Archive for July, 2008

Indy Race

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Hi Everyone —

Indy was disappointing for a multitude of reasons. The most obvious was the tire problem. It was unfortunate. Hindsight is 20/20. More testing would have helped. I think they got fooled by the new car, somewhat. Last year, the tires wore a lot.  As the race went on, the track rubbered-in with the old car. It didn’t do that with the new car. If you think about the new car, it has a higher CG (center of gravity). That means the right side tires just take more abuse. The car leans over in the corner and wears the right side tires. We didn’t see any problems with the left side tires. I think that is the reason why last year everything worked out. The old car shared the load amongst all four tires. This year, it used the right sides more and therefore, we had a problem.

I want to commend NASCAR, and really hope that the fans will line up behind me on this. You have to thank NASCAR. They managed and controlled the crisis as well as they possibly could. We ended up having a finish at the Brickyard that was one of the closest finishes ever. Carl Edwards had a real chance at beating Jimmie Johnson. When they started the race on Sunday, after watching practice and knowing all that was going on, I didn’t think anyone would get within a straightaway of Jimmie Johnson. He was that strong!

I hate that the NAPA team had problems on Sunday. The car started off loose. Sam Hornish Jr. pinched me a little more than I expected. It was my fault because I am responsible for taking care of my car. I should have taken him into consideration and not assumed that he would have given me the room I was expecting when making a pass. I spun. Every now and again, a driver should be able to spin out and not get penalized. I didn’t hit the wall. I had my NAPA Toyota under control. I thought we were going to be OK, and then Paul Menard ran over me.

I feel terrible that we lost one of our new gen-three cars. We had a really good practice on Saturday. We were 30th on the speed chart, but when you averaged all of the times, which is what the teams like to analyze, we ended up being 18th-fastest overall. I believe we could have improved on the car and I think we did improve on the NAPA Toyota. We should have had a competitive run. It was my fault for messing that up, so I will suck it up and learn from it. I hate that it happened, but I feel like we have taken another step forward at Michael Waltrip Racing with our new car. We will continue to get better.

I am really looking forward to this weekend. Last night I took Macy to the Jonas Brothers concert. Today, I am going up to Kingsport, Ontario, Canada for a NAPA appearance from 3 to 5 p.m. We are going up to the NAPA AUTO PARTS store to sign autographs and help promote the Nationwide race that is happening in Montreal, Canada on Saturday afternoon. The race is the NAPA AUTO PARTS 200. We are excited to have David Reutimann sporting the NAPA colors. He’s in the No. 99 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, but it looks a little different since the words are in French. Last year the race was interesting with Robby Gordon and Marcos Ambrose. Hopefully, we can add Reutimann into that mix this year and have it be an all NAPA race weekend.

Enjoy this weekend’s races! I sure will.

Michael

Hi everyone!!!

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

I had an awesome off weekend. It was the coolest thing ever. I left for Kentucky on Wednesday for the Truck race. I didn’t have to be there until Friday. A lot of drivers go to the Caribbean or the Bahamas. I went to Kentucky and knocked it out. I stayed at the Belterra Casino Resort and Spa. They have a great Tom Fazio golf course. I shot a 13 on one hole. I wanted to see what I could get if I counted all of them. On a brighter note, earlier in the week, I was golfing at the Peninsula Club that’s not far from Raceworld U.S.A. I birdied holes 17 and 18. I shot a 40. I have never shot in the 30s in my life, but I got a 40. As you can tell, my golf game is a little inconsistent right now.

From a racing standpoint, it was a pretty good weekend, especially when looking at the Nationwide race in St. Louis. David Reutimann drove up there and looked like he had the dominant car. Unfortunately, he got in a crash. He certainly looked like he could have won that race. That was pretty cool to see.

Then, on Sunday, I was in Mississippi to watch Miss Macy race her barrel horse. She did great. There were over 600 kids participating. They did 300 of them on Sunday and then 300 were to run on Monday. She had a clean run. She didn’t knock over a barrel. Her best time ever is 15.70 seconds. She ran a 16.70. She was a second off her personal best. It was weird because they had to wait around forever. It reminded me of qualifying at Bristol. It takes 15 seconds, but you have to wait for what feels like hours to get your turn. Macy is pretty new at barrel racing. She’s only been doing it for about a year. When it was her turn, she went to the first barrel, and she was supposed to yell at her horse. The horse would then know it was time to sit and turn. When she got over towards the first barrel, I think she forgot to yell. I thought she was going to ride on out of the arena. Then she saw where she was heading, and it was amazing. She weighs all of 70 pounds. She’s a sweet little angel, and she got her huge horse to go in the right direction. She got him over to the second barrel and cleared it. She had a really fast run after she got around the first barrel. I was so proud of her. It was a lot of fun to go to the horse show. There were people there from all over the country. I met tons of race fans and they were happy to see me there. They thought it was cool that Macy was competing.

Since I was with Macy on Sunday, I did not get to see my buddy Ron Capps make it to the finals in Seattle. That was pretty awesome! It looks like both of our NAPA Racing programs are in for a strong second half.

