HAMPTON, GA. – It was another mixed bag of results for Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) during Sunday night’s running of the Atlanta 500 at one of Waltrip’s favorite places and home track for sponsor NAPA AUTO PARTS -- the Atlanta Motor Speedway. MWR’s top finisher was Chase contender David Reutimann. He earned his eighth top-10 finish of the season with a fourth-place result and moved up one position in the points to 15th. As for Waltrip and his new crew chief Gene Nead, they had a good start to the weekend but had a tough race and finished 32nd. As for JTG-Daugherty Racing’s Marcos Ambrose, he crossed the finish line in 23rd place.
“I hate that we had a tough night,” said Waltrip after the race as his team remains 32nd in the NASCAR owner points standings. “We had a good Friday and a bad day today. I appreciate how Gene jumped right in and meshed with the guys immediately. They worked hard, but unfortunately, we didn’t get the job done. We made changes to the car throughout the race, but it didn’t work out. Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks and I know how to run well. We just didn’t find the right combination for my NAPA Toyota. It was so hard to drive. Right now, it’s all about getting as many points as we can to put the 55 car in a good position for Martin (Truex) next season.”
On the pole for the Atlanta 500 was the man who will be behind the wheel of the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota next season for MWR, Martin Truex Jr. It was his second pole of the season and third of his career. He went on to lead the most laps of the race – 68. As for his future car owner, Waltrip had a good qualifying effort. He lined up 19th for the event.
During the opening laps of the 325-lap event, Waltrip’s NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota was competitive especially on the longer race runs. But over the course of the race, the handling went drastically away. The NAPA team and their new leader rallied behind their driver to try and improve the car as it was inconsistent going from extremely loose to tight. Stops for changes were completed on laps 38, 61, 83,107, 132, 182, 203, 248 and 271. Spring rubber, track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments were all in the mix to fix the No. 55 Toyota. Despite their hard work and determination, it produced a 32nd-place result.
Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne took advantage of the final restart of the night to overtake Kevin Harvick to score his second win of the season. Finishing behind Kahne to round out the top-10 finishers were Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, Reutimann, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle.
Next Saturday night the NAPA Racing team competes in the Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. It’s the final race in the Chase before the field of 12 is set for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup playoff. Broadcast coverage of the race gets underway on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET on ABC. It can also be heard on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and MRN.
Atlanta 500 Unofficial Results:
Atlanta 500 Lap By Lap: