By Beth Lunkenheimer, NASCAR Contributor
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into next month’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 14
Career Wins: One Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Win
For the first time since 2011, Paul Menard will have to get to know a new team as he makes the transition from Richard Childress Racing to Wood Brothers Racing heading into the 2018 season. Menard finished 23rd in the standings last season after scoring just three top 10s in 36 races; he also barely averaged a top-20 average finish.
Menard will have some big shoes to fill at Wood Brothers after the organization enjoyed its best season in decades with Ryan Blaney, who moved to Team Penske, which has a technical alliance with the Wood Brothers.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in NASCAR and as a Cup Series driver, but to get the chance to drive the iconic No. 21 for the Wood Brothers is the coolest thing I’ve ever got a chance to do,” Menard said last July in a team release about the move. “I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do. Ryan (Blaney) has done a fantastic job and is a constant threat to run up front. Hopefully, we can do the same thing and keep the momentum going into 2018 and beyond.”
On Monday, the organization also announced it had entered a multi-year partnership with GO FAS Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire, which grants the No. 21 team use of a charter, something many believed should have been given to the organization in the first place. Of course, the addition of the charter for the Wood Brothers means Menard will be guaranteed a spot in each race this season, just like Blaney was through a leased charter from GO FAST last season.
“This Charter is a game-changing step for Wood Brothers Racing. It’s the critical piece needed to thrive as a top owner in our sport,” said Len Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing in the release. “We have been fortunate enough to have extremely fast cars and are blessed with the best sponsors in NASCAR. Pair that with our support from Ford and nearly every piece is in place.
“Last year we leased a Charter from Archie [St. Hilaire]. We’ve really come to appreciate working with him and his son Mason and I think everyone has benefited tremendously from this relationship. For 2018 and beyond, we’ve taken it a step further and entered into a partnership and we think it will be a rewarding endeavor for everyone involved.”
Between the partnership with GO FAS Racing and the technical alliance with Team Penske, it’s easy to expect Menard will move to the Wood Brothers and find success. But if his past performance in the Cup Series is any indication, it’s likely he’ll remain as a mid-pack driver who might find himself in position to win occasionally.