THROWBACK: Paul Menard Wins the 2011 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis

Published 08/02/2021, 1:50 PM EDT
May 30, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; The Borg Warner trophy sits with a bottle of milk on the yard of bricks before the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports


Back in 2011 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Paul Menard shut up all his critics. He scored a shock first-time victory during that year’s Brickyard 400. Before that race, many had criticised him because of his father’s deep pockets. However, this triumph at one of the most iconic Cup Series events silenced them.

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“We’re winners in Sprint Cup. That’s the big deal. To do it at Indy, even bigger deal,” he said. “Can’t change people’s opinions. They’re going to say what they want to say. That’s fine with me. We’ll celebrate this. We’ll enjoy it. Whatever they say, they say. Can’t control it. I know what I’m capable of.”

Menard’s career was filled with stints at various teams, largely due to his father’s sponsorship money. Sadly, he could never quite translate that into wins. In fact, his only other victory came in 2006 in the Nationwide Series at the Milwaukee Mile. Luckily, his big break came in 2011 with Richard Childress Racing.

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The outfit was steadily improving, so Menard’s maiden win was a long time coming. Richard Childress even confessed that many were skeptical when he signed Paul. However, he was confident because he had his eye on the driver ever since that 2006 win.

How did Paul Menard win the 2011 Brickyard 400?

Initially, all the usual suspects in the strongest cars dominated the proceedings. However, a variety of debris cautions turned the race on its head. Owing to that, the Brickyard 400 turned into a race of pure strategy.

In the end, Menard and RCR’s gamble paid off handsomely. They surrendered the lead to Jamie McMurray and focused on saving fuel, while Jeff Gordon was steadily closing a 12-second gap.

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With three laps to go, Paul Menard decided to get out of fuel-saving mode and pounced on McMurray. From that point onwards, it was a game of cat and mouse with Gordon, who eventually ran out of time. Surprisingly, Paul’s celebrations were quite reserved, though his father was a different story.

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It is also worth mentioning that Menard was one of many first-time winners in the 2011 season. He joined the likes of Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, and David Ragan. The win also vaulted him up five spots to 14th and in contention for the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

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Dhruv George

11994 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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