Archive for October, 2008

Atlanta 2

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Hi Everyone -

What do you know? Qualifying was rained out at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That’s the tenth time this season and second-straight week in a row. Since I moved up in the points at Martinsville, I started 29th at Atlanta. On Sunday, my NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota did everything it was supposed to do. We got up to ninth but then finished 37th. There were a bunch of circumstances that messed us up because at the start of the race, my NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota sure looked like it was a top-five car. But before the halfway point, we lost our radio communication. In the middle of that problem, I was trying to ask for an adjustment to the car. The adjustment I got didn’t work out. But it was a mistake that I made that hurt us. I just got up high and into the wall. We blew a tire and tore the car up. A lot of stuff went down prior to me making the mistake.

It’s a real shame because so many Sundays since starting Michael Waltrip Racing, my NAPA team had to fight to the finish and that’s all we could do. To have a car on Sunday that I could go up there and have illusions of running in the top five and maybe even getting a win, it’s a great feeling to have. It’s just so tough to have it spoiled. It’s hard to take. Now we are leaving Atlanta knowing we can run well at Texas. We will just sharpen up. We are going to try to make sure we dot our “I’s” and cross our “T’s” a little bit closer. We are going to try and make something good happen this weekend in Texas.

As for my other two teams at Atlanta, I was real proud of Marcos Ambrose. I like him more and more every day as we get to talk and I hear his philosophy about driving the car. I like how he goes about doing his job. I was very impressed with him. David and his UPS team felt like they had a very, very good car on Saturday afternoon. They were fast. Unfortunately, it didn’t relate to Sunday. They are working to find out what happened. That just goes to show you how tough these cars are to predict. David had a car that did not cooperate with him on Sunday.

Regardless, I think all three of our Cup teams and both Nationwide teams that will be running at Texas are confident as to where our cars will be when it comes time to race. We will be competitive!

Stay tuned. Don’t forget to vote next Tuesday and I’ll talk to you soon!

Michael Waltrip - Signature

Martinsville 2

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Hi Everyone –
For the ninth time this season, rain washed out practice and qualifying on Friday. That meant I started 31st – again. When the race got going on Sunday, it was amazing to me how Bobby Kennedy (crew chief) would come over the radio and tell me that the leaders were running 20.90 (seconds) and I was running 21-flat (seconds). I only needed a little bit, but there were 16 other drivers who were between me and Jimmie Johnson. It only takes a little bit on a track like Martinsville. We just couldn’t hit on the right adjustment for our NAPA Toyota. We got close a couple of times, but we could never get it perfect. It pushed all day long, but we fought it and got a top 20 so that’s alright.

Our biggest challenge of the day took place during the long, green-flag run that lasted over 90 laps. I came off of Turn 2 and the NAPA team had some sort of rear-end gear issue which may have been similar to the No. 00 team because they ended up breaking theirs. But my NAPA Toyota would just jump or pop. Something would skip a gear or do something in the back. At one point, I came off the corner and it popped so violently that I had to correct the car. When I did, I got into the outside wall. Martinsville is such a rhythm, timing track. The contact with the wall threw me off for two or three laps. When I finally looked up, the guys I was racing had gotten away. I had lost a lot of ground due to something going on in the back of the car. You have to work really, really hard to get into a groove. My crew chief and the team can see it when it happens. Bobby came over the radio to encourage me and tell me to get my rhythm back. It was easy for him to say, but it was very, very hard to do. It is especially hard to do when you have a variable like I did with the gear acting up. It all went down at a bad time for me because it was in the middle of such a long, green-flag run. We had passed a lot of cars and were running really well, but that contact set us back. Unfortunately for us, it caused us to eventually get lapped by Jimmie Johnson. That relegated us to an 18th-place finish. We were better than that at times and a little bit worse at times.

The No. 00 team had another rough weekend. The same thing happened the week before with AJ Allmendinger. At Martinsville, Mike Bliss drove the car. He had a good car, but never got to show it. His day ended when the rear-end gear broke. Reutimann had bad luck again. I am hoping he finally gets the finish he deserves.  Marcos Ambrose is joining us this week in Atlanta and will remain in the car for the final four races. We’ve got a little Australian influence coming into our mix at MWR.

All and all, the NAPA team’s finish at Martinsville allowed us to gain a few spots in the points so it was a good race for us. We continue to remain solidly in the top 35 so we should be able to race out the rest of this year without worrying about qualifying. Then, we hope to continue to grow and progress in the same direction we have seen over the last couple of months at MWR. I really like the direction we are going.

