Paul Menard will be making his third start of the 2003 season at Nashville Speedway this weekend, but his first in the NASCAR Busch Series as he continues his summer-long ABCT schedule.

In preparation for his first Busch race, the Andy Petree Racing driver has been working diligently behind the scenes on his summer NASCAR programme. He has been working out every morning with his boss Petree, touching and feeling the cars in the shop and using video games to become even more acquainted with the tracks.

Two weeks ago at Charlotte, Menard raced in the ARCA series event, mounting a serious late race charge to the front, before motor problems forced him to retire. It was Menard's first race on a 1.5-mile track and, as Petree explained, it was very impressive.

"We keep upping the ante on Paul and he keeps making us look good," Petree laughed, "We decided not to go to the short track race in Berlin so we could go to Charlotte and get him some big track experience in the ARCA race. He took to that extremely well.

"The whole race was going our way and he was running to the front with fresher tyres than [Frank] Kimmel - until we lost a motor. That wasn't his fault - he did his job and was going great guns on one of NASCAR's toughest tracks. We all left there happy with the way Paul performed, but a little disappointed because we had a shot at winning the race."

At only 22-years old, Menard is a quite a bit younger than some of Petree's recent drivers, which have included Bobby Hamilton, Ken Schrader, and Joe Nemechek. It's given Petree a different approach to each weekend as his relationship with Paul continues to grow.

"I'm having a great time with this programme right now, because it's quite a bit different than the programmes we've had in the past with older more established drivers," the veteran team boss explained, "With Paul, we've got a hungry driver that's young, with a ton of talent and, probably the most key of all, a level head.

"He's not out there trying to impress us every lap, he's out there trying to win the race. That's all I want to do - try and win and do whatever I can to pass on my knowledge, so that we all end up at the front on a regular basis. So far, we've done a lot of learning, but we've also been doing a lot of racing. I think Paul is the kind of driver where, if you give him the right equipment, he's going to surprise you."

One of Petree's goals this summer for Menard, aside from winning, is to give him the experience he needs on different tracks and to keep him racing - constantly. If it's an off-weekend on the schedule, you can be assured Menard will be entered in a local Late Model event or, at a minimum, karting with members of the team. Petree insists that the best way to build a driver's confidence in himself, and in the team, is to always be running and learning how to work together.

Last week, Petree called Menard on Wednesday to tell him he had entered a car at Anderson Speedway and that he'd be racing on Friday night. That was fine as far as Menard was concerned.

"I just want to race as often as I can," said Menard, who led 27 laps in the Salem ARCA event in April, his first event with Andy Petree Racing. "One of the things that I enjoy about Andy and this team is that they always want to go racing. Whether it's a Late Model race or just karting somewhere, everyone wants to go and compete.

"For me, it's made me feel right at home to come racing here. This summer, I wanted to immerse myself in racing and we've pretty much done just that. We'll be racing every weekend through August, and I'm sure there will be some fringe races and karting adventures along the way. To give you an idea, I told Andy I was interested in turning the parking lot at the shop into a kart track for the off days and he said 'go right ahead - just tell me when we're running!'.

Nashville should be a good test of Menard's mettle. With a background in NASCAR's Touring Series cars, he has been racing on ovals for over three years with good success. He was a winner in each of the last two years and finished seventh in the ReMax Touring Series points in 2002, capturing two poles in the process. While Nashville is a bigger, faster track than those he is used to, Menard had a good test at the track last month, and adapted well to the high banks and high speed of Charlotte.

"Nashville will be a lot of fun for me, especially now that I have Charlotte behind me," he reasoned, "I think the way Nashville is set, with the smaller banking, it'll race more the way I'm used to racing.

"We had a good test in Nashville and practiced a lot of pit-road approaches and little things that I need to work on. It was probably the best test I've had from that standpoint - we had two whole days and learned a ton. Jumping into a Busch car and racing against these guys will be a step up, but I'm confident - and I know Andy is as well. Part of this summer is about jumping into the fire and producing right away. My goal is to race with this type of competition every weekend."

Menard will be driving a Turtle Wax Chevrolet Monte Carlo in this weekend's Trace Adkins Chrome 300.