INDIANAPOLIS – For John Menard, its been a long road back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as far as Verizon IndyCar Series competition goes. When the series was going through some major growing pains in the early portions of the 21st century, Menard wanted out.
Team Menard who was one of the most iconic names in the IRL days, wanted no more following the 2003 season and decided to fold their operation and merge with Panther Racing in 2004. They moved to just be an associate sponsor in 2005, then completely left open wheel racing for good following that year’s season.
Menard, took his billions south, to NASCAR, as he sponsored his son Paul Menard for the last several years.
But, now it’s time to come back home, as Menard was part of a special announcement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum on Tuesday morning, as he has partnered with Roger Penske for three races during the 2016 season including both of the races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.
Menards will sponsor Simon Pagenaud’s No. 22 Chevrolet in both the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis as well as the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, then will also be on his car for the race at Road America as well.
Menard hails from Wisconsin and is the richest person in the entire state, literally. He also ranks in the top 150 riches humans in this world right now as well.
But, it’s going to be incredible to see those Menards colors back at Indy in May as the last time we’ve seen an open wheel Menards entry cruising at speeds in excess of 200 mph at IMS was 2008.
Now, Menard himself, not just his colors, will be back as he’s got his best shot at finally winning the Indianapolis 500.
Menard has had some of the fastest cars here, as they were always a favorite to win the pole on Pole Day. Scott Brayton won the pole in back-to-back years from Team Menard in 1995 and again in 1996 but unfortunately, Brayton was killed in a practice crash in ’96.
His cars were typically found out front for most of the race until bad luck would strike.
Drivers like Tony Stewart, Al Unser, Nelson Piquet, Arie Luyendyk, Gary Bettenhausen, Robby Gordon, Brayton, Buddy Lazier, Eddie Cheever and several others piloted his cars at Indy, but none were able to take him to victory lane.
Now, it’s Simon Pagenaud’s turn as the Frenchman has the talent and the resources to do so.
Menard did win two IndyCar championships during his career as the first one came with Stewart in 1997 and then again in 1999 with Greg Ray.
He’s also won at Indy before too, but it was in the 2011 Brickyard 400 with his son Paul Menard as he wasn’t the car owner though.
Kissing the Bricks in May is something he’s always coveted and would be a moment just as special as it would have been a long time coming.
Welcome home John, IndyCar has missed you.