It’s been an eventful year for Paul Menard. Menard joined Richard Childress Racing following a two year stay at Yates Racing/Richard Petty Motorsports. The move to RCR had been talked about for two years as Menards’ father the owner of mid-west hardware chain Menards wanted his his son to drive for what he termed a superior team.
Menard had never won a Sprint Cup race, his lone NASCAR victory had been on the Nationwide Series at Milwaukee. Menard finally found victory lane in a Cup car at Indianapolis of all places, a place his father had sponsored cars for years and never found victory lane. That victory came from using a different pit strategy, staying out on older tires and ultimately at the expense of Jeff Gordon who finished second. Those were three points that Gordon would be denied when the Chase starts at Chicagoland.
Step back a few weeks. Menard assisted teammate Kevin Harvick at Charlotte by pushing him around the track to help him save fuel. This move raised some questions because Menard was not the car who was supposed to be directly behind Harvick but nothing was ever said by NASCAR. The result was a win for Kevin Harvick as Kasey Kahne and then Dale Earnhardt ultimately ran out of gas. Maybe it’s worth noting that Harvick’s teammate Jeff Burton brought out the final caution by sliding though the grass.
Fast forward to last week at Richmond. Jeff Gordon seemingly had the race in hand. When the caution came out for Menard spinning into the grass it allowed his teammate Kevin Harvick a chance to catch back up and win the race. Gordon said he was not surprised to see a RCR car in the grass and suddenly the questions began being asked.
Is RCR and Paul Menard trying to alter the 2011 title Chase? Thus far Harvick has been able to take advantage of 2 victories due to actions of Paul Menard. That’s 6 points on the field, a swing that could have been 3 prior to Saturday night. If Gordon had of one the race he’d actually be ahead of Harvick in the standings. Gordon would be tied with Kyle Busch at 2012 with Harvick 3 points behind Gordon.
Instead NASCAR has done nothing to silence concerns that cars outside the Chase could alter things. What if we are at a point where Carl Edwards is about to go a lap down and the crew radios to David Ragan to cause a ruckus? Joey Logano could slam into the leader or make some payback to aide Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin. If Dale Jr falls out of the chase would he be above giving a hand to Gordon or Jimmie Johnson by similar actions? Could Ryan Newman or Tony Stewart help one another by expiring an engine on a restart to cause another green white checker?
Something does not add up with the radio transmissions of the #27 car but Kevin Harvick is all smiles because he’s the guy getting the points.