This week is busy as usual. Monday, I did my XM Satellite radio show. Tuesday, I traveled to Madison, Alabama. I went there to support one of my high school buddy’s, Paul Finley. He is running for the mayor of Madison. I campaigned for him and signed autographs. I wanted to create awareness for his campaign and raise money so that he can continue to get his message out to the community. He helped me in the past with my Operation Marathon project. He ran the marathon with me, and raised a significant amount of money. He’s been a really good friend, and I am proud that I was able to go to Alabama and help him. Wednesday, I am at Raceworld participating in a sponsor event for the folks of Jet Edge. Then on Thursday, it is off to Indy to do a NAPA appearance at Lincoln Tech, have dinner with the folks at SPEED and then Friday on out, my focus will be on preparing my NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota for a good run on Sunday in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Enjoy the Race!

Michael

Hello from Chicagoland!!!!!!

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

This weekend basically drove me crazy because as soon as practice started on Thursday, my car caught fire. That’s very unusual for us at Michael Waltrip Racing. Rarely does anything fall off of our cars or go extremely wrong, as in this case. It was very surprising to me that it happened. Then couple it with me not liking how the car felt, it put us behind a little bit.

Friday, we fought through the entire day, but I ended up being happy with my car. It was one of the best practices we had all year leading into a race. Our times were good. Our NAPA Toyota was very drivable. I was really looking forward to the LifeLock.com 400.

When the race started, while I was able to maintain my position and run decent, the car was hitting the ground. Bobby Kennedy (crew chief) and the guys knew how to fix it so it was completed during the competition yellow. Everything was going to be OK. I was racing with Jeff Burton on the lead lap and when we were coming off Turn 4, Patrick Carpentier hit the wall. I had to dodge Patrick and Jeff wasn’t able to dodge me. As soon as I went into the infield with the splitter, it was like a bulldozer. It’s a blade on the front. With all the rain we had in Chicago, I felt it dig in. When the splitter digs in, it just takes the car that weighs 3500 pounds, and is running 150 miles per hour, and knocks it down 50 miles per hour. I knew we did heavy damage to the splitter. After that, it was a matter of survival. Not only survival, but we were trying our hardest to get all we could. We struggled. We worked on the splitter. We lost time versus patching it up. Whether I am in the car or Bobby on the pit box or the team in the pit, it is very hard to remain calm. It is very hard to think that every decision we make is correct. I think there was a time when Bobby thought the splitter would be OK and it wasn’t. It caused us to lose some time. There was a time when we came back to pit road to work on it, and ultimately, it ended up being a mistake.

The thing that is frustrating to me is if you zero in on the last five races, I have had a very competitive car. The first of those five was Michigan. We got absolutely the worst finish we could have gotten. We had a top-five car, but fuel mileage hurt us. We had to pit late when others didn’t. Then we got wrecked on the last lap. We ended up 23rd but should have been in the top five.

Next was Infineon Raceway. It was another fuel-mileage game and we were on the wrong side of it. We left there in 25th. It was the second race in a row where we had the worst finish we could get with the way we performed.

We went to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We finally got a great finish. We performed well. I believe we deserved that finish. I was happy.

Then we went to Daytona. On the restart, with a chance to get a top-five finish, we got crashed. Again, we got the worst finish we could get.

In Chicago, we had a very competitive car on a 1.5-mile, banked track which has been a challenge for us all season. We had a good car. We ended up 36th. The reason why we ended up 36th is because we were racing hard with Jeff Burton who is right up front in the points. He ended up hitting me and it caused us to wreck. That is why it is hard to just say, ‘Everything is going to be OK. It will be fine.’ We just want everybody to know that our hearts and souls are into it. We were racing hard at Chicago and darn it, we didn’t get what we deserved. Regardless, I will take positives out of it. We ran better on this track than we have run at these types of tracks all year. That means good things.

We will definitely look at everything we did at Chicago. We know that we could have done a lot of things better as a team. We are going to have that when we slide through the grass and rip our splitter off. The whole splitter concept is new to us and to NASCAR. You know what to do when you knock in a fender, but when you knock in a splitter, you have to gain the experience to truly understand what you have to do. We think we were prepared. We thought we would be OK. In our situation, we thought we had it fixed enough, and unfortunately, we didn’t. It cost us valuable positions.

The cool thing about Chicago is David Reutimann ran in the top 15 all night. His run is going to help us tremendously. We know what he did. We know his set up. We’ll take all that information including what they did during the race and file it.

In retrospect of our entire weekend, on Friday, I had set up A and set up B. Set up A was what we went with because we were fast.  Set up B was basically Reutimann’s set up. We elected to go with our set up. I knew it was a risk. It was a gamble to run the set up that I liked. I had a lot of confidence in it. I felt like if we went with it, we would be OK. I think I was wrong.