I am heading to Atlanta this weekend. It will be my 1,000th start of my NASCAR career. That’s pretty neat and I’ll elaborate on it next week when it all goes down. It hasn’t sunk in yet except for the fact that I am realizing I am old!

Stay tuned and I’ll talk to you next week!

Charlotte 2

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

Charlotte was a crazy race. My NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry was fast and I loved it. As the race went along, something changed. The car started handling funny. We got a little bit off in the middle of the race. We got in a crash because there was some oil on the track, and then Bobby Kennedy and the boys made a couple of great adjustments to get the NAPA Camry tuned up for the finish. We ran strong at the end to finish in 24th place.

I’ve said this before, but these cars are really temperamental. Looking at the springs, we are looking at tolerances of an eighth-of-an inch. If the metal in your springs give up a little bit, or your bump stops wear some, it changes the whole dynamic of your race car. The splitter is another issue. If it hits the track, your car does not act right. The challenges we face are so interesting. We are trying to keep the splitter right on the road without hitting the road. There are bumps in the road so that dictates exactly what your car is doing when it goes over the bumps. Shocks, springs, the splitter and a balance of other parts and pieces are so crucial with this new car. Please understand, I am not complaining about the new car. I am just stating the facts that you can get your car set up properly, it’s just very difficult. That’s why some teams are winning and others are still figuring it out.

What I thought was interesting was what happened if you got out front.  Vickers got the lead and he drove off. Jeff Gordon got the lead and he drove off. Tony Stewart got the lead and he drove off. Jeff Burton got the lead and he drove off and won the race. We saw a lot of guys get to the front and be dominant during different stages of the race.

It was also great to see David Reutimann continue his run up front. That team felt like when the race was over, they could have won it. That’s a great feeling for our young organization to have. The NAPA team had a steady, strong car for most of the night. It’s unfortunate that we got in some trouble because we would have been right up there with Reutimann. Then David had brake problems. Who would have ever thought of that? Either one of us could have won that race if circumstances would have been different. David’s car was definitely fast enough to do it. Mine was too at the beginning and very end. AJ Allmendinger drove the No. 00 car and got into a crash early. We never really will know how well he could have done.  However, if you rewind back to May at Charlotte, David ran top 10. The No. 00 team and the NAPA team were terrible. All three of our cars this time were competitive. David was extra competitive. That means progress and that’s what we are all about. I really believe and see where we are gaining on it. We’ll be a part of the story every week – sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned and I’ll talk to you next week!

Hi from Michael!

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

 

What a race at Talladega! We sure saw some big crashes and a crazy finish! All in all, everyone I talked to loved the race. They thought it was very entertaining. That’s what I like about Talladega.

 

I had a really good car. My NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry was fast. A strange thing happened to us. Tire debris from Mike Wallace’s car ended up hitting my roof. The deal probably lasted about two seconds, but from where I was sitting, it felt like a half hour. Here’s what happened. I was driving on the back straightaway and Mike’s tire blew out. The first thing I was focused on was where are all the cars going to go? No cars really went anywhere. Then, all of a sudden, there was a lot of debris flying around. I had to dodge all of that. I looked up and out of the corner of my eye; I saw a large piece of tire. I thought, “There is no darn way that big piece of rubber is gonna hit me!” BOOM! It clobbered my roof. I thought it was coming in there with me. It kind of scared me. It’s not like I can duck out of the way. I actually flinched. My guys did a great job repairing the car. I even did some hammering. It was going to be a great day. Despite my damage, I put myself in a position to go win the race. I went up through the field, led the race and then got caught up in the big crash at the end. It sure was fun and I really like being a part of the story.

 

The finish was crazy. Coming to the checkered flag, Tony Stewart was leading and rookie Regan Smith made a bold move. He dove down and went below the yellow line. He passed Stewart and for a few seconds, he was the winner according to the media. NASCAR quickly disallowed Smith’s move and Stewart was declared the winner. In my opinion, NASCAR made the correct call. Regan was going to run second so I actually wished NASCAR would have awarded him with second place, but since he went below the yellow line, which is illegal, he got put at the tail of the longest line – 18th place.

