CHICAGO –The week leading up to the Chase race has been a novel experience for Paul Menard, who qualified for the 10-race playoff for the first time in his career.
“I’ve never been in this position before, so I’m taking it like I take every week, with a busier week leading up to the event this week, obviously,” Menard said. “Monday was kind of a normal day. Tuesday we went to Martinsville, got a parade and got a key to the city and a bunch of cool stuff (as part of NASCAR’s Chase across North America).
“From there we flew out to Kansas and tested all day yesterday, then turned around and flew back up here last night, and here we are today. So a busier week than usual — different dynamics, for sure.
Menard has been in contention for a Chase spot before, but steadier results throughout this season finally got him into the field.
“Since 2011, going into Richmond, we were in position to make the Chase,” he said. “We had a shot at it points-wise, and obviously, since last year, if you win, you’re in. Points-wise, we were in a good spot in ’11 and ’12 and saw it slip away a lot during the summer.
“There was a lot more consistency this year. We minimized mistakes. When we had a 15th-place car, that’s where we finished and sometimes overachieved a little bit by making some adjustments at the end that helped us. We were close for a few years and could never seal the deal, but we did this year.”