Archive for April, 2009

Talladega Superspeedway

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

I want to start out by saying how proud I am of my teammates — David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. I’m proud of Reutimann because he’s thankful and he’s happy. He’s one of the guys. When we started Michael Waltrip Racing, we wanted to be part of the story and be up there racing with the big teams. I think maybe the story of the year is Marcos Ambrose. He came from Australia and hasn’t even seen these cars until a couple years ago and very rarely do people come from other disciplines of motorsports, other countries, and get in these cars and be able to do it. Marcos has done it and he’s competitive. At Bristol, he had a top-five run all day long. Every week he steps up. I am just real proud of his team and the benefits of our alliance with JTG-Daugherty Racing. I am just proud of the cars we’re building and what we’re doing.

Heading into the Talladega weekend, I was just a little disappointed in my year so far. I think my car has been good and we’ve been fast. But, I have made some mistakes. I love my NAPA car and I love being the driver for NAPA, but I want to bring NAPA a championship. If we can figure out an option of getting a championship with that team and winning more races with that team then that will be something we will have to look at really hard. I still want to race. I didn’t sign up to be a race car driver so I could wear this cool suit. I signed up because I want to win. I think I can win, but week in and week out, we need to step it up with the 55 a little bit. NAPA has been my sponsor for nine years and we’ve won the Daytona 500 and had some success. They market me better than anyone in the garage area. They are the best sponsor in my opinion with the way they go about marketing my team and me. I feel like I owe them. I owe them results. I owe them wins and I owe them a championship. That’s what Michael Waltrip Racing is working hard on.

This weekend I pulled double duty at Talladega. I drove the No. 99 Aaron’s Dream Machine in the Nationwide race. I just want to say what a great job Jerry Baxter (crew chief) and the guys on the Aaron’s Camry did. Last week at Phoenix we had a fast car. We had a fast one on Saturday too. We have nothing to show for it because we got wrecked. If the team keeps giving me cars like that then it’s going to be a good year for us. 

When it came to the Aaron’s 499 race, the good news about our day was all three of our cars were ultra competitive. We all had issues that we had to deal with. Marcos was able to overcome them to get a top-five. We had a real shot at a solid top-five finish or a top-10 finish for sure if we could have made it through that last wreck. Unfortunately, we didn’t. We’ll just hang our hats on the fact that all of our cars continue to be competitive and head to Richmond.

Richmond is a great track for me. I love it. It is one of my favorites. David Reutimann led the most laps there in the fall race. I think one of the things I enjoy most about 2009 is watching Marcos. What is he going to do next? He’s done really well at some of the toughest tracks we’ve been to. As a driver of the NAPA Toyota and as Michael the race car driver, I love that track and am looking forward to it. As the owner of the team, I cannot wait to see how all three cars will perform. It has been truly enjoyable to show up at the track every week and know that our cars are capable of winning the race.

This week don’t miss out on seeing my acting debut on My Name is Earl. It will air Thursday night at 8 p.m. on NBC. It will also be available to watch on the show’s Web site. Then on Saturday, I will be on NASCAR Race Day. It airs at 5 p.m. on SPEED. I’ll be talking about NAPA’s new paint scheme on my car for Richmond and Darlington. I’ll give you a hint … it’s NAPA Adaptive One Brake Pads!
Sincerely,

Michael Waltrip

Phoenix International Speedway

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Hi Everyone –

This owner/driver thing is maybe a little more difficult than I thought it would be because Michael Waltrip Racing had a great night with David Reutimann who was contending for the win or a top-five finish. My other teammate Marcos Ambrose was right up in the top-10 mix for awhile. My night was just bad. I had a good car. We ran well. We got to lead a lap and you never know how important those five bonus points are going to be one day. But our night turned bad just before the half-way mark. I made a mistake and got loose underneath Robby Gordon. I wrecked us both. I saw Robby after the race. I know he made some comments on TV about me that weren’t very nice. Robby didn’t deserve to get wrecked. That was my fault. He is teetering right on the top 35 and I know what that world is like. I am glad that he stayed on the right side of that fence. I am sorry that it happened. My mistake ruined our night. The race went back to green with my car all tore up and we ran about 120 laps without a caution. It was ugly.

On Friday night, I was leading the Nationwide Series race in my No. 99 Best Western Toyota and Carl Edwards just wiped me out. I thought, ‘That’s the dumbest thing I have ever experienced in my life. Why would he do that?’ The Best Western car was fast. I was really looking forward to racing it. During the first caution, Jerry Baxter made the call to stay out. The rest of the frontrunners pitted for fresh tires. I thought Jerry’s call was fine. I just didn’t anticipate someone being that impatient. Looking back, what happened on Saturday night with Robby changed my attitude towards Carl quite a bit. I can’t be upset with Carl after what I did to Robby. I made a mistake and I believe Carl made a mistake. It is so hard. It’s a tough job and sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to.

Mark Martin scored Hendrick Motorsports its fifth-consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Phoenix International Raceway. That’s amazing. It’s cool to see a win from one of the old guys. For awhile, everybody made a big deal out of age in the sport. I never really saw it. Good guys come along that are young and get a lot of attention despite the fact that there are guys in their 30s and 40s that still get the job done. Mark took it to the next level on Saturday night. He’s been winning races since he was 12 years old. Now, he’s 50 and won at a tough, little track. It’s impressive. He is a special talent. He is dedicated. He works hard. He can drive. He deserves the win. It’s really cool to erase that line between young and old. Let’s just race our cars!

