MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) had a tough day at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday. Both Waltrip and David Reutimann had tires go down. For Waltrip, his setback occurred just 43 laps into the Tums Fast Relief 500. Reutimann’s day saw him leading for 15 circuits at the 300-lap mark, but was forced onto pit road with less than 50 laps to go which ended the organization’s chances for a top-10 finish.
“We just had one of those days,” said Waltrip who started the Tums Fast Relief 500 in 36th position. “Our NAPA Adaptive One Toyota just wasn’t very good today. We had one bad stop that cost us a lap. I could have been better. Everyone could have done better. We just gave a bunch of stuff away today.”
Ryan Newman led the field to the green flag, but the action quickly slowed when the first caution was thrown on lap seven for an incident in Turn 4 involving Marcos Ambrose, Matt Kenseth and Robby Gordon. Waltrip’s NAPA Adaptive One Toyota was a little tight, but was competitive as the two-time Daytona 500 champion drove up to the 31st spot. Unfortunately, less than 40 laps later, Waltrip spun as a result of a flat left rear tire. It cost the NAPA team one lap on the track. When the race resumed, the No. 55 was scored in 37th position.
At the halfway mark, the NAPA Adaptive One Toyota was running extremely tight through the corners. The challenge for track position had Waltrip down three laps. The team took a gamble when the caution flew on lap 251. Instead of pitting, they opted to do the wave around which put them in 33rd place, two laps down. The strategy paid off as NASCAR threw a yellow flag on lap 275. This time, crew chief Gene Nead chose to make significant adjustments to the No. 55 Toyota. Two spring rubbers were added along with bolting on four fresh tires. Waltrip returned to the track in 33rd place when the race returned to green on lap 280. Jimmie Johnson was in the top spot.
By the time the next caution flag flew on lap 300, Waltrip felt his car was faster, but it still would not turn. The NAPA driver encouraged his team after a four tire pit stop to keep up the great attitude especially when their teammate, Reutimann, was the leader on the restart. During this green flag run, Waltrip’s Adaptive One Toyota was as fast as the front runners. Unfortunately, during the team’s next stop under green at lap 421, a problem changing the right rear tire cost them an additional lap. The NAPA Adaptive One Toyota returned to the track in 31st place.
Denny Hamlin was the leader and remained there despite challenges by Jimmie Johnson on two door-to-door restarts in the final 50 laps. Waltrip was able to pick up one more track position before the checkered flag waved to finish 30th. As for Johnson’s runner-up finish, it increased his points lead to 118 points over teammate Mark Martin.
Following closely behind Hamlin and Johnson to round out the top-10 finishers were Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick.
Marcos Ambrose whose team, JTG-Daugherty will continue its technical alliance with MWR next season, also had a tough race. The team never could rally back after getting tangled up with Matt Kenseth and Robby Gordon on lap seven. Ambrose had to settle for 27th place.
Next Sunday, Waltrip competes at one of his favorite tracks and site of a 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup victory for the NAPA team – Talladega Superspeedway. Broadcast coverage gets underway at noon ET on ABC, MRN and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
And if you are curious to know what Waltrip will be for Halloween, don’t miss SPEED’s Truck Series broadcast on Saturday starting at 3:30 p.m. ET.