People can convince themselves of many things, and when it comes to Paul Menard, that seems to be the case with Richard Childress.
Childress kept a completely straight face on Friday when he discussed Richard Childress Racing's new three-year deal with Menard, a below-average driver who has gotten elite rides due to the Menards sponsorship he brings.
In essence, Childress said he signed Menard because the driver can be competitive and win in the Sprint Cup Series.
But why not just tell it like it is? It would be far easier to swallow if Childress had just said something like, 'Times are tough and we know this guy isn't that good, but he brought a truckload of cash to our team, so we signed him.'
Instead, we got an attempt from Childress to convince us this was somehow a competition-related decision.
"I think there's more pressure on RCR than there is on Paul to go out and perform," Childress said. "He's proved what he can do this year. Now we have to go out and prove that we can give him the equipment."
Childress is one of the great team owners in history and undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer. Everyone respects this man. But seriously? Come on.
More than three-and-a-half seasons into his Cup career – and with solid teams like Dale Earnhardt Inc., Yates Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports – Menard has exactly five top-10s.
Three of them have come during this season, which has been his career year. But that's only one more top-10 this season than Mike Bliss has – in twice as many races!
What has Menard "proved he can do this year?"
He is 23rd in points. He has finished on the lead lap in 13 out of the 22 races so far.
But Childress sat in front of the media at Michigan and said – with no hint of believing otherwise – that Menard can be a winner in NASCAR.
This is the man who hired Dale Earnhardt! And he's saying that in his evaluation, Paul Menard can win Cup races.
"If you look back at some of the races I've watched over the last few years, he's got what it takes to win," Childress said. "It takes the right place and the right equipment."
Childress publicly presented a similar attitude about John Wes Townley.
The team signed Townley – with his father's Zaxby's sponsorship – to drive in the Nationwide Series this season. But it booted Townley after only a few races and somehow kept the sponsorship for half the year.
Childress isn't stupid. He knows that to keep his team afloat and remain competitive, it needs money. So now twice in a year, he has secured sponsorship from families who have sons that drive.
Unfortunately, that's the reality of NASCAR these days. But don't play us for fools and pretend like this is about racing. That's insulting.
"It's not just because he's got the sponsor that comes along," Childress said. "He's got the drive to come and go out and want to win."
But there are tons of drivers out there who care about NASCAR and want to win. Whether they have the talent to do it is another question entirely.
For his part, Menard was a bit more frank. Used to the snickers and behind-the-back comments by now, Menard said his family's company was going to be involved in racing one way or the other, so they might as well sponsor him.
"If I have to answer to somebody as a sponsor, it's my brothers and my sisters and my uncles and my dad," Menard said. "We can work it out.
"(They ask) questions that any sponsor would ask of their driver, of their team representatives. Luckily, I've got direct phone numbers to every (member of the) board of directors at Menards, and we can sit down once a quarter and talk about it."
I don't enjoy hearing that rides can be bought. But if it comes down to it, I'd rather hear the truth than try to be convinced this is all about competition.