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Menard moving to RCR in 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Paul Menard is taking his father's sponsorship money to Richard Childress Racing next season, giving that organization the financial security it needs to expand to the NASCAR-mandated maximum of four cars.
"When this opportunity to join RCR came about, it was a no-brainer," Menard said Wednesday.
RCR ran four cars last season, but let Casey Mears go at the end of the year when it failed to secure financing to keep that team running. As a four-car team, RCR struggled on the track and failed to put a single car in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Down to three cars this year, RCR has rebounded into one of NASCAR's top teams. Kevin Harvick is the current series points leader, Jeff Burton is in contention for a spot in the Chase and Clint Bowyer is in a tight battle for the 12th and final qualifying spot.
But the team couldn't turn down the financing from Menard, who brings with him a mediocre resume but sponsorship from his father's Wisconsin-based home improvement company. The Menard's chain is the third-largest home improvement company in the country.
"We feel Paul will contribute to the continued progress and success of RCR," Richard Childress said. "Paul will fit in perfectly with our team of drivers at RCR, and they are all looking forward to working with him. We're also very proud to be aligned with Menards, one of the great family business success stories in American history."
Menard is in his fourth full Cup season and is currently 23rd in the standings while driving for Richard Petty Motorsports.
He finished a career-best 26th in the standings driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2008. He jumped to Yates Racing last year, finishing 31st in the standings, and was absorbed by RPM when those two teams merged before this season.
Menard has one career NASCAR victory _ a Nationwide Series win in 2006 _ and 51 top-10 finishes in 152 Cup starts.
Moving to RCR gives that team yet another boost when the organization seems to be clicking across the board. Harvick has two victories this year and is expected to announce next week that Budweiser will sponsor him in 2011, and Childress' engines appear to be the best in NASCAR right now.
But the Menard defection also leaves RPM in a bit of a bind.
The team announced last week that it had re-signed AJ Allmendinger, but star driver Kasey Kahne is leaving at the end of the year and his sponsorship from Budweiser is also out the door. Elliott Sadler has said the team told him he won't be brought back, and now Menard is taking much-needed sponsorship dollars away from the organization.
"Paul is in the middle of his best season of competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and we feel like our strong commitment to him and that team in addition to the great support from Ford Racing has been a major part of that," said Foster Gillett, RPM's managing partner and team owner.
"With 14 races to go, we expect the No. 98 team to finish just as strong as it started this year."
RPM is expected to sign Marcos Ambrose to drive for the team in 2011, though his sponsorship remains unclear.
By Emily Miller
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