 

Over the course of the weekend, there was some discussion and a rumor floating around that on the last lap, if you could see the flag stand, anything goes. I’ve never been told that. However, I thought that you could go below the yellow line if the flag stand was in sight and if that situation is indeed the rule, NASCAR really didn’t change anything. From where Regan was, from that angle, he didn’t need to be down on the racetrack yet. I don’t believe the flag stand was in sight. I think if a driver was coming out of the tri-oval, diving for that start-finish line, it would be a different story. At Daytona during the Truck race, Johnny Benson went under the yellow line and NASCAR did not black flag him. His move was in clear view of the start-finish line. They were right there on it. Benson won the race. I would hope after Sunday, the scenario will get more black and white. I bet when we go to Daytona in February, the drivers meeting will be full of questions. On Sunday, NASCAR asked the drivers if they had any questions and no one asked a question. The drivers believed they knew the rules. After what happened at Talladega, I think there will be a lot of questions when we go back restrictor-place racing at Daytona and Talladega.

 

Congratulations to Kenny Wallace. He did a great job in the No. 00 Champion Mortgage car. He got us a 12th-place finish. It was the best finish of the year for that team. Coming up in Charlotte, AJ Allmendinger will be in the car. It should be great to see what he can accomplish for them.

 

In case you have not heard, last week at Michael Waltrip Racing we made a lot of announcements. JTG-Daugherty Racing with driver Marcos Ambrose has signed up to join our organization in a technical alliance. We will field Toyotas for them out of the MWR shop. The alliance keeps us at three teams. It will really help us in moving forward. It is important for our young organization to be able to continue and at least maintain in these tough economic times. Maintaining three cars will allow MWR to grow.

 

I will have a new crew chief next year. Robert “Bootie” Barker will be joining my team. He’s currently with the No. 66 team. Bobby Kennedy will be moving on to a managerial role. Bobby is such a quality individual. He really understands the DNA – the direction that MWR is trying to build. I am really proud that Bobby is going to take on a new role. We’ve got a lot of good things happening.

 

Stay tuned and I’ll talk to you next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                               

                                                                

Hi Everyone —

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

 Traci is dictating this week’s blog as I am playing a golf scramble for Mr. Gary Player. He is raising money for a very worthy cause – childhood obesity. I’ve been here for the last two days playing golf in the Cliffs Communities by Greenville, S.C. Monday, I played with JoAnne Carner. She’s won 43 LPGA events and is a Hall of Fame member. I’m having a great deal of fun. Even Jack Nicholas is here to lend his support. It’s been a real privilege to be a part of this event. Before I give you the scoop on this past weekend at Kansas Speedway, I would like to talk about two men we lost this past weekend. Both contributed immensely to our sport. We lost Paul Newman and Dick Bahre to cancer. I always saw Paul Newman as such a strong character both on and off the track. He did so many wonderful things for so many people. On a more personal level, if I had to pick one guy who was the most important person to me when it came to being a race car driver at this level, it was Mr. Bahre. I am really saddened by his passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to both of their families. They will be missed.

Now on to racing — for MWR, our weekend got off to a disappointing start. Michael McDowell’s team missed the race. They were out of the top 35 by just eight points so they needed to make the race on speed. They showed some real solid runs at Richmond and Loudon. Unfortunately, they also came up short on a few and didn’t perform like they hoped at Dover. They left Dover being eight points out of the top 35. When it came to the team’s qualifying effort at Kansas, they ended up being six-thousands-of-a-second short from making Sunday’s show. Our sport is so competitive right now. It’s not just about what’s happening in The Chase. There’s a lot happening throughout the 43-car field. We’ve got drama!

Speaking of drama, MWR was battling in the top 20 for most of the race. Unfortunately, my NAPA AUTO PARTS team had a problem at the end that took us out of position for a good finish. I haven’t really seen the replay yet of what really happened to my NAPA Toyota. I was a little bit tight and was underneath Sam Hornish Jr. I think somebody behind me spun me out. Then we had a flat tire with a couple of laps to go and we lost a couple of laps pitting under green. We ended up 35th. It was so frustrating because when the race started, we lined up 29th. We raced all the way up to 15th place. We had a really solid car. With David, he got himself a lap down early. He battled back and made his lap up all on his own. He didn’t have to use the free “Lucky Dog” pass. He ended up with a top-20 finish. Despite the setback on the No. 00, and despite the fact the finishing order had the NAPA team in 35th, we had a really competitive and solid run with the No. 55 and No. 44 Toyota Camrys.

I am certainly looking forward to this weekend in Talladega. I believe the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry will be in the mix when they throw the white flag. That’s exactly where we were in April so I don’t expect it to be any different. It’s a real chance for us to post some special results on the scoring pylon.

Stay tuned and I’ll talk to you next week!