Paul Menard (born August 21, 1980) is an American professional stock car racing driver. He currently competes full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, driving the No. 27 Chevrolet SS for Richard Childress Racing, and part-time in the Xfinity Series, driving the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro for RCR. He is the son of Midwestern home improvement tycoon John Menard Jr., founder of the Menards chain.
Menard's racing career began at the age of eight when he won the Briggs Junior Karting Class Championship in his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He later won the Briggs Medium Class Champion before working his way up to higher level racing. He began ice racing at the age of 15 and won 10 International Ice Racing Association events in his career. He continues to compete in IIRA events in and around Wisconsin. In the summers he raced legends cars on short tracks in Wisconsin. He borrowed Bryan Reffner's Late Model for a week winning his heat race and placing around fourth in the feature. He decided to build his own late model and raced the car three to four times per week. In an interview with Motorsports Minute, Menard said he chose stock cars over Indy Cars because there was no feeder series for Indy Car in his native Wisconsin.
In 2000, he began racing a limited schedule in the NASCAR Re/Max Challenge Series, finishing 13th in points. During his rookie season in 2001, he earned a pole and victory at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, finishing ninth in points. The 2002 season saw Menard compete in ReMax Challenge (two poles, seventh in points), SCCA Trans-Am (one front-row start, four top-10 finishes), Grand Am Cup (victories at Fontana and Phoenix) and the NASCAR Southwest Tour. He capped his season in the latter series with a last-lap pass of veteran Ken Schrader for the Phoenix victory.
In 2003, Menard joined Andy Petree Racing to compete in NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series events while still competing in ARCA. In his first ARCA start at Salem Speedway, he qualified second and finished fourth. Later that year, he started on the pole at Winchester, Indiana, and then scored his first ARCA victory at Talladega Superspeedway. He also had top finishes of ninth in the Busch race at Indianapolis Raceway Park and eighth in the Truck race at the Kansas Speedway.
In 2004, Menard began the NASCAR Busch Series season driving the No. 33 Chevrolet. Midway through the season, he moved to Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in the #1 Chevy. 10 races later, Menard won his first career pole position at Kansas Speedway and finished 23rd in points despite no top-tens and missing seven races. With Dan Stillman as crew chief beginning in 2005, they started out by leading 57 laps at Daytona. Winning the Bud Pole Award at Talladega also had them running up front until getting caught up in a wreck. He got his first top-10 and top-five by placing fifth at the Kentucky Speedway. From there, the team went from 20th to the top-10 in points before finishing sixth on the season.
In 2006, driving the #15 car part-time for DEI, Menard scored his first top-10 finish in the NEXTEL Cup Series by coming in seventh place at the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Menard also won his first Busch Series race on June 24 at his home track of the Milwaukee Mile by holding off a late race charge and bump from NEXTEL Cup regular Kevin Harvick. Harvick eventually caused a multi-car wreck attempting to bump him out of the way. Menard finished off 2006 with a sixth-place finish in the standings, tying his best finish in the standings last year (2005). He scored 16 top-10 finishes and 7 top-5 finishes in the Busch Series.
In 2007, Menard ran his first full-time Cup season. He failed to qualify for six races that season, but after DEI's merger with Ginn Racing, the owner's points were transferred from Sterling Marlin's #14 car to Menard, who was then locked into the rest of the races. His best finish of 2007 was in the Citizens Bank 400 where he finished 12th. In the Busch Series, he picked up 5 top-5 finishes. After the fall race at Charlotte, in which Menard and Tony Stewart made contact on pit road, a feud between the drivers ensued, with Tony Stewart (who drove for Menard's father John Menard in the Indy Racing League's early years) criticizing Menard's career, saying,
"You can have your father buy your ride and write DEI a big check, but you can't buy talent. And that's what John Menard's been good at his whole life, is just buying success. He's bought his son a Nextel Cup ride and he's just got enough talent to just be in the way most of the time."
In 2008, Menard won his first Sprint Cup Series pole at Daytona International Speedway in early July and remained in the top 35 in owner's points for the entire season. At Talladega in the fall, Menard had the best run of his career leading laps and coming home with a strong second-place finish. He also was up front for a good part of the day in the other. He finished up the season with $3,559,130 in earnings and finished 26th in points standings, a career high.