One of the biggest things I have learned about this new car is when you show up to the track, that’s pretty much what you’ve got. You can improve on it a little bit or you can mess it up a little bit. You need to stick with it and tweak it. The days of just getting up on Sunday morning and throwing an entirely new set up at it is over. The box that we are now operating in is dictated by the splitter in the front. We are essentially operating in a two inch box. That box will not allow us to easily change our set up. You just have to tweak it. 

So what I am going to do during my off weekend? One thing I know for sure is I am really looking forward to it. It is going to be perfect and it pretty much sums up how much I love racing. I had a number of options of things to do but after weighing my options, I elected to go to Kentucky Speedway. I am going to be a commentator on the Truck race broadcast airing on SPEED. I just love doing the Trucks on television. It is near and dear to my heart so I hope everyone will be watching!

– Michael

Hi everyone-

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

It’s hard to believe but we are at the halfway point in our 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. It seems like yesterday that I wrote my first blog for you after the completion of the Daytona 500.

The past month has been very encouraging for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. Our cars have run well. I think what is interesting is we could have finished second at Michigan fairly easily, in my opinion. We had a fast enough car to get up there, but our strategy just did not play out well. We also got the worst break on the last lap when I got crashed. The fact of the matter is the second-place finish we got at New Hampshire was, to me, payback for the finish we didn’t get at Michigan. The moral of the story is we are running well. At Infineon Raceway we had a good car, but terrible fuel mileage. We had a good finish at New Hampshire because of strategy and mileage. In Daytona, we were in the top 10 on the last lap and got wrecked. You put all of that together and what NAPA wants to see, as my sponsor, is our car up front. NAPA wants to see us on television and in good standing when it comes to final race results. We have hosted a bunch of NAPA guests this season, and they deserve to have their car up front so they can cheer and be proud. Making everyone proud means the world to me. I think for the last month, we have been able to accomplish that. It is my plan to continue to build on it. We will continue to figure out how to not only run up front like we have been doing, but also get those consistent up-front finishes.

If I had to grade the NAPA team, I would say that we are a solid grade of C and getting better. The comment part in our report card where the teacher usually writes, “Michael talks too much”, now says, “This team is heading in a positive direction, and it is fun to see the progress.” We are passing, and we are improving.

Overall, I am really happy with the direction this team is going and with the job the team has done in preparing my cars. I am especially pleased with our Sponsor Services group. Everybody is out there working hard to grow our organization during a very tough time in the marketplace. Our folks take care of NAPA, UPS, Aaron’s, and Best Western. We have so many valued sponsors.  Everyone at MWR understands the importance of taking care of our sponsors. And when I say that, it starts at the top. That’s my directive. We want to continue to treat our sponsors as partners. We also want to make sure we give them everything we can because of their confidence and commitment to Michael Waltrip Racing.

In closing, I am proud of our team and I am looking forward to a strong second half of the season. I appreciate and value everyone’s ongoing support. Thank you so much and I hope to see you at the track!

– Michael

New Hampshire

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Hi Everyone —

I’d like to start out by getting something straight. The rain had absolutely nothing to do with getting the NAPA team a second-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was a track-position strategy that played out in our favor in the end.  When you come to a place like Loudon, you know strategy is going to be huge because of track position. I believed in those closing laps that a good finish and even the win were possible for us.  You look at the way racing goes these days, it’s just different than it used to be. You get track position and you can look like a hero.  Getting track position is very difficult so I felt confident when three or four of the teams stayed out behind me under the caution that I would have had a chance to win the race. I looked up and said, ‘I could win this thing.’ That was a great feeling.

Looking back, I really wished there were a few more laps. I wished we could have gone back to green. The rain in the end hurt us. As bad as I needed those 170 points for finishing second, I was very cognizant of the difference between first and second.  It’s huge.  To get a win for our team would have been very, very rewarding. I heard a gentleman walk in the media center for our post-race press conference and say to J.J., ‘Zero to hero.’ I like to look at things as if they’re not ever as bad as they seem or as good as they seem.  While I don’t think J.J. was ever a zero, did Sunday make him a hero?  It feels good that we can change our fortune a little bit on a Sunday afternoon like we did at New Hampshire. So in a way, I am not totally disappointed that we did not get one more shot at Kurt. If you want to know real disappointment, it was when I was coming to the white at Talladega with Jimmie Johnson glued to me running 20 miles an hour faster than the field. The NAPA team was going to win that race and then my engine blew up coming to get the white. That was a game changer for our team.  Hopefully, New Hampshire can be a game changer too.

The story I told about Talladega is all the inspiration I need to go to Daytona and know we can win. The NAPA team always figures out how to run up front down there. We’re very confident. I wanted to have a solid run at New Hampshire. I wanted to have a top-20 run, but I encouraged my guys and told them we’d get a top-10. From there, we’d go down to Daytona and show them something so that’s exactly what we are going to do — win.

I’m real proud of my team.  I’m not emotional about this, other than the fact to say it’s amazing that NAPA AUTO PARTS is still on my car after what we went through the last couple years.  Just to do anything good for them like winning the outside front row at Daytona and to have a finish like we did on Sunday, I just want to say thank you to them by doing well.  That’s my goal. I want to do well for NAPA. 

– Michael