By admin | May 10, 2013
By Richard Allen
Have you taken a close look at the Sprint Cup standings of late? Many of the usual suspects are listed among the top-12 contenders. Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch are among the names one would expect to find on that list.
However, a name that could be easily overlooked is the driver currently residing in 9th place of the standings.
Paul Menard has spent much of the 2013 season inside the top-10 of the standings. He has been able to do so with less than spectacular but steady performances through the first ten races on the NASCAR schedule.
So far this year, Menard has not won a race, or even finished inside the top-5 for that matter. But he has compiled four top-10s(Las Vegas, Bristol, Fontana and Kansas) even though he has led only three laps in the process. His best result was an 8th in Fontana.
Remarkably, until last week in Talladega, Menard had completed every lap of competition so far in 2013. His involvement in one of that race’s multiple crashes cost him several laps that his battered car was unable to make up. That race also provided the Richard Childress Racing driver with his worst finish of the season, a 26th.
Ten races into a season is certainly enough to provide an adequate baseline for performance. So, is Paul Menard a serious Chase contender?
The answer to that question would have a be a somewhat cautionary, yes.
Menard, the winner of one Sprint Cup race in Indianapolis back in 2011, has never qualified for the ten race playoff before. As a matter of fact, his highest points finish to date has been a 16th in 2012. And further, his inability to lead laps and finish higher on the leader board will allow him and his team virtually no room for error as the cutoff point for the Chase draws closer.
However, if the Wisconsin native and his #27 Chevrolet can remain as consistent as they have been to this point, there is no reason to believe Menard won’t at least be in the conversation when the 26th race in Richmond comes up in September.
Menard’s low key style often leaves him unnoticed at the end of a Sprint Cup weekend. However, if he can indeed maintain his current level of consistency and make the Chase, it would be not only unexpected but also refreshing to have a new face in the mix at season’s end.
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