Paul Menard is hopeful of making NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup this year following his first win at the top level at Indianapolis last Sunday.
The 30-year-old moved up five places in the drivers' standings and is currently the leading candidate for the final wildcard entry into this season's playoff series; he now sits 14th in championship but has a victory to his name whereas 12th and 13th placed Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle do not.
With only six races left before the Chase starts, Menard could be one of the 12 drivers that fight for the title during the final 10 races of the season, although he believes he needs to up his game at some of the remaining tracks in order to do so.
Earlier this year he took solid finishes at Bristol, Pocono and Michigan – three of the next six tracks on the calendar, while he only managed a 37th-place finish during the early-season visit to Richmond – the last venue used before the Chase starts.
"We got a lot of work to do," Menard said. "We have Richmond and New Hampshire before the Chase starts. Those are two of our worst tracks, honestly. We have a lot of work to do.
"We'll rely on our teammates a lot. They typically run well at the short tracks. Got to get that program figured out. We have a couple [of] intermediate tracks, have a couple of those, looking forward to that."
Menard's crew chief "Slugger" Labbe said that Menard and the rest of the Richard Childress Racing squad has to keep putting the pressure on trying to get more wins and consistent finishes. He believes that some of the drivers inside the top 10 of the championship– who already have victories this year – could drop out and take the wild card entry that Menard is pinning his hopes on.
"We're 14th in points with a win," said Labbe. "That doesn't guarantee you a thing. There's a lot of things that could happen. Ryan Newman is currently in the top 10. [He] could fall out, [and] take a spot away from us. We have to keep pushing, be aggressive, make it that way, not rely on this victory."
Menard's father John, a long-time supporter of racing at Indianapolis and former IndyCar team owner, took special pride at seeing his son's first Cup win. It was a first victory at the track where cars he either owned or sponsored came close to Victory Lane on a number of occasions, most notably in 1999 when Robby Gordon took a similar late fuel gamble, but just missed out on an Indianapolis 500 victory to Kenny Brack after running dry.
"Our whole family has been at the Speedway for so long," said Menard Sr. "We all tried very hard. Paul came down here as a very little guy. I remember smuggling him into the garage because he was too young to be in there.
"He would be sitting on the workbench back there behaving himself. He had to be quiet or the yellow shirts would throw him out. He was there, always interested.
"He wanted to be a racecar driver. You know, I'm just a proud father right now. I just have kind of elapsed back to him, of thinking of him as my little boy, but he's a full grown man and one I'm very, very proud of."
Menard who made his Sprint Cup debut in 2003, and is currently in his fifth full season, his first with Richard Childress Racing.