For the 2009 season, Menard moved over to the No. 98 Ford Fusion operated by Yates Racing. Paul Menard showed limited improvement in 2009, running in the top 10 many times, only to later have problems. For example, he crashed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway while running very well, and was involved in a wreck with only 40 laps to go, while running 7th. These issues lead to the team being in danger of falling out of the top 35 in points standings for much of the year. Paul's best finishes include two 13th-place finishes in the Aarons 499 at Talladega Superspeedway as well as the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, and a 15th-place finish in the Southern 500. At the second Dover race, Paul showed his "skills" by starting 10th and running in the top 10 for most of the day, only to find his car tighten up near the end of the race and come home 19th. At the end of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Menard was the only driver to not score a top 10 finish who ran all of the races. Paul ended up finishing 31st in the final point standings.
For the 2010 season, his #98 team moved over to Richard Petty Motorsports, due to its merger with Yates Racing. In his first start with RPM he finished 13th in the 2010 Daytona 500. He then went on to have Top 20's at Las Vegas and Fontana. The following race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Paul posted his second highest career Cup series finish with a fifth place showing followed by a few more top 20's. After that he fell from the Top 12 in points. At Charlotte, he finished eighth after running in the top 10 all race long. Menard also posted another top 10 in the circuit's 19th race at Chicagoland Speedway. At Dover International Speedway in September he ended up with a 7th-place finish. The following week he started from the second position at Kansas. While most publications rated him around 30th in the 2010 preseason, he finished 23rd in points.
In early 2010, Menard drove in the No. 90 Daytona Prototype for Spirit of Daytona Racing in the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona International Speedway. In 2010 he came close to winning the Xfinity Series race at Road America in his hometown of Wisconsin. Menard was running 7th when he was spun out on the final lap by road course specialist Tony Ave. It appeared that Paul Menard was to blame. However footage captured by a fan showed that Owen Kelly was at fault.
Menard moved to Richard Childress Racing in 2011, driving the No. 27. On July 31, 2011, Menard won his first Sprint Cup race in his 167th start, in the Brickyard 400 at the prestigious Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He did so by making his last pit stop with 36 laps to go. He led late, but with 9 laps to go he was passed by Jamie McMurray. With four to go he regained the lead and held off Jeff Gordon, the winner of the inaugural Brickyard 400 in the final laps, having enough fuel to do so. He is the first member of the Menard family to win at Indianapolis, in any event held at the track. He also joins Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, David Ragan, and Marcos Ambrose as first-time winners in the 2011 season.
In September 2011 at Richmond, Menard and RCR became the center of controversy when Menard spun in the waning laps. It was believed that his accident was intentional, intended to assist his teammate Kevin Harvick who later won the race against Jeff Gordon who would have won if the caution did not come out.
In 2012, Menard did not perform well. He crashed during the Aaron's 499 at Talladega and went winless for 2012. In 2013, he slightly improved when he was briefly in Chase for the Sprint Cup contention. A blown engine early in the Coke Zero 400 caused him to be knocked out of the Chase with a few races left before the Chase began. In the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, Menard's tire exploded upon stopping in his pit box; Menard stated, "About a lap later, they told me I was on fire. I lost my brakes, and the damned wheel blew right off."
Menard won the Nationwide race at Michigan for his first NNS win since 2006 in June 2014. He won after Joey Logano blew a tire with 4 laps to go.
In the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, Menard won the pole for the race by drawing. He led the first 7 laps until he was involved in a big wreck, finishing 21st. The race was later won by Matt Kenseth. Menard later finished in the top 5 in Auto Club and in Talladega, and got 5 top 10s and 22 top 15s. He made the Chase for the first time in his career mostly because he had only one DNF (a blown engine in Texas), grabbing the final spot by 17 points over Aric Almirola. He was eliminated in the first round, but with Matt Kenseth's two-race suspension, Menard passed him and finished in a career-best of 14th in the standings. Also in August 2015, Menard took the checkers at Road America, holding off Blake Koch and Ryan Blaney for his third Xfinity Series win. Aside from the 2011 Brickyard 400, the win was Menard's biggest of his career, as Menard had grown up a few miles from the track.
In the 2016 Sprint Unlimited, Menard finished in a career best 3rd place, after surviving several big ones.
You can read more about Paul's racing career from Wikipedia: