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Can Richard Childress make this new four-car operation work in 2011? RC insists he can. Paul Menard is banking on it

  Car owner Richard Childress celebrating a Daytona victory with Kevin Harvick, to be one of Paul Menard's new teammates next season (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  By Mike Mulhern

   BROOKLYN, Mich.
   Hey, didn't car owner Richard Childress get the memo that four-car operations simply don't work in NASCAR?
   Childress just signed Paul Menard to run a planned fourth Sprint Cup team, with details, like crew and crew chief, yet to be determined.
   One big plus here – Paul Menard's father, John, is one of the wealthiest men in the U.S., running the Menards home improvements business, third in size only to Lowe's and Home Depot.
   But four teams? It's hard enough to make one team or two teams work, much less three or four.
   Go ask Rick Hendrick and Jack Roush and Teresa Earnhardt....
   Heck, Childress could just check his own records. He had a four-car operation until Jack Daniels withdrew as sponsor at the end of last season.
   And that four-car operation, well, just check the books.
   However Jeff Burton, one of Childress' lead dogs this season in a remarkable comeback year for the whole gang, takes exception to the idea that four teams don't work.
   Two ways of looking at it: All four teams on a four-car team are rarely if ever all successful. Plus, sometimes that fourth team can drag down the third team, as appears the case at Hendrick's this season, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin.
   Burton takes exception....sort of:
   "The fourth team didn't drag down the third team last year at Hendrick," Burton says.
   "Here is the deal with four teams -- You have to put a program together that can be successful with four teams. You have to have the proper people. You have to have the proper funding. You have the proper organization.
    "If you do not have those things, a fourth team will be a detriment. End of story.
    "But that doesn't mean that a fourth team is a detriment.
    "What is a detriment, if you have a fourth team, is the supporting structure around the entire company and each team.
    "I have been a proponent, ever since I have been at RCR, to expand to four teams.
    "Even last year, when we had the fourth team and we weren't running well, it wasn't the fault of the fourth team.
     "I will tell you when we went from four to three, we got strong because we took the very best people and made three.
     "What that means is when we do four, we have got to go get the very best people to create four. We can't take from the three that we have to make four.
     "We have to expand to four.
     "If you have a fourth team just to employ people -- and you don't expand engineering, you don't expand aerodynamics, you don't expand engine R&D --  you have done yourself a disservice.
   "So we learned, by having four teams, how not to do it.
    "Now we have to do four teams right.
     "We didn't do four teams right. We did four teams wrong.
    "This time it is a clear picture of what we did wrong. And we've got to make sure we learned that, and that is what Richard is committed to."


    Jeff Burton (R, with crew chief Todd Berrier): a four-car team can work, if it's organized and funded properly (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Cue the boss, Childress, who insists he can make this thing work. "A lot of people have asked 'Why four teams?'
    "We had it in 2009, and that wasn't any effect on our performance.  The end of 2009, we came on real strong and all four teams were running good.
    "(But) we're going to do this team completely different than we did that one (with Casey Mears).
    "The key thing is Paul, with his driving abilities, fits right in with our guys. He's done such a great job on the track, just improving."
    And Menard himself?
   Menard, leaving the Doug Yates-Richard Petty-George Gillett Ford operation, says, "the time was right for us to make this move. 
    "A fourth team? That's a question I had for Richard --- how is it going to work.
     "They really upped their engineering game, got their cars improved over the winter...and there is no reason why a fourth team won't work."

    Menard, of course, isn't deaf to those who might point to his father's sponsorship as perhaps seemingly a factor in these decisions.
    "I've got my family backing me...and if they're going to back somebody, well, they're going to be involved in this sport one way or another," Menard says. "My dad has been going to Indianapolis since the mid-70s, before I was born. 
     "I grew up around racing, I've got the racing background, my family are huge race fans. If they're going to back somebody, I'm probably the easiest one to yell at...and I can dish it back out.
    "So it's a good 'lateral' relationship -- if I have to answer to somebody as a sponsor, it's my brothers, my sisters, and my uncle and my dad. We can work it out.
   "Luckily, I've got direct phone numbers to everyone on the board of directors at Menards, and we can sit down once a quarter and talk about it."
    The 'talk,' Menard says "it's all talk.
    "It's all what you make of it. And I've looked past that and grown past that. 
    "People will always be talking about it, and there is nothing that you can do about that. 
     "Bottom line is we're a racing family, we have a racing heritage, and I'm a racecar driver, and that's what we enjoy doing. 
     "It's kind of our hobby, it's part of our business -- and it's worked in the past and will work in the future."
     Childress insisted that sponsorship wasn't a big part of the issue: "Paul does the job on the race track.  It's something that he loves to do, and a passion....not just because he's got the sponsor that comes along. 
    "He's got the drive to go out and want to win."

    Nevertheless getting sponsorship – and losing it – is a factor of performance, Childress says: "It boils down to performance.  If we were performing like we did at the start of 2009, we wouldn't be in this situation today. 
    "We knew that we have to keep our teams performing -- at whatever cost to get back up front -- because that's where the sponsors are.
    "As long as we produce on the track, it makes it easier to get sponsors. 
     "We've made a huge investment, and we're still making investments -- even in these times -- in new equipment and new stuff. 
     "You've got to keep growing. You can't live on what you did last year."


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    Paul Menard (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Nice story Mike. I've never

Nice story Mike. I've never really read anything on Paul Menard on his take of things with the Menard family in auto racing. He seems to be real humble about it and accepts the fact that it's the family's $$$ that makes the wheels go 'round. How about a story on him just alone? About his talent vs his family involvement vs the sport's view of him. Any respect?

Menard is no more talented

Menard is no more talented than Mears, and that was a poor hire also. Unless Menard outruns one of the other 3 current RCR drivers over the next 2-3 seasons, he'll be ousted to make room for Childress' first grandson. These are the type of hires that make old-school fans like me sick to my stomach. What has Menard won/done to warrant getting hired by a Top 4 Cup organization?

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