All posts tagged Paul Menard

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2011 hottest driver tournament: round one

Hottest Driver LogoWho is the hottest, cutest, most-handsome driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series? I know who I think is the hottest, most-adorable driver in the series but if I just tell you what I think it’s boring and the fun only lasts for a few hours, or a day, tops. So instead I thought it would be way more fun if everyone voted!

I’ve randomly seeded 38 drivers into a single-elimination tournament. There will be six rounds of action before we crown a winner and each round will last at least one week. The second round will go on for two weeks because there are so many match-ups I want to make sure there’s enough time to get as many votes in as possible. You can vote as many times as you want and I strongly encourage you to do so every day. And as the rounds wind down be on the lookout for the opportunity to win a prize!

Hottest Driver Brackets Image
Download a copy of the 2011 Hottest Driver Tournament brackets!

Without further adieu here are the match-ups for Round One! :)

Kyle Busch Jeff Burton
Kyle Busch Versus Jeff Burton
Brian Vickers Juan Pablo Montoya
Brian Vickers Versus Juan Pablo Montoya
David Reutimann Tony Stewart
David Reutimann Versus Tony Stewart
David Ragan Casey Mears
David Ragan Versus Casey Mears
Paul Menard Jimmie Johnson
Paul Menard Versus Jimmie Johnson
Kevin Conway Regan Smith
Kevin Conway Versus Regan Smith

Round One Voting Has Ended! Vote in Round Two! CLICK HERE

wtf?! gilliland gets jacked again?!

David Gilliland (credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)So, there I was just scanning the headlines on my iGoogle homepage and what do I see?? This: “Bobby Labonte to attempt to qualify in No. 71 car for TRG Motorsports in Atlanta Sprint Cup race”

Uhm, let me see if I can summarize my thoughts at that moment. It was something along the lines of “What the fuck?!” Sorry, I can’t censor myself right now.

What the hell is going on? I mean, really? They’re really letting Bobby Labonte drive the No. 71 at Atlanta this weekend? Why does David Gilliland keep getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop?? For a second I thought/hoped that maybe he was just sick or something, I dunno, something that would prevent you from driving that had nothing to do with other people’s stupidity.

David is a good guy and a good driver. It’s gross how he keeps getting passed over for other people who, with all due respect to Bobby Labonte, haven’t done anything in quite sometime. I think I did a good job of illustrating that back when Bobby and Paul Menard joined Yates Racing earlier this year replacing David and eventually Travis Kvapil. So I don’t feel the need to go through it again.

I’m so irked that this happened again to David at TRG — an organization that I thought understood the potential of the driver in their stable and valued the fans he brought with him. I get it that Bobby has won a Championship and whatnot, but it’s just annoying to me that it’s so hard for some drivers that deserve a ride to be able to get a chance to just grow somewhere.

I have no idea what will happen beyond this year between TRG and David, maybe this is just a blip and next year his ride will truly be his for the entire season.

Ugh. Maybe I am being a bit dramatic but this is getting really old.

just me, myself and elliott (sadler, that is)

Elliott Sadler at the Auto Club Speedway on Friday, February 20, 2009 (credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)All day the amount of media that gathered for the individual driver press conferences had been small to say the least. I think almost every driver who walked in commented on the lack of butts in the seats. The audio from each meeting was being broadcast over to the deadline media room, and the reporters there could ask questions if they wanted, so people didn’t have to show up in-person if they didn’t want to.

The only driver to have an insane grouping of everyone and their mother was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who was asked every kind of variation of the same question regarding the incident between him and Brian Vickers at Daytona. The gist of what he had to say was that he didn’t mean to do it, he’s sorry about it, and yes, he’s talked to Brian. Blah, blah, blah.

While the vast majority of media was hanging onto every word uttered from Dale’s lips, Carl Edwards was left sitting in the driver’s meeting room with only 3 writers in front of him. I was kicking myself for not ditching Dale and sitting in on Carl’s session instead.

When it comes to these Q&A shindigs with drivers I’ve never asked a question and I usually try to stay towards the back and to the side. But when you’re in a situation where you’re one of like 5 or 6 people in a big empty room it’s hard to blend in. I don’t prepare questions for these things, or at least I haven’t in the past.