Sincerely,

Michael Waltrip

Texas Motor Speedway

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

Michael Waltrip Racing had a pretty good weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. David Reutimann and his No. 00 team got the pole for Sunday’s Samsung 500. His car was fast from the time they unloaded and they kept up the pace all the way through the race. Reutimann and his crew chief Rodney Childers put a really good package together. To go out and be the best on any given day, especially at a place like Texas where there is a lot of stuff going on, carries a lot of prestige. I am proud of them for the success they had down there and winning pole in the Aaron’s Dream Machine was a big deal for David and my entire Michael Waltrip Racing organization.

The JTG-Daugherty Racing team that we have an alliance with had a top-10 going despite having some mechanical issues. They eventually had an engine problem that put an end to their day, but despite that, everyone has to be impressed with Marcos Ambrose. He is a guy that showed up and now he is doing it! He is running in the top five and top 10 at many of these races – whether it is a short track like Bristol Motor Speedway or a fast, intermediate track like Texas Motor Speedway – he is running well. It is great for Tad and Jodi Geschickter. They’ve had their heart and soul in the NASCAR Series for 10 to 15 years now. To have the success they have had so far this season is a great story to tell.

As for my weekend, I was optimistic. I felt like we had a lot of potential. It just seemed like right at the wrong time in the race; our NAPA car wasn’t running right. We started in 34th and stayed on the lead lap forever. Then we got lapped along with the very next guy in front of us – AJ Allmendinger. The caution came out and AJ was able to capitalize by getting the free pass. Late in the going, we made an adjustment that really didn’t work for the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry. It cost us another lap. At the end, Bootie got the car dialed back in and I was happy. It was fast again.

In any race, there are segments and you can sometimes fall off the pace like Jimmie Johnson did and get away with it especially if the cautions fly right. But there are other times in the race where you better be dead on or you’ll get so far behind that you won’t ever be able to make it up. That scenario happened to us and it’s a shame for the NAPA team.

For those of you who had the chance to watch the Cup race, you saw a good show. There were a lot of changes and turns that led to the outcome. We saw Jimmie Johnson and his team struggle early and then they rallied back to finish in second place. It looked like late in the going that Carl Edwards was going to make it three in a row but had a problem in the pits. That’s what I love about Texas. There always seems to be some type of drama there. Last fall it was the fuel mileage race. You just never know how Texas is going to play out until the very end.

This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is off and I am proud of my entire Michael Waltrip Racing organization and the folks at JTG-Daugherty Racing. It has always been our goal to work our way into the four super teams – Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs and Childress. They are the main stays in The Chase. We have wanted to wedge one or two of our cars up in the middle of them. Right now, our No. 00 team has been able to get up in the top 12 and put some of those other teams behind them. My NAPA team is 21st in points and just 114 markers out of the top 12. Marcos is not too far behind as well. In my opinion, I feel like our entire organization has made the type of progress that we needed to make and I hope we are making NAPA proud.

Speaking of proud – I am happy for Ron Capps! He’s three for five in the win column. I plan to add one in mine so be ready!

If you want to catch some racing this weekend, look for me and my No. 99 Nationwide Series team. We’re heading to Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be televised on Saturday starting at 3 p.m. on ESPN.

Have a Happy Easter!

Martinsville Speedway

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Hi Everyone –

When we unloaded our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry at Martinsville, I ran the first few laps and I thought, ‘Man, this is cool.’ My car felt like it needed to. That’s exactly what my team needs to do week in and week out. We need to build good cars and be prepared. If we continue to do that, the results will come. My other two teammates were able to make qualifying runs and got up into the top 10 on Friday’s practice sheet. The NAPA team never made a qualifying run. We just worked on our race set up. We were pretty confident that we would be very competitive on Sunday and indeed, we were. I loved driving that car.

During the race, we saw a great battle between Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin. Jimmie did an amazing job. He tried to stay off of Denny and he lost his car. That’s OK. Then he hit the curb. That made his chances of passing Denny even more complicated. Then he hit Denny and he was still able to keep up enough momentum to drive off the corner. More importantly, Jimmie was able to get enough of a lead to stay in front of Denny so that Denny could not go to the next corner and run him over. You could tell Jimmie tried not to hit Denny. It all worked out. I bet Tony Stewart was grinning coming off of Turn 3 when he saw what was happening in front of him. It could have opened the door for him to get the win at Martinsville. What you always have to keep in mind is if you are going to hit somebody at Martinsville, you better make sure you can get away from him or at least get away from him for some time so that they can calm down a little bit. They might be a little kinder to you in three or four laps versus in Turn 1 just after the contact was made. If Denny could have caught up to Jimmy, it’s hard to tell what the outcome would have been. Regardless, what we saw was an amazing amount of car control from both of those competitors.

Another thing that I saw at Martinsville is just how challenging NASCAR can be. If you think about it, Brian Vickers drove a good race. He was in the top 10 for most of the day until his car developed an oil leak. He ended up finishing 33rd. Not too long ago, you could break inside the last 20 or 30 laps and still recover with a top-20 finish. Now that doesn’t seem to be the case. What happened to Brian Vickers happens to all of us from time to time and it’s a terrible feeling.

On Monday, I went back up to Martinsville and did the Truck race on SPEED. It was awesome. It was a great battle between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. They did the same thing in Atlanta. Kyle Busch came out on top. This time in Martinsville, it was Harvick that took the win. I just love working the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series broadcast because I love talking about racing.

This weekend we head to Texas Motor Speedway. The fun thing about that track is it is hard to drive. It’s fun. It’s fast. The fans are great too. When you go to Texas Motor Speedway for that race, the fans start showing up at the start of the week. The drivers and teams feed off that enthusiasm and excitement. I really enjoy being down in Texas and I hope to bring home a top-10 finish for the NAPA team.