LONG POND, Pa. – Michael Waltrip Racing and its alliance with JTG-Daugherty Racing had a very respectable day at the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway. David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose finished third and sixth place respectively. NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip rallied back from problems on pit road to persevere to a 17th-place finish. The solid day moved Reutimann up two positions in The Chase to 11th while Ambrose jumped two spots as well to rank 18th in the championship standings. Waltrip remains in 32nd, but is less than 100 points from the top 25.
“I feel like I could have done a better job,” said Waltrip who lined up 32nd after rain cancelled qualifying on Friday. “My guys did a good job for me. It’s all about team work so I appreciate their effort. My crew chief, Bootie (Barker) made some good calls to get the car handling better. He also implemented some good strategies to help us gain track position. We were able to survive out there and learn some things that will hopefully make the car better. We still need to get our cars better.”
In the opening laps, the NAPA Toyota was loose. Opportunities to adjust on the No. 55 machine came under green on lap 45 and 76. Air pressure and track bar were changed. After each stop, Waltrip’s lap times improved. However, at the halfway mark, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota went over to the tight side.
During that time, Barker kept his driver in the loop regarding his lap times. Despite the handling challenges, Waltrip was in line with the top-20 in speed. Then on lap 103, a caution for debris was thrown. The NAPA team took full advantage of the situation and stayed out. The strategy enabled Waltrip to race his way back onto the lead lap. The NAPA Toyota took the green flag on lap 117 in 19th position. Unfortunately, the car’s handling went away. Waltrip told Barker his car had very little grip. Barker called his driver in for adjustments on lap 137. As Waltrip was bringing his NAPA Toyota into the pits, his car spun out. The time to reposition his car in his pit stall for service cost the team one lap to leader Matt Kenseth. The team was down, but not out as Waltrip was once again in position to earn the free pass.
The pace set by Waltrip in his NAPA machine kept his team in contention and just 20 laps later, the caution was thrown for debris. The NAPA team was back in business and on the lead lap. The race returned to green on lap 165 with Waltrip in 21st place and Stewart was the leader. With less than 40 laps remaining in the Pocono 500, it was all about fuel mileage. The NAPA team’s calculation showed Waltrip a few laps short so the driver was conservative and successfully made it to the end to score a 17th-place finish, which equated to his eighth top-25 finish of the season.
Winning the Pocono 500 was polesitter and points leader Tony Stewart. It is his first points win as an owner and driver. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Carl Edwards, Reutimann, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Ambrose, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton and Sam Hornish Jr.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series goes to Michigan International Speedway for next Sunday’s LifeLock 400. Broadcast coverage starts at 12:30 p.m. ET on TNT. It also can be heard on MRN and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
Pocono 500 Unofficial Results:
Unofficial Driver Standings: