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Paul Menard moves into good position with Childress Racing

Consistency has kept Paul Menard in NASCAR Sprint Cup Top 10 points chase and an extended deal with RCR.

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, May. 30, 2013

Paul Menard is sticking around this season, literally and figuratively.

Richard Childress Racing announced last weekend that Menard had agreed to a three-year extension to drive its No.27 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series.

Perhaps more importantly, Menard’s 13th-place finish in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway moved him back among the top 10 in the standings.

Recent history provides evidence that’s a good position to be in at this juncture in the season.

This weekend’s race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway will mark the halfway point to decide the Chase field. Eight drivers among the top 10 at this point last season went on to qualify for the Chase.

Menard continues to remain around the top 10 rather than dropping off after quick starts during recent seasons.

“For whatever reason we start the season off strong and then take a nosedive. So we’re trying to not take a nosedive this year,” Menard said. “So, as long as we keep learning and improving, we’ll be OK.

“Consistency, finishing races; I think we had a stat going into Talladega (Ala.) that we had finished on the lead lap every race, so that’s important.

“It’s really easy to lose points and harder to make them up.”

While Menard has not led many laps this season (four), he has been remarkably consistent.

He has completed 3,944 of 3,949 total laps (99.9 percent) – best among top-10 drivers. Menard has four top-10 finishes, with his best finish (eighth) coming at California. His worst finish is 26th at Talladega.

Paul Menard earned his only Cup victory in the 2011 Brickyard 400.

“There isn’t a driver in the garage who is satisfied with how they prove themselves. They are always trying to get better and trying to do more,” he said.

“RCR is the place where I won my first race at the Cup level. That’s always going to be special, obviously; but it’s a place where I feel like we can win more.

“It’s a comfortable place. It’s a great place to work.”

While most of 2013 has been dominated by headlines produced by drivers from Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, quietly RCR has been establishing itself as a contender as well.

Entering Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover, Menard (eighth) and Kevin Harvick (seventh) are among the top 10 in points and Harvick is coming off his second win of the year.

Team owner Richard Childress has been pleased with the progress.

“I honestly think RCR is ready to contend for the championship this year. We have Kevin and Paul both up there. We’re getting better,” Childress said.

Director of competition “Eric Warren has come along and put together a great group of people. Our engine shop keeps getting better and better.”

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