Paul Who? In The Top 10?

Keith BalesContributor IMarch 11, 2010

ATLANTA - MARCH 05:  Paul Menard, driver of the #98 Menard's Ford, walks down pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5, 2010 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Yes, you are reading everything correctly, Paul Menard is in the top ten in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings. 

Paul Menard has been involved with racing his whole life, yet he has still to gain the respect of being a competitive driver on the NASCAR circuit. 

Paul is the driver of the number 98 Menards Ford and yes, his dad is his sponsor.  With that being said, people stereotype the driver as, 'he has it handed to him from his dad.'  From which we can understand were the recognition is lost.

In the meantime, Paul has started off the 2010 season strong and has himself in the top 10 in points going into this weekend off.  While Paul has not put up the most glamorous statistics in his seven years of racing in the cup series, he has done well in the start of this season. 

His one top five and top ten (note that Paul only has three top tens in his career) has landed him cozily in the ninth place in points standings.  As of now he is performing better than Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, and Jeff Gordon.

Many factors are contributing to Paul's early success.  One, his new crew chief, Slugger Labbe.  Slugger took Michael Waltrip to victory lane many times, including a pair of Daytona 500 victories.  He also took Jeremy Mayfield to the Chase in 2005. 

Also playing into his success so far this season, is Paul's consistency.  So far he is off to his best season yet.  He has an average finish of 13.2, meaning Paul's being ninth in points is no mystery.   Finishing fifth at Atlanta helps too. 

There is no doubt that Paul Menard could rise above the stereotype that his dad is buying his ride.  Like even Tony Stewart said, "You can have your father buy your ride and write DEI a big check, but you can't buy talent. And that's what John Menard's been good at his whole life, is just buying success. He's bought his son a Nextel Cup ride and he's just got enough talent to just be in the way most of the time." 

If Paul can continue this success, we could all see a new Paul Menard.  One that is finishing up front, no longer in the way, and making the Chase.