Archive for May, 2008

Coca-Cola 600

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Overall, I thought our Coca-Cola 600 was disappointing in the NAPA car. We struggled with our car in the All-Star weekend. We struggled with it again on Sunday. We just can’t seem to figure out what it takes to be competitive on banked, 1.5-mile tracks. Unfortunately, it’s the meat of our schedule so that’s disappointing. What was encouraging was the fact that all three of our cars started out with basically the same setup. David was able to take his car and make it competitive. It was really, really good. We will look at the differences in the setups and see how they differ when we unload them at the shop. The questions that we will be asking are: Why was David’s car so much better? What did they end up with in setup and why was my NAPA car bad? We really haven’t had a car that’s been good enough to win the race on this type of track. This time we had a contender. It certainly was a top-five car. If we would have had a little better gas mileage, we may have been looking at a win for Reutimann. That’s fun. While it was discouraging a bit for the NAPA team, I think MWR as a whole had a good weekend because we had a car that was competitive. We’ll take it back and strip the car down to see exactly what it had and what was different about it so we can apply it to all three cars.

For a rookie, Michael McDowell continues to impress me. I think his night was up and down, but he was able to compete. He made a mistake and the car got away from him, but he was able to keep it off the wall and continue on. The process continues for him to learn what it takes to win one of these races or at least contend for a top-10. I was proud of his effort. I was also real proud of my team’s effort as well as my effort to be honest. We really worked our butts off. We were able to salvage a finish that could have been a lot worse. All and all, it was a little disappointing in some areas, but very encouraging in others.

Now I look forward to getting up to Pocono for testing. Usually Monday is how I wrap up my week. I do my T.V. show and then it is on the new week. This week however, there seems to be no end to my week. After I finish my T.V. show, I head to Pocono for a two-day test starting on Tuesday. I am also going to try and work in my XM Satellite Radio show when I am up there. The show airs on Thursday night.

Dover is up next for us. We will be back at it on Friday morning to try and see how we will stack up there. Dover is a track that I am optimistic about how our NAPA car is going to run. Last fall, I finished 15th and was really competitive. I was very pleased with the way we performed. We had a power-steering issue that took out the power steering for roughly half the race. Yet, we were able to push through it and come up with a good finish.

We need a good solid finish at Dover. I haven’t gotten a finish yet that the NAPA team is proud of. Talladega is still fresh in my mind. We could have won that race. Richmond, we had a shot at a good top-10 finish and got caught up in a wreck. We’ve had times of showing that we are gaining on it. We are coming around. I think what David accomplished at Charlotte is indicative of the finishes that are coming our way.

Michael

Darlington

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

Last week was a pretty cool week for me. We tested over at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Monday and Tuesday. We got our cars running well. We were really pleased by the time the test ended. When it started, we weren’t as happy, but we turned things around. We learned a lot. I think we really needed those two days of testing when the other cars were around to gauge where we are. We tried a bunch of different things. I am really pleased with what we learned. We took some of that technology to Darlington.

Speaking of Darlington, Michael McDowell did a great job there. He had never seen the place before. It’s funny talking to him because the only place he had seen the track before was on his EA Sports video game. He wanted to know if the walls were crooked like in the game and they actually are. He was able to figure it all out because of the game. He qualified in the top 20. I was so proud of him for that. He raced all night long and ended up being the top finishing rookie of the race. He finished 28th, which isn’t great, but he certainly learned a lot.

I ended up finishing 24th. It was a hot race. Man, I got hot in the NAPA Camry. Reutimann got a top-20 in the UPS Camry. Our results are not what we strive for, but we are getting so much closer to where we need to be. Every week we are nicking at being up there in the top 10, top 15. Darlington was good for us and I expect good things at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

On the off-track side, we taped our Monday night television show at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The fans showed up to watch that. We had a really good turn out. One of the fun things that SPEED let’s me do is wear my NAPA logo on my shirt. That means a lot to me. It doesn’t matter where we are … I think people think of me and NAPA as one.

I hope you have seen the new NAPA commercials. The new commercials are a huge hit to fans. The latest one with the stalker has the fans talking. I hear about it all the time. The comments and thoughts from fans on the very first commercial that launched this season with the wrecked car was so popular that fans want to buy the wrecked car at the NAPA souvenir rig! That’s really cool.

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day. I sure did. I took my family to lunch at The Peninsula Club. It’s located about two miles from the shop. My Mom said she lived in North Carolina for 11 years and Sunday’s meal was the best she has ever had! It reminded me about my Dad. He used to say that every steak he had was the best one. I asked my Mom if she said that because of what my Dad used to say, but she said no. It literally was the best meal she ever had. That really made me feel good.

I just got done taping my XM Satellite Radio show, “Michael Waltrip Out Loud” with Tony Rizutti and Rich York, the producer. We had a special guest so if you have XM, please listen in on Thursday night so you can find out who it is. I think Tuesdays are the end of my week because my radio show helps wrap up the week before. Now I am starting to switch gears and start focusing on the rest of the week.

