The top three series in NASCAR head to Circuit of the Americas in Texas this weekend, providing drivers with the opportunity to take on a new road course. A retired driver will use the weekend to get back behind the wheel. Paul Menard, a 16-year veteran, will race once again after stepping away in 2019.
ThorSport Racing announced on Monday that the team will field a fifth Toyota Tundra in Saturday’s race. Mattei will serve as the primary sponsor for Menard. The veteran only has six Truck Series starts to his name, but he will have the opportunity to familiarize himself with the race vehicle once again during practice and qualifying sessions.
“I appreciate Duke and Rhonda giving me this opportunity to get back into a truck, while working with Bud Haefele again,” Menard said in a press release. “COTA is a new track for the series and one that I have never been to before, so we’ll all be on relatively equal footing. I’ll have 50 minutes to learn the track and knock the rust off and am certainly looking forward to the challenge of trying to add my name to the list of winners in all three national series.”
Menard Began Competing in All Three Series in the Early 2000s
While some drivers start out in the Truck Series before moving on to Xfinity and Cup, Menard took a different approach. He began racing in all three series in 2003, racing a part-time schedule in each. He began increasing his number of starts each year, running a full Xfinity Series — then the Busch Series — schedule in 2005 and 2006.
It was during the 2006 season that Menard captured the first win of his career. He took the checkered flag at Milwaukee, the first of three wins in the series. Menard also reached Victory Lane at Michigan (2014) and Elkhart Lake (2015). The veteran only won three races in the Xfinity Series during his career, but he posted 43 top-five finishes.
From 2008 until 2019, Menard ran a full 36-race schedule in the Cup Series. He drove for multiple teams, including Wood Brothers Racing and Richard Childress Racing, and posted 20 top-five finishes. Menard also won his lone Cup Series race in 2011, winning a Crown Jewel race in the Brickyard 400.
The Truck Series Race Will Feature Other New Faces
Menard won’t be the only driver heading to COTA and making his 2021 Truck Series debut. Michele Abbate, a four-time road racing champion will make her debut in the No. 30 Scosche Toyota Tundra while also working with Ghost Lifestyle, a sports nutrition company.
Abbate is currently competing in the Trans Am West Coast series for the 2021 season, but she will drive the Tundra on a track where she has previous success. According to Jayski, Abbate finished second in the Trans Am West Coast Championship Series race at COTA in 2020. “With NASCAR’s announcement of adding COTA to their schedule I immediately hit the ground running doing everything I could to make my debut,” she said in a statement.
Along with Abbate, a Texas native in Logan Bearden will make his Truck Series debut. He will get behind the wheel of the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado for the COTA race, joining three other team members for the inaugural trip to Austin. Bearden has competed in the Super Late Model series, making starts at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and 5 Flags Speedway among other tracks.
The Toyota Tundra 225 Truck Series race will take place Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on FS1. These three new drivers will help make up a 44-truck field and will strive to find success in their respective debuts. Prior to the green flag, they will have the opportunity to practice on the unique course. They will practice on Friday and then compete in qualifying laps on Saturday.