NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 21 Paul Menard

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Paul Menard

Season finish: 21st

2014 Season Stats: 0 wins, 5 top-5, 13 top-10, 0 Poles.

What went right: Menard had one of the most consistent seasons performance-wise of his career, with single-season bests in top fives and top 10s. He came close to winning at Las Vegas (finished third) and had identical fourth-place showings in both races at Michigan. He also finished the season with momentum, ending up fourth at Homestead. Some of his best performances came on 1.5- and 2-mile tracks such as Texas, Michigan and Fontana. He also had success in the Nationwide Series: In eight starts, he had one win (spring race at Michigan, his first NNS win since 2006), three top-five and five top-10 finishes.

What went wrong: While Menard had good performance overall, he has now gone 3 ½ years without a win (his lone Sprint Cup triumph being the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in 2011). He also had his worst season finish (21st) since 2010, when he ended up 23rd. He also had a chance to make the Chase, but failed to do so. He came into the September Richmond race ranked 14th, which would have put him in the Chase. Unfortunately, he finished 18th in that race, which dropped him to 20th in the standings, falling four positions short of qualifying for the 10-race playoffs.

2015 Prospectus: Menard saw crew chief Slugger Labbe replaced after the fall Charlotte race and finished the final five races of 2014 with former team engineer Justin Alexander atop the pit box, a role that will continue in 2015. This is Alexander’s first-ever crew chief job in NASCAR, having previously served seven years as an engineer at Hendrick Motorsports. There were promising signs with Alexander as crew chief in those last five races of 2014, including a fourth-place finish at Homestead, 14th at Martinsville and 17th at Texas. Labbe, meanwhile, has moved to an R&D position within Richard Childress Racing. Menard should have a good 2015 season, but he has to improve on his overall position both in race finishes, as well as season standing.

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