th grand prix and on the sixth anniversary of his first F-1 win at the Hungaroring in 2005.
He changed to dry tires on his third pit stop and that made the difference as other drivers — like teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel — waited and paid the price.
Vettel had to settle for second, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and Hamilton.