Column By: DOMINIC KONARESKI / RPW – WEST HAVEN, CT – Paul Menard was in the NASCAR Cup Series from 2003 to 2019. With that longevity, though, he was a known fan favorite of everyone.
Menard is mainly known for only two reasons though…rarely smiling and winning just a single race back in 2011. That race, though, was one of the biggest to win in motorsports, and ironically, that day, he smiled.
If you look up Paul Menard and go to images, you’d be hard pressed to find one of him smiling. If you then look up “Paul Menard Smiling,” you will get images of what looks like a forced smile, except for a picture taken of when he was victorious.
Flash back to the 2011 Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Paul Menard’s career had been more quiet then a silent film up to that point. Many people considered him a bust and that the only reason he has been in Cup so long was due to his father being the owner of long-time motorsports sponsor, Menards. This is a company that allowed Paul to bring sponsorship money to the team.
If you look at his stats, however, you’ll see that there are almost no DNFs (did not finish). In 471 starts, Menard only failed to be running at the end of events just 35 times. He was a consistent driver who was never really in the best equipment. However, he was able to make due with what he had.
Back to that special day in Indianapolis. At 1:00 pm, the race starts. Throughout the event, Menard didn’t make any noise, running outside the top 5. At some points, he was even outside the top 10.
As the laps ticked down, fuel strategy came up as a factor. Many of the leaders began to pit. Consequentially, Menard was able to hop up to the top spot with NASCAR Champion and Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon closing in. However, it was just too late as that was the final lap.
The checkered flag waived as Menard came out of the final turn as the victor…P1…a winner. With the right strategy, and driving his heart out, Paul Menard had finally won a race in the NASCAR Cup Series.
In victory lane, and also afterwards, a photo was taken of Menard with the biggest smile on his face.
The man who never smiled, had in fact, smiled.