These guys are always asked the same questions and if I did dare to say something I’d want it to be interesting and somewhat thoughtful. After about 3 drivers came in it was Casey Mears turn to take the stage and field questions.

I don’t know what I was thinking but I raised my hand to ask a question. I was curious if becoming a father last year has changed his outlook on racing at all. I was sort of afraid to ask because I didn’t want to pry into his personal life and I didn’t want him to give me a Paul Menard answer of “I’m not going to answer that.”

Casey was very nice and smiled throughout his entire response. Smiling is the international symbol for “Your question wasn’t horrible.”

Here’s Casey’s full response: “I’ve discussed this a little bit before and in Daytona as well. It’s funny because I think being one of the younger guys looking at some of the guys that have children and have a little bit more of a family thing, ‘Man, they’re probably slowing down a little bit.’ Ya know, they’re going to be a little more conservative because of that situation and in a lot of ways I think it’s completely the opposite now, being in that situation. It makes you want to try that much harder. It makes you want to be that much more successful. It makes you want to be able to provide for that family now and that child. And I think that it definitely brings a whole new light in my mind of the situation because I feel like you think about it at night a little bit more, ‘hey we wanna make something happen. I want to prove myself, I want to do well.’ So I think from that perspective things have changed. I’ve always had a huge drive to do well and be successful but it’s definitely affected my life probably, and my racing career, in a different way than I thought it was going to. It’s not slowing me down it’s making me work harder.”

From that and subsequent questioning of other drivers I quickly realized that these guys remember everything they’re asked and if you want to stand out and not sound like a schmo you need to come up with something different.

Unfortunately for me I didn’t have the time to think of something fabulous and witty when Elliott Sadler walked into the room. I was the ONLY media member sitting in front of him. As Elliott walked by me he was like “So it’s just you and me today?”, and I was all “I guess so!”

Inside I was freaking out, what am I going to say? I have nothing! Nothing! So I offered up the only thing I could which was the standard how do you feel about your car question. After that I followed up by asking him if ever gets the opportunity to sit down with The King, Richard Petty, or does it happen more in passing which is what Kasey Kahne and Reed Sorenson had said earlier that day. He was nice and answered them both well, but I could tell that I hadn’t wowed him with my journalistic skills. Luckily, a few reporters trickled in during his response to my second question and I was off the hook.

The best part of my day, in which I had to pat myself on the back, was when I asked David Ragan if he ever Googled himself. I think his answer speaks for itself, in it’s pure awesomeness:

“I have Googled myself and, trust me, I wasn’t just like sitting in a room and it was just me. It was probably with a group of friends or at a racetrack trying to kill some time, but yeah I read a little bit.

I think probably my aunts and uncles, and family members they read a lot more than what I do. I read a couple magazines and papers and kind of see what everyone’s talking about, but I don’t get overly caught up in what everyone is writing. And every now and then I’ll see something that ‘Hey that’s not right, or that’s not spelled out right.’ And I think that for a second I’m like ‘Man I wonder if they’re just confused or they don’t have the facts right’ and I’ll try to round ‘em up or if I see one of the writers at the next racetrack I’ll try to grab them or something like that. I do pay attention a little bit to what’s going on but I think my family probably keeps me up to date more than anybody.

That was a good question. I like questions like that, other than ‘How was your car?’ or ‘Are you excited to be here this weekend?’ and stuff like that. I like odd questions.”

Score! :)

Kasey Kahne and Reed Sorenson (credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

Kasey Kahne (left) and Reed Sorenson (right) took on their press conferences together at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA on Friday, February 20, 2009. (credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)


Dale Earnhardt Jr. mulls over a question at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA on Friday, February 20, 2009. (credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)

for loyalty or money?

Travis Kvapil and David GillilandBy virtue of being a woman I tend to lead with my heart. But I’m logical and intelligent and I understand cold hard facts. I know that money is usually the biggest deciding factor in the world of NASCAR race teams and in this economic climate it seems like it’s the only one.

Still, even with those hard truths, I can’t help but feel like there’s more at work with the lack of attention being paid to great drivers like David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil. These are guys that truly deserve more time to prove themselves on the racetrack. Gilliland finished 2nd at Infineon Raceway last year, the best race finish between the two Yates Racing drivers for the season.

