Menard, 30, picked a special place to win his first Sprint Cup race in his 167th start. The Wisconsin native started attending races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he was 8. His father, John, has fielded cars in the Indy 500 for years. It took his son to finally give John his first Indy victory.
Driving the bright yellow No. 27 Richard Childress-owned Chevrolet, Menard held off Jeff Gordon for the Indy victory. Then Menard told his father, "Thirty five years of trying. This is for you, Dad."
Paul is known as a man of few words.
"I'm as excited as anybody could be to win the Brickyard 400. I just have a different way of showing it," he said. "When I finally got some quiet time, I cried a little bit. It felt good."
Attending Indy 500s as a lad and meeting Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and other great racers turned Menard into a student of the sport.
"As a kid, I was just in awe of seeing the cars [and] drivers at the speedway," he said. "I tried to learn as much as I could about the Indy cars. At one point I knew every single Indy 500 winner from 1911, Ray Harroun, all the way through the current year [mid 1990s]."
During Menard's racing career he's had to deal with the "rich kid" label. John Menard owns a chain of Midwestern home-improvement stores and he sponsors Paul's race team.
While it's comforting to know his father has tons of money to support his racing, Menard said the situation can be stressful.
"My bosses are my family, and we all know how families interact," he said. "It can get too emotional at times and it makes it hard to stay focused."
Menard's Brickyard victory has suddenly vaulted him into Chase for the Championship contention. He has climbed five places to 14th in the standings. Starting Sunday at Pocono, six races remain to set the 12-driver Chase field. The final two wild-card spots will go to the drivers in the top 20 with the most wins.
After qualifying second for the June Pocono race he finished 14th.
"We were running second or third when we had a competition caution [on lap 18]," he recalled. "I sped down pit road and put us in the back [of the field]. We played catch-up all day long."
Menard is the fourth first-time Cup winner this season, joining Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan. These new winners are supplying a much-needed spark for the sport.
Staying or going?
One of the big questions in NASCAR is whether Cup points leader Carl Edwards will stay with Roush Fenway Racing.
Edwards is in the last year of his contract with RFR. Joe Gibbs Racing reportedly is eager to sign Edwards to drive the No. 20 Toyota currently occupied by Joey Logano.
Showing Edwards lots of love, Ford Racing is all in with big bucks. Spokesman Kevin Kennedy said Ford has "helped out with an offer we have never done before for another driver."
Speculation has Edwards collecting $40 million over 3 years.
Edwards, 31, is keeping everyone guessing, including Jack Roush. Appearing on "NASCAR Race Hub" on the Speed channel, Roush said, "The whole world is waiting for Carl to make his decision. We're giving Carl the room to make his decision."
Edwards, in his seventh full season with RFR, has 19 career Cup wins.
No more at Nashville
Turn out the lights in Nashville for NASCAR racing.
Dover Motorsports Inc. announced yesterday that it will not seek any NASCAR race sanctions for next year at Nashville Superspeedway. Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races were held at the 1.33-mile Nashville track last month.
Nashville's failure to land a Sprint Cup race is cited by Cliff Hawks, the track's vice president and general manager, as a major reason it's leaving the NASCAR schedule. Nashville's grandstands seat 25,000 with room for expansion. Last month's Nationwide race drew an estimated 18,000. Attendance for the truck race was about 11,000.
Speed TV's pit reporter Hermie Sadler, interviewing driver Max Papis after he survived a fiery crash during the recent Camping World Truck Series race at Nashville: "You really smell bad."