Archive for March, 2008

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

Bristol was a huge weekend for us. Our qualifying streak continued. We’re five for five in getting all three of the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas in the race, and now, all three MWR Toyotas are guaranteed a starting spot at Martinsville. How awesome is that?

On Friday qualifying was rained out. I was glad to see that happen since our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry was damaged earlier in the day during practice. We went to a back-up car and were not able to shake it down in practice since the weather set in. 

Saturday, we were pretty much able to get in both practices. David Reutimann had a good practice finishing second in both sessions. My NAPA Toyota wasn’t as fast as David’s at the start of the run, but it was quicker than his on the longer runs.  We kind of need to have both of those scenarios when setting up our Toyotas for Bristol so we had a meeting with all three Cup teams to make sure we were all on the same page.  Obviously we’ll see some teams fast throughout an entire run. For some reason, our cars are one or the other. I think that is part of the learning process that our young team is going through. We have put together a very strong group of people who are building our cars, and I feel as if we have come a long way in a short period of time. Still, we have more work to do, be we are certainly off to a better start … we are making races, and running competitively. 

Today was Dale Jarrett’s last points race in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. MWR ran a special decal for DJ on the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry and the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry to salute him. I am very grateful for everything DJ has done not only for MWR, but for NASCAR. He has been an invaluable resource to my organization since we launched in 2007, and he will continue to be.  Thanks DJ!

When it came to our race, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry was really good. Paul made a good call to leave us out during the third caution of the day to gain track position. It felt good to lead the race for you guys. The NAPA Toyota was in contention for a top-10 finish until we had two wheels left loose on the car. It set us back, but we were able to regroup and make it to the finish without a major problem on the track. It feels awesome to be locked in for Martinsville! I won’t know what to do with myself on Friday.

The NAPA team won’t be racing this weekend, but you can still watch David run in the Nationwide race. I’m taking a little vacation to Italy so I’ll catch up with you after I get back from Martinsville.

Happy Easter!

Kobalt Tools 500

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

Atlanta was a fun trip. I went down on Wednesday to say hello to everyone at NAPA’s annual Manager’s Meeting. It was held at the Georgia World Congress Center. I had the opportunity to speak to the attendees and then sign autographs with Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA NHRA Funny Car. I have to say, Capps had the coolest looking hats to hand out, so I took one. I had him sign it, and I wore it most of the weekend.

This trip was special since my girls came down on Thursday night to spend the weekend with me. Both Caitlin and Macy had school projects to work on. Caitlin shadowed Jennifer Chapple, one of my public relations representatives since she was working on a paper. Macy’s project was on the state of Georgia. What better way to learn about Georgia than to bring her to Atlanta? Did you know Vidalia onions are only grown in Georgia? Thanks to Macy, I now know that.

Friday remained anything but stress free. Rain greeted us in the morning, and I was hoping it would rain us out. It wasn’t meant to be. Practice started off a little rough. My car was extremely loose, but Paul Andrews and the crew made some great calls to get my car drivable. I am so proud of my team, and how they were able to turn around our day. It was really impressive. I ended up 16th. We ranked second out of the go-or-go-home teams. I felt good about what we had learned, and thought we had a good shot at making it into the show. As always, the longer the day went, the more nervous I got.

The rain pretty much stayed away and qualifying worked out well for us. The NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry qualified 27th. David Reutimann posted the 30th-fastest lap, and Dale Jarrett earned 43rd. For the fourth week in a row, all three of us were in the show. What a relief! In all, 10 Toyotas made the Kobalt Tools 500.

The kids and I woke up Saturday to snow! Macy and I watched the movie Harry and the Hendersons before final practice. I was pretty happy with how my car drove once practice got underway. The NAPA Camry was still a little tight on exit, but I believed I had a car that would be competitive. Unfortunately during the race, my car was back to a loose condition. My car felt no different than it did at Fontana and Las Vegas. It was so tough to drive. We managed a 30th-place finish, and remained 33rd in owner points. I told Paul after the race that our new cars drive way too loose for my liking. We’ll get it worked out, but it still is frustrating.

I really wanted to have a good showing in front of all my friends from NAPA. I want to thank everyone who showed me a nice time when I watched the Nationwide race up in the NAPA suite. Then on Sunday, everyone up in the suite was so kind to wish me good luck. I appreciate all of your continued support and well wishes. THANK YOU!!

I also want to congratulate Toyota for getting its first win in the Sprint Cup Series on Sunday. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to be that driver who got Toyota its first win. I guess I’ll just have to be the second!

Talk to you next week after Bristol!

Las Vegas 400

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

I cannot tell you how happy I am about the start to our season. We are three for three in qualifying for all three of my cars. Fridays are so nerve wracking. It is excruciating for me and my crew. It doesn’t matter how well we practice because anything can happen during the two laps in qualifying. In Las Vegas, I ran a 30.446-second lap in practice, and it was good for 15th position. There were 10 more positions behind me that ran in the 30.40s as well. It was so close out there.

If anyone got to watch SPEED on Friday, they could certainly see by the look on my face that I was incredibly nervous before qualifying. I was so nervous that reporter Bob Dillner gave me hug. A few minutes later, I was back on SPEED with a much prettier reporter in Krista Voda. I asked if she would follow suit and give me another hug for luck. I found out she’s not a hugger, but she was willing to help out our cause. I really appreciated it. The hugs helped. All three of my cars picked up speed to comfortably make it into the Las Vegas 400. I am so proud of my team. There were a lot of smiles when I got out of my NAPA AUTO PARTS Camry. A year ago, it was quite the opposite. It just means the world to me to see Dale Jarrett smiling. I told him: ‘We just needed to get off to a start like this a year ago and maybe we could have made it a lot more fun for everybody.’ It’s a real proud group of men and women that are here with me at the track. We all just dig in. I feel like my success hinges on all three cars, not just me driving, but Dale Jarrett driving, and David Reutimann driving. It’s a lot to think about. 

Today’s race was a tough one all around for Michael Waltrip Racing. Reutimann hit the wall on the first lap to finish 37th. DJ was running really well, but crashed with about 50 laps to go to finish 39th. The NAPA team also struggled. My car was so loose that all I could do was hang on and hope for the best. It was tough out there, and it was evident since 11 caution flags were thrown.

Good news is we are testing this week in Phoenix and next week in Kentucky, so hopefully we will get a better handle on these new cars. They are tricky to set up. Overall, our weekend was not a total wash. We all earned valuable points. The NAPA team as well as my other two teams remain in the top 35 in points. Just two more races to go before NASCAR reverts to the current points standings. I sure hope the next two races go well because I will be so happy to have all three of my cars locked into the top 35. I will be able to get in my NAPA Camry and just drive. That’s the best times … just get in the car and drive. 

Can’t wait to see everyone this weekend in Atlanta! Talk to you soon!