August 11, 2010
Here's proof positive that if you've got sponsorship dollars, you can go anywhere in NASCAR.
Paul Menard -- who, in the most amazing coincidence, is sponsored by Menard's -- will join Richard Childress Racing in 2011. The multi-year deal instantly vaults Menard into the company of one of NASCAR's best teams this year; RCR drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer are ranked 1, 3 and barely 13 this year.
"Having three cars competing for the Chase and, ultimately, the championship is no small feat and they’re on top of their game," Menard said in a press release announcing the move. "With that in mind and having known Richard for the past 10 years or so, when this opportunity to join RCR came about it was a no-brainer. I have always had the utmost respect for Richard and what his organization has accomplished in the past and what they’re capable of achieving in the future."
Menard was something of a running joke his early years in NASCAR -- running deep in the field in a car sponsored by your father will do that to you -- but this year, he's shown marked improvement. He ran well early in the season, even hanging around the Chase level for the first couple months, before settling now into 23rd place. And before we dump too badly on him, he's less than 100 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano, three drivers who have received far more positive press this season than Menard.
"Paul has developed into a very good race car driver, and we see his move to RCR next year as an opportunity for him to continue that progress," Richard Childress said in a statement. "At the same time, we feel Paul will contribute to the continued progress and success of RCR. Paul will fit in perfectly with our team of drivers at RCR, and they are all looking forward to working with him."
Yes, yes, that's all well and good. But there's something missing from that statement. I can't quite figure what it is. Anything else, Mr. Childress?
"We’re also very proud to be aligned with Menards, one of the great family business success stories in American history."
Boom! There it is. Yes, it's easy to be cynical about this -- Tony Stewart has slagged Menard as a rich boy playing cars with daddy's money -- but let's be honest, money helps an awful lot. It also helps that Menard isn't terrible behind the wheel. Regardless, this further consolidates power in the hands of a few teams, and further speeds the decline of Richard Petty Motorsports.
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