ThatsRacin.com‘s Jim Utter ran an article yesterday on driver Paul Menard titled “For Paul Menard, Steady as He Goes.” Utter notes the success Menard has had in the 98 car so far in this young season following the purchase of his former organization, Yates Racing, by Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) last year, and the switch by RPM to Fords.
For those of us in the Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR League, this isn’t news. It’s been apparent for a few weeks now that Menard has offered top value in in Yahoo!’s Group C, along with teammate A.J. Allmendinger. The question is, why? Have Menard’s driving skills dramatically improved? Is he giving more effort this year?
No and no. Well, maybe his wheel-man skills and ability to work with his crew chief to improve the car have improved some, but not enough to explain his resurgence (he simply wasn’t that bad before), and as he says in Utter’s article, he’s always given 100%.
It’s simple: He’s driving much better equipment than he was last year. If you played the Yahoo! game in 2008, you may remember that Menard returned good value in Group C. In fact, he ran well enough that he was bumped up to Group B for 2009. For the 2009 season, though, Menard left the solid cars of Dale Earnhardt Inc. for the relatively slow machines at Yates Racing, and his crummy results got him demoted back to Group C. With RPM, he’s once again in solid cars, and his results show it.
I also think Utter missed the bigger story: the uptick of not just Paul Menard, but RPM. The organization has undergone many big changes recently—the Yates purchase, the merger with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, the switch to Fords—and so far in 2010, it appears the drivers flying the RPM flag are stronger now than any Petty driver in recent years. Kasey Kahne looks to be a consistent top 10 threat on the non short tracks, and Allmendinger and Menard should rate at least in the top 20 throughout the year. Elliott Sadler hasn’t impressed yet, but that doesn’t diminish RPM’s return to respectability.
Of course, RPM remains far below the Hendricks Motorsports powerhouse in the NASCAR Sprint Cup pecking order. RPM isn’t even on par yet with Roush Fenway Racing or Richard Childress Racing (which is enjoying its own resurgence). RPM has improved, however, and if that trend continues, the RPM drivers will write some interesting story lines on the track this year.
Yahoo! Fantasy Considerations
It’s looking like Kahne will return good value at a lot of tracks this year. Don’t start aggressively saving his allocations just yet—it’s still too early for that. But do think twice before burning his starts at Daytona and Talladega.
Elliott Sadler, on the other hand, hasn’t shown anything this year, and he hasn’t been on my radar screen for any of the races. Perhaps that will change, but for now he’s got a well-worn spot on my bench.
It seems likely Allmendinger and Menard will provide top value at just about all tracks this year, and the best part is, you have 18 starts between them so you don’t have to aggressively save their allocations (for now). As with Kahne, think twice before you run them at the restrictor-plate tracks, but other than that, ride those horses.