Paul Menard grew up with a greyhound dog he named 'Corndog, which came to his house in the early 1990s as a race dog that he and his family had rescued from being put down.

Now, as Corndog reaches his teens, Menard is thinking it may be time to rescue another greyhound and give Corndog a friend in his older years.

Perhaps Menard's career as a race car driver came about as a result of Corndog's past life on the dirt ovals in Kentucky, where he was clocked at an astounding 48mph. Menard would disagree with that notion, however, because greyhound dogs are not raised under the best of circumstances and are often put to sleep in large numbers if they fail to perform early in their racing careers.

"I can't say that Corndog really inspired me to become a race car driver, I'd been racing as a kid long before the old boy was born," said Menard, who will be competing in his second NASCAR Busch Series event this weekend in Kentucky.

"I definitely don't want to be put to sleep if I don't perform well, but I can certainly appreciate Corndog's ability to go fast. Actually, it is pretty phenomenal how fast he can run out in the open - we can't tie his leash to a tree for fear of him taking off after a rabbit and hurting himself.

"But it's sad what they put these dogs through to get them to race and that's why we rescued him. It's even more sad what they do when the dogs don't perform. Obviously, you can't rescue all of them as you'd like to, but we feel that, with Corndog, we gave one greyhound a great life beyond the dog track and now our family is thinking about adopting another."

Menard drives for Andy Petree Racing and will be competing in a summer-long NASCAR schedule that will include races in the Busch, Truck and Winston Cup series. In the fall he will head back to college in Wisconsin for his junior year. Last weekend in Nashville, Menard took his Turtle Wax Chevrolet to a twelfth-place finish in his first-ever Busch series event. Had it not been for a cut tyre, however, Menard may have ended up with a top-five or top-ten finish.

This weekend at Kentucky, he is eager to get another chance at the NASCAR Busch Series before he goes on to Sonoma, California and his first Winston Cup event at Sears Point.

"In my mind, I was looking for a top-ten at Nashville last weekend and, while we fell a little short with the cut tyre, I think we reached that goal," Menard said, "This weekend, we're going to a track where we've tested and, hopefully, we'll avoid the rains and get in a normal weekend with full practices and a qualifying session. So far this year, all those things have pretty much eluded us!

"Kentucky is similar to Charlotte in its size and banking, so I have to hand it to Andy for working that ARCA race into our schedule last month, because it helped me a lot to understand how those types of tracks race."

Menard has now raced in three events on his summer ABCT [ARCA, Busch, Cup, Trucks] schedule, finishing fourth in his ARCA debut at Salem, 34th in the ARCA Charlotte race after losing a motor during a late race charge to the front; and twelfth at Nashville in his Busch debut. Owner Andy Petree has been very pleased with his driver's ability to adapt to the different cars and keep a level head.

"We set this whole schedule up to give him time in different cars and on different tracks," he said, "Not one of them has gotten the best of Paul yet. I think, at some point, you're waiting for the bar to come down where you realise 'okay, this level is too much for him', or 'maybe he's not ready for these heavy cars just yet', but honestly, we're not there yet.

"Not that he's ready to be a Winston Cup star right now, but we're realising that Paul can flat out drive. With experience every weekend, he's only going to get better. He was a top-ten driver at Nashville last weekend, and not many guys can jump into a Busch car their first time out and hang like he did. We're really excited over here, it's going to be a fun summer and I believe we're going to win a few races before he heads back to the books in September."

And should Menard win this summer, you might just see him with a new greyhound, aptly named 'Kentucky', 'Chicago', 'Pikes Peak', or 'Winchester'...