Just to give you a glimpse, Thursday we are having a luncheon for Dale Jarrett courtesy of UPS. Of course, we will be doing a lot of media and appearances for the All-Star Race. Speaking of the All-Star Race, you can help vote me in. I got word that we are in the top five of the Sprint Fan Vote. I haven’t really politicked a lot, but I am starting to do more. I think the strength of the NAPA fan base can help put us in contention to be voted in. Here’s what you can do:

Sprint customers can vote on your phones by texting “NASCAR” to 7777 and your votes count double
OR open this hyperlink:

http://www.nascar.com/promos/allstar/vote/

As they say on the campaign trail … Vote now. Vote often. I really appreciate it.

– Michael

Hi from Richmond…..

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Hi Everyone — My week started early. It started with my television show on Monday. Tuesday I headed up to Detroit for Dow Automotive to be on their Webcast which was really cool. Thousands of people across the world watched and we were a part of it. We had the UPS car up there that had their logo on it. Then I headed to Louisville, Kentucky and had dinner with some UPS folks. We ate at the restaurant where O.J. Simpson got kicked out of. I thought it was kind of cool. We went over to Churchill Downs on Wednesday which was the first time I had ever been there, especially being from Kentucky. It was pretty cool to see everything. I was able to get a feel for what the Kentucky Derby is all about. I certainly know what it takes to put on a NASCAR race, but it was interesting to see how other sporting events are run.  The highlight of the day was meeting Big Brown. I got to pet him. I also got to talk to his owners and his jockey. I really enjoyed that. It was the first time ever that I really got to know a horse that was running in the Derby. It was fun on Saturday to actually cheer for him and see him win. I even bet on him. I also met a guy named Joe Johnson. He’s a jockey and he’s from Owensboro, Kentucky. He came up to me and introduced himself. He told me he was going to win the next race that was scheduled for the day. I thought it was cool so I decided to bet on him. His horse was eight to one. Unfortunately, I got to talking to some people and did not get to follow through with placing the bet. He ended up winning. That was just my luck!I traveled home that afternoon since it was my birthday and went out to Rock Barn where I play golf. I shot a round with a buddy of mine. He’s about 70 years old and he beat me. Thursday was back at the shop. It was the first time all week that I got to stop in. I got up to speed on all the things we are working on. 

Friday morning it was off to Richmond. We qualified respectively. I think I could have qualified better than that but I overshot Turn 1 on the second lap. I didn’t pick up as much time as I had hoped. I felt really good about what we had for the race on Saturday night. It turns out we were really on it. We stayed on the lead lap early. The car got off a little bit during the middle of the race. It wasn’t to my liking. We got it tuned up. I think we were well on our way to a top-10 finish. We made our final pit stop. We were making really good time against the field. We were catching the leader who still needed to make a pit stop. Unfortunately, we got crashed. With spotters these days and drivers being responsible for their cars – somehow Casey crashed into us. Casey and his spotter must not have communicated. I was way faster than Casey. I wasn’t bothering anyone. I was faster so I kept running on the outside. I was all the way up beside him when he crashed us both. That was disappointing.

The official reason we were out of the race was because we were parked. We were parked by NASCAR for aggressive driving because I hit him back after it happened. NASCAR did not like what I did. The wreck basically put us out so it wasn’t the parking that did the damage. It was the crash.  Looking back, at Phoenix, we had a strong car and gas mileage got us twice. We ended up 23rd. At Talladega we were coming to the white flag with the lead and broke. And then Saturday night, we just got into a wreck. We really had three really solid runs for the NAPA team. Not the points to show for it, but I am certainly real proud of where we are heading.  As I am putting this blog together, I am over at Lowe’s Motor Speedway testing in Charlotte. I am testing the NAPA car we are going to race in the All-Star weekend. We are learning a bunch of valuable information. We are also learning a few things that should work for Darlington this weekend. We will continue to hustle and improve our NAPA cars. I am really looking forward to getting the finishes we deserve and I know they are right around the corner. Before I go, please don’t forget to vote for me in the All-Star balloting. You can vote as many times as you want. So please vote often because I would be proud to represent you as well as NAPA in one of the biggest races of the year. Here’s what you can do: Sprint customers, vote on your phones by texting “NASCAR” to 7777 and your vote counts double. Visit participating Sprint retail stores or visit sprint.com/speed for more information. Vote Now! Vote Often! Thank You!

Aaron’s 499 Talladega

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

Hi Everyone —

On Thursday I hopped on my plane to head to Talladega. But first, I made a stop in Atlanta to visit NAPA’s Headquarters to attend the annual Employee Appreciation Day. I absolutely love doing it every year as I feel so much a part of the organization. I feel like a valued employee. We had a nice barbeque and gave away some fun prizes. I talked to some great people and signed autographs. It was just the perfect day.

