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June 14, 2014

Menard's race weekend diary: Weekend off to a solid start

Eau Claire native Paul Menard is providing a daily account of his weekend for the Leader-Telegram. Menard is pulling double duty at Michigan International Speedway.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Eau Claire native Paul Menard is providing a daily account of his weekend for the Leader-Telegram. Menard is  pulling double duty at Michigan  International  Speedway, running in Saturday’s Nationwide race and Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.

7 a.m.: My wife and daughter are with me this weekend for the first time this year so we’re on Remi’s schedule! I woke up around 7 a.m. and had some coffee while reading the news and playing with Remi.

9 a.m.: Stretch for a little bit. Shower and grab a couple hard boiled eggs and some yogurt on the way out the door to the garage.

10 a.m.: Sprint Cup practice starts at 11 a.m., so I like to be in the hauler with plenty of time to talk to my team. We usually talk setup and any possible changes that could be made. Today the No. 33 crew chief, Nick Harrison came by to talk with me as well since Nationwide Series practice starts right after first Sprint Cup practice.

11 a.m.: Now it’s time for a one hour and 20 minute Sprint Cup practice session, which is the first one of the day in Michigan. You’ll usually see teams try out their race setup before switching over to qualifying trim since this is the only practice we get before qualifying. While in the car I will look at data the engineers supply and give them feedback on how the Pittsburgh Paints/ Menards Chevy is handling.

12:25 p.m.: Sprint Cup practice has ended and now I have to run to the Nationwide Series garage since practice starts at 12:30 p.m. I get to debrief with Slugger for a few minutes and eat a quick snack before heading over. The Pittsburgh Paints/Menards car was good in practice. We had to make adjustments to fix how loose the car was off exit of the turns and tighten it up. By the end of practice we had the Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevy in pretty good shape — running in the 12th spot during a mock-qualifying run.

12:30 p.m.: The No. 33 crew has been working hard all morning preparing the Nationwide Series car for practice. I briefly talk with crew chief Nick Harrison and crew before hopping inside the NIBCO/Menards Chevrolet Camaro. This practice will last one hour.

1:35 p.m.: Our first Nationwide Series practice has ended and we get a 30-minute break before the next session. During the break I’ll grab some water and talk with Harrison for a while to decide what changes can be made to the NIBCO/Menards Chevy. We finished practice in the first position and the car is very fast but there’s always room for improvement on the cars. The No. 33 crew definitely gave me a fast Chevy capable of challenging for the pole position that happens tomorrow at 9:40 a.m.

2 p.m.: We made some adjustments to the No. 33 Chevy but not too many as the car is really fast. This practice you will see the Nationwide Series teams working on qualifying trim at some point since last practice we focused more on our race setup. Final practice will be one hour and 25 minutes.

3:20 p.m.: We end Nationwide Series practice a little early so the crew can go through tech and I can get back in the Sprint Cup garage. We finished first in this practice as well and the NIBCO/Menards Chevy only seemed to get faster with adjustments. We worked a lot on ride height during both sessions. Now I’ve got only a few minutes to talk with Slugger before I have to head to pit road for Sprint Cup qualifying which starts at 3:40 p.m.

3:22 p.m.: Walk fast and hydrate.

3:35 p.m.: We made it to the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards car in time for qualifying. I always like to talk to my guys quick before getting buckled in the car. The qualifying session today is 25 minutes with the top 24 advancing to the second round, which is 10 minutes then the top 12 advance to the final round, which is five minutes. We hope to be in that final group. You’ll see there is a lot of strategy that goes into qualifying now. I think this new format makes it a lot more interesting not only for the fans but for drivers and teams as well.

3:40 p.m.: Time to qualify the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevy.

4:45 p.m.: Qualifying went well and we made it to the final round. We always learn a lot during these qualifying sessions. We should have a fast Chevy on Sunday since we qualified fifth. The guys will make any changes we talk about before the garage closes today then tomorrow we will test them out during practice. I usually stay in the garage and debrief for awhile with the crew and my teammates, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon.

6 p.m.: Now it’s time to unwind and enjoy dinner with my wife and daughter.
 

To Read Paul's blog as it appears on the Leader Telegram, CLICK HERE

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