Archive for May, 2009

Coca-Cola 600

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

The NAPA team finished 30th in the Coca-Cola 600 yesterday. I told the guys on SPEED’s “Victory Lane” that my mind was kind of confused. I didn’t perform the way I would have liked to so I am not happy — BUT — David Reutimann won the Coca-Cola 600. It’s his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win which also gives Michael Waltrip Racing its first NASCAR Sprint Cup race victory in our very short history. In one day, I am a winner and a loser. How about that???

I have to tell you in watching the rain fall yesterday, it reminded me of Daytona in 2003. It was a nice shower. The one we had yesterday was certainly a welcome one as well. David got himself a victory and I don’t think anyone really realizes just how hard it is to get a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It didn’t matter that the race was shortened to 227 laps because all the cars in front of David had the exact same option. They chose to turn left instead of going straight. I think people forget that the NAPA team had a race won last year and on the last lap, my motor blew. The win was taken away from us. It wasn’t fair. We only had to run about a mile and you would think the motor would have been able to do that. Sometimes life isn’t fair in one direction and sometimes it’s not fair in another. In this particular case, David’s team did the best job out there. They made the best call and David is the winner of the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600.

I cannot tell you how special it feels right now. It’s been a real challenge to get to the point where we are now. We barely survived 2007. In 2008, we got our feet under us. Now, less than a third of the way into the 2009 season, we have a couple of cars that are contending for Chase spots. We have been racing against organizations that have done this for over 25 years. We started from scratch. We didn’t go out somewhere else and get someone else’s cars, equipment and motors. We just didn’t have that option. Our only option I had to become an owner was start my own team with Toyota. I always wanted to be an owner. It has been a real tough road to hoe but just sitting on pit road yesterday while it rained – knowing that I had a chance felt pretty good.

Today everyone that worked at MWR met in our theatre for a celebratory team meeting. David rolled the trophy in and it was pretty darn special. I told all of the men and women who work at MWR that we all made history. I joked with them and said, “This is big. We just didn’t win darn Pocono.” Granted, we’ll be proud to win there in a few weeks, but MWR won the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600. It’s a big race and it’s in our backyard. I couldn’t be prouder of my organization. I am really looking forward to going down the road with these people and winning more races. I think we have a pretty cool place to work and as an owner, it makes me feel proud because I have been with other organizations where it was a three car team, but in reality, it was three – one car teams. Our deal here is certainly a lot different than that. I see it. I feel it and I know it. I am thankful for it.

Another thing I am thankful for is NAPA. Thanks to them, I am able to race cars as an owner and experience a day like I had yesterday and the week I am having now.

Tomorrow night everyone from MWR is getting together for a big party. It is something that I feel is really important to have as my team’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory together. It is one to truly relish because you never know when the next one is going to be. We’ll just seize the day and cherish the moment. I’m looking forward to having everyone together and I wish all my fans could be there too. We’ll be away from the shop and we’ll just all hang out.

Here’s to more victories!

Sprint All-Star Race

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

The NAPA team finished 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Showdown on Saturday night. Obviously, it wasn’t the finish we were hoping for that evening. The car just did not handle well enough to race up front and be a part of the story. I was disappointed, but despite that, I am looking forward to the Coca-Cola 600. We gathered a lot of information and what we gained and learned from the NASCAR All-Star weekend will apply to the Coca-Cola 600. We can learn a lot from David Reutimann. His car ran well and  finished fourth. Unfortunately, Marcos and his team struggled, but still was able to finish in the top 10. We will look over the notes that we gathered and figure out what we need to do to be better for the big race this weekend.

The Sprint All-Star Race was a great race. The drama that was playing up to the last 10 laps was unbelievable. I couldn’t wait to watch the end. If you tell drivers they have 10 laps, they will flip the switch and go and that’s what we witnessed on Saturday night. Those first five laps of the 10 lapper were as good as you will ever see.

I am happy for Tony Stewart. I remember the first time I won a race as a NASCAR team owner. I started my NASCAR Nationwide Series team from behind my house in Sherrills Ford. We would load up our cars and take them to the track and race against DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) and Hendrick Motorsports. When I won, I thought, ‘Man, what a great feeling.’ It inspired me to start a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team. So, I can only imagine what Tony Stewart feels like this week. It is truly an accomplishment for him because not only did he get a win in the All-Star event, he put on his owner hat on Monday morning and had to deal with the fact that he had a $1 million pay day. That will certainly help his bottom line!

Before I go, I want to thank all of you who voted for me in the Sprint Fan Vote. You put me in close contention for the win. As a matter of fact, both Reutimann and I were among the top-five vote getters. I had a strong feeling that Joey Logano was going to win the vote. He pretty much had it wrapