Budweiser Shootout pole man Paul Menard has revealed that he will hope to get away cleanly at the start of the non-championship NASCAR season-opener and run at the front throughout the quirky 75-lap warm-up event.
Menard was the 'luckiest' man on Thursday night as he drew the pole-winning ticket at the annual event lottery, confirming himself on pole with veteran Elliot Sadler lining up alongside the #98 Menards Ford Fusion.
“It's a great way to start the year," he smiled before almost wrecking his chances by damaging the car during Friday practice, "Just being in the Shootout first off is pretty exciting. This is gonna be my first one and to have all the guys working on that car and then translate a lot of that to our 500 car, it will be a big test session for us. We'll learn a lot and just have some fun.”
Menard is no stranger to pole at Daytona International Speedway, and reckons he knows the most favourable tactic to run on Saturday night, but is not afraid of having to go a different way if the close nature of Sprint Cup racing comes to bear.
“You just want to have a good, clean start," he revealed, "I was on the pole in July here and it was a lot hotter, but the bottom line was still good then, and the bottom line is gonna be really good [Saturday] night, I think, with it being colder. It's the shortest way and you're gonna have the grip to make the car stick down there, so if we get a good, clean start and get through the gears and hug the bottom and make them pass us the hard way.
“Obviously, you'd like to lead the whole thing, but if we do get shuffled to the back, then it's time to play around a little bit and try some stuff. We'll do that in the two practice sessions [Friday]. Usually in these draft sessions, I'll go to the back and try to see if I can work my way up through there, as opposed to starting up front and just staying there. We'll play around with it and if the car drives good it should make my job pretty easy.”
Nerves don't appear to be a factor in Menard's gameplan, but the same could not be said of Thursday night's draw for pole.
“I had my eye on [the eventual polewinning bottle] basically since we sat down," he said of the lottery process, "I was gonna grab one of the end bottles but somebody had already grabbed the other side so, once that happened, I knew which one I was gonna pick right away.
"The biggest thing is that my hands were frozen, so I was trying hard to keep them from shaking so I could pick it up, but it all worked out.”