Then it was off to Talladega. On Friday in the first practice, I was not all that happy with my car. We were slow. I couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t happy so Bobby Kennedy and the guys who work so hard on the NAPA AUTO PARTS Camry dove in there and started to change gears and shocks. They really tried to work the car over to get it to where it needed to be. In general, specifically at restrictor-plate races, there is not a whole lot of room that NASCAR allows you to work on the cars. To be able to show up with one that I didn’t like, and then have the team tune it up to where I could be actually competitive was impressive. At the end of practice I had the fastest time on the board which is not all that really important. What was important to me is we had the fastest five-lap average and I knew I had a car that I could race and win with. So I went to bed Friday night after practice feeling pretty good. I didn’t realistically see how we could qualify very well. We just did not have the fast speed that we had in Daytona in February. Indeed, I was correct. I woke up on Saturday morning and qualified. I got 27th. All three cars were locked in the show so we were just trying to find us a place to start. We were able to accomplish that. Again, I was still confident. I didn’t feel like I was going to qualify well, but I knew that it really wasn’t going to matter. I knew that I had a good race car.

When qualifying was over in Talladega, I jumped on Elliott Sadler’s jet and flew over to Kansas. I did the Truck race on SPEED. I am a real big fan of the Truck Series and especially SPEED. When I was a kid, if they would have had SPEED and showed all the races, I probably would not have graduated from school because I would have never left home. I love the fact that you can tune in and find out about everything that is going on in my world which is racing. I flew over there with Eddie and Jon Wood. Jon went over there and raced. I did the TV part of it. I came back home. I got home around 10, 11 o’clock on Saturday night.

Sunday was the typical race day. I had appearances for NAPA and Aaron’s. Mr. Susor and his wife Lin came over. I got to spend some time with those folks for awhile. I had a new sponsor for Michael McDowell – Microsoft Small Businesses. It was on his car and there were some folks from that company at the track. Race morning is typically the same. It’s just meeting a lot of fine folks and getting people jazzed up about what they are getting ready to do. This race day was no different. After the driver’s meeting, Macy and Caitlin came with me to Talladega so we ate some lunch. I hung out with them. Then it was time for the race to start.

The Aaron’s 499 went about the way I figured. When they said “go”, I made a half-hearted attempt to go from 27th up towards the front. I didn’t really buy into that at that point because I knew there was a lot of racing to go. While it really would have been cool to charge up there. There were still 180 laps to go. My goal was to be around at the finish and be in a position to win it. Fortunately, our plan worked. I kind of laid back and hung out with Jimmie Johnson for awhile. I charged into the top 10 before halfway. I felt pretty good about my race car and how I needed to position it to run fast and be competitive. I learned a lot during the first half of the race by the strategy I elected to use to get the win and I’ll be darn, with five to go, we were leading the race. Jimmie Johnson was second. We followed about the same line to get there. He was a real key in allowing me to get to the front and get the lead. I was able to block him off and put him behind the NAPA car. By doing so, he had to push me. His pushes were crucial to getting me to the front. We were all lined up to do it again coming to the white flag. Jimmie and I were on the outside getting ready to drive around them and the motor let go on the NAPA car. It’s a shame. Just a couple of days before my 45th birthday, we were so close to have winning the race. We just had a car break down with one lap to go. One more lap and we would have had the race won. It’s a little hard to take for a day or two. But we’ll put it behind us and head off to Richmond, Virginia.

But before I will leave for Richmond, today (Monday) I did our XM radio show. I taped that for Thursday night. Our guest on the show was Ron Capps. Ron is NAPA’s Funny Car driver and he was over in Atlanta. He had a really good car too. He raced all the way to the semifinals. He got beat by the eventual winner Ashley Force. NAPA does such a great job using motorsports to sell there products. Ron and I were talking on Monday about how much of an honor it is to be associated with a company like NAPA. NAPA not only sponsors our cars but they do a great job using us in TV commercials and hospitality. They do it all and understand the value of activation. We are really proud that they are our sponsor. I got the show done with Ron and then headed down to Charlotte to tape This Week in NASCAR on SPEED.

Tuesday it’s off to Detroit to do a shareholders meeting for Dow Automotive. Then Wednesday (on my birthday), I go to Louisville, Kentucky to do some stuff for UPS at Churchill Downs.

As you can see, my week is pretty busy. It’s not always like that but it will be over the next couple of weeks. I am proud to have the sponsors I have and the opportunity to represent them.

Thursday, it’s off to Richmond where the NAPA team will continue the momentum of a great run we had at Talladega. It’s really sad just looking at the end result – 27th. You look at that and think I am 27th again, but I certainly need to remember that we almost won. We will try to keep the good momentum going and look forward at the chance to do it at Richmond.