Over the course of his Monster Energy Cup Series career, Paul Menard has had some of his best finishes at Michigan International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway.
The veteran driver of the No. 21 Menards/Nibco Plumbing Ford Mustang said he expects this weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan will give him the feel of all three of those tracks. He said the lower horsepower/higher downforce handling package being used in the Cup series this season could bring packs of cars like those in restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega to Michigan.
He also said driving around Michigan will be a lot like touring Talladega with a similarly restricted engine.
"It’ll be fairly easy to run wide open all the way around Michigan," Menard said, adding that the new rules will mean that straightaway speeds will be 30 miles per hour slower while speeds in the turns will be 10-20 mph faster. "Basically it’ll be like a new race track."
Menard said how the racing grooves develop during the race will have a lot to do with how the event plays out. "If the groove widens out, it’ll make a good race out of it," he said.
One thing Menard doesn’t see changing is the strong performance by the Ford contingent, something that has been a factor since the first NASCAR event at Michigan, 99 races ago. That race was won by Cale Yarborough, driving the Wood Brothers No. 21 Mercury. It was the first of 11 wins at Michigan for the Wood Brothers and the first of 49 victories there for Ford and Mercury.
"It’s an important track for the Wood Brothers and for Ford," Menard said. "Fords have been strong at Michigan. We have high hopes going up there."
Qualifying for the FireKeepers Casino 400 is set for Saturday at 12:05 p.m. Eastern Time, and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.