So what does his effort get him? Only to be left without a ride and on contract with a company who has given the points he earned to the new guy, Bobby Labonte who hasn’t had a top-5 finish since 2006.

While Kvapil still has a ride for 2009 it doesn’t have a sponsor yet (although Golden Corral has signed on to sponsor him in the Daytona 500) and his points have been moved to Paul Menard. Menard has had only two top-10 finishes in his entire Sprint Cup career and Kvapil has had six.

That just doesn’t sit right with me. Frankly I’m pretty disgusted by it. I understand wanting and needing drivers that can succeed and rack up great finishes. I also understand wanting and needing drivers that are marketable. Both of those criteria are needed to secure sponsorships and I know that Gilliland and Kvapil are completely capable of both of those things.

I had the chance to interview them during the 2008 season and you’re not going to find more genuinely nice, honest and hardworking guys. They’re both well-spoken, good-looking guys with beautiful families. They also have the most important thing: the passion and drive to want to win races. They want to put in the work.

So why did Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard suddenly become the new fresh faces of Yates Racing? Because everybody knows who Bobby Labonte is and Paul Menard comes with a built-in sponsor.

I’m not saying that Yates Racing doesn’t value the talent they have in Travis and David. I don’t think they would have signed them on in the first place if they hadn’t. I just think it’s sad that they couldn’t have held on to what they’d accomplished, built on the team success they had from last year and figured out a way to stay loyal to drivers already in their stable.

It’s really sad when the choice of sponsorship over talent rules the day.

a fast and fabulous year in review

This was such a great year for The Fast and the Fabulous. When I look back at the 2008 NASCAR racing season I smile, grin and laugh. I have had so much fun and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want more! But before 2009 arrives I thought it would be fun to remember the highlights of the year that was:

– Pole Position: There was no way I would have had access to all of the opportunities that came my way this year without my association with NASCAR Pole Position magazine. They really started my year off right and I am so thankful that they asked me to be a part of their publication.

– Flying solo: In attending five races in three different states this year I set a new personal record for myself. This fact alone is just super cool. I’m so proud of myself for following my passion and not caring that I did all of this traveling on my own. To be honest traveling alone is really fun, you always get to do the stuff that you want to and you never have to compromise. :)

– The interviews: The interviews I obtained this year were truly monumental for this blog. If there had been only one I would have said the same thing. Having the opportunity to ask all of these great people questions was something I will not forget. It’s not like I’m planning to not do interviews anymore, but you never forget your firsts! So here’s a special thank you to Michelle Gilliland, David Gilliland, Travis Kvapil, Paul Menard, Liz Clarke, Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty. Here’s a bit of insider info, I interviewed Shana Mayfield (Jeremy Mayfield’s wife) earlier this year but I shelved the transcription of our conversation, not for any particular reason. She was super nice and very cool. I’m planning on posting the interview eventually. If there’s one thing I learned this year it’s that long conversations equal a super long transcription process.

Clint Bowyer– Clint Bowyer: He is the subject the greatest photo I have ever taken during a race weekend. As you can see in the photo to the right that is Mr. Bowyer look straight at me like I’m an alien. I love this photo because his expression is priceless. It was one of many cool moments I had during my time at the Chicagoland Speedway in July.

– Carl Edwards: It was a big year for Carl; he got engaged, brawled with Kevin Harvick and gunned for not one but two Championship titles. He came up short on the Championship front but it’s no small feat to place second in two series at the same time. My teensy, weensy encounters, at Chicagoland and the Auto Club Speedway, with Mr. Edwards were perfect examples of what a great ambassador for the sport of NASCAR he is and display his insanely likeable persona.

– Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I think my post, “fate finally throws me a bone,” is my favorite one for the year. It summed up a lot of feelings and explains where I’m coming from to anyone who doesn’t know me personally. The experience itself was definitely the highlight of my year. I’m hoping for 2009 to bring more experiences like that one, for sure.

– Celebrity: I saw a lot of stars and a couple so-called celebrities this year. I’m still highly pissed and irritated that Heidi & Spencer from MTV’s The Hills were at the Pepsi 500. Gag me. On the other side of the celeb spectrum, ya know the side where people actually ARE celebrities for having actual talent; I was star struck when I was in the same place as actor, and major hottie, Brendan Fraser. I think they should have him as the Grand Marshal of at least one race per year. It’s funny though, no matter what actor, musician or TV personality showed up at the races I was always much more interested in the NASCAR drivers.

– What I sound like: Thanks to invites from a couple really cool radio shows you got the chance to hear me talk about NASCAR. I had such a great time spending time On Pit Row with Steve and Charlie and hanging out in the Treehouse Fort with Matt and Tuffy.

– Twitter racing: When I watched races on my TV at home I kept my cell phone by my side at all times, not because I was waiting for the phone to ring or needed to check my email, nope I kept it with me so I could post Tweets about the race as it was happening. It became such a fun thing to exchange opinions, impressions and laughs with my fellow NASCAR fans. I invite you to follow me, so you can be in on the conversations next year!

– It’s the life: I think I’ve talked before about moments where you say to yourself “how did I get here?” Well I asked myself that question about 50 times when I toured the ESPN mobile production studios while I was at Chicagoland Speedway. I learned a lot, it takes a lot of work to put a broadcast together and rear springs are way heavier than I’d thought.

menard to yates?? what?!

This is the exact reaction I had after reading the AP headline of Paul Menard to leave DEI for Yates Racing.” While I can’t say I didn’t see this coming, rumors of this have been around for a long time, it’s still a big thing to read. I mean, really? Seriously??

This better not affect David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil negatively. I’m just sayin’. I don’t put anything past anyone these days. With the economy being what it is, I would not be surprised if the field of cars for each race next year is down to only 13 teams. Wow, I just thought about that. That would really suck.

interview: shedding light on paul menard

Paul Menard (Getty Images for NASCAR)This past week, before the great American tire debacle race at Indianapolis, I had the great opportunity to speak with the driver of the No. 15 Menards Chevrolet, Paul Menard. Paul is in his second full season as a Sprint Cup driver but is in the beginning of his 5th year of driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that this was my very first interview with a driver. Hell, it was my first time talking to a driver longer than just saying “Hi.” So needless to say I was nervous, and I think it went well but there were some hiccups.

After asking my first couple of questions, without incident, I asked if Paul had made up (or talked to, or made peace) with Tony Stewart since the pit road incident they’d shared last year during the Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. He just answered “next question.” Yeah, that was awkward. Oh and then later on I asked him, on behalf of all the female fans out there, if he was dating anyone, or had a girlfriend, to which he responded “that’s my business.” Oops. And he was right of course, it is his business, but I wasn’t expecting that.

forty-three drivers and he has to win?

Race winner Kyle Busch (18) and runner-up Carl Edwards (99) race side-by-side on the last lap of the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)Yes, the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway was a good race. It was intriguing and crazy right down to the last lap, but of course I hated how it ended.

Why, why, why did he have to win again?? WHY?? If the rest of the season plays out like this I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s sooo boring if the same person keeps winning. Yes, he’s talented and all that, yes, I get it. I can appreciate that fact but it’s so freaking boring to watch. I don’t want to hear the same person in victory lane each week. Even if it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. I promise you I would be bored with that too. It wouldn’t be painful to watch of course but it would be boring.

The coolest thing was seeing David Gilliland running up front. That was truly awesome; I only wonder what could have happened had his pit stop not gone so bad. And see that’s what I’m looking for people, I’m not just out to see Dale Jr. win I wanna see a variety of drivers win. It helps to keep things interesting. If it ever comes to a time when NASCAR only has 4 major teams running several cars, shutting out all of the small teams, then I don’t know if I could watch anymore.

Kevin Harvick (R), driver of the #29 Reese's Chevrolet, stands with wife, DeLana (L), prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2008 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kevin Harvick (R), driver of the #29 Reese’s Chevrolet, stands with wife, DeLana (L), prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2008 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Tony Eury Jr., crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet reacts to race action during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2008 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Uh, yea, my thoughts exactly.

Tony Eury Jr., crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet reacts to race action during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, 2008 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Sprint Cup driver Paul Menard earned his first pole Friday at Daytona International Speedway for Saturday's Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Does he smile like ever?

Sprint Cup driver Paul Menard earned his first pole Friday at Daytona International Speedway for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Martin Truex Jr. chats with Kevin Costner, who performed a pre-race concert with his band Modern West. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Martin Truex Jr. chats with Kevin Costner, who performed a pre-race concert with his band Modern West. (Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)