The 2018 season did not play out the way Paul Menard or the Wood Brothers anticipated.
The team was coming off a season in which they scored one victory, four top-fives, and 14 top-10s with Ryan Blaney behind the wheel. In 2018, Menard earned just one top-five – a fifth at Michigan in June – and had only seven top-10s.
Whether he was a good value or not depended on how one evaluated Menard, however. In 2017, he scored three top-10s. Two of these were top-fives, but they all came on restrictor-plate superspeedways where dark horses abound. That limited Menard’s value considerably. By comparison, four of his top-10s came on similarly-configured, 1.5- and two-mile tracks. One other came on the flat Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Menard swept the top 10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which made him a solid pick in the fall race. This is also his best track in terms of career average finish.
When he landed among the top 10, Menard improved by about 10 positions on average with a 7.7 finish in those races compared to a 17.6 start.
In addition, Menard scored top-15s at Kentucky Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway – tracks on which Blaney was strong during his tenure with the No. 21. Now that they have a season together, Menard should be able to improve his results.
We are not yet ready to predict he will perform as well as Blaney ever did in this car, but if Menard can double his output of top-10s, he might actually be more useful on one’s roster. He is not going to be front-of-mind for most fantasy players and is likely to be moderately priced in salary cap games.
In order to be a place-and-hold driver in keeper leagues, Menard is going to have to exorcise a tendency to crash. Last year he failed to finish five times because of accidents and was slowed significantly by crash damage on another couple of occasions. Countering his seven top-10s were 12 results of 25th or worse. In most of those races he lost significant place-differential points to exacerbate the situation.
One other negative notation is that Menard finished at least one lap off the pace in more than half his starts. With that kind of record he was not able to capitalize on any late race attrition.
Three Best Tracks
Las Vegas (15.6 in 13 attempts)
Michigan (17.8 in 25)
Kentucky (18.3 in 8)
Three Worst Tracks
Richmond (24.5 in 24)
Darlington (23.5 in 12)
Charlotte (23.2 in 24)
Victories: None (Best finish = 5th at Michigan I)
Top-fives: 1 (.028)
Top-10s: 7 (.194)
Top-15s: 14 (.389)
2018 Finishes at or above their rank? = 19 (52.8%)