Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Jack Links Ford team head to Michigan hoping for a strong performance at the home track of Ford Motor Company and a home track of sorts for Menard.
“Michigan and Chicagoland are the closest,” Menard said of the distance between the two Monster Energy Cup Series tracks and his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “I remember more going to Road America and the Milwaukee Mile.”
Michigan and Chicagoland both are at least 300 miles from Menard’s hometown while Road America in Elhart Lake and the Milwaukee Mile are home-state tracks for him.
But his career results at Michigan, including four fourth-place finishes, are enough to make him feel right at home in the Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan.
“It’s been a good track for me, pretty solid,” Menard said. “I ran good there before the repave and after too.”
Menard said the challenges at Michigan include adapting to regular tire combination variations Goodyear and to the changes in track conditions due to fluctuations in temperatures.
“It’s a very weather-dependent track,” he said. “If it’s hot, the track is edgy, and if it’s cool it’s fast.
“But it’s a cool track, and as the surface wears, the groove opens up more.”
Menard also said the race is important because of Ford’s connection to the area.
“It’s in Ford’s backyard,” he said. “There’s a lot of support from Ford when we race at Michigan.”
Menard heads to Michigan after closing out Sunday’s 400-miler at Pocono Raceway with a strong charge from the back of the pack to finish 11th.
He’s now 17thin the championship standings with 12 races remaining in the 26-race regular season.
Qualifying for the FireKeepers Casino 400 is set for 4:10 p.m. on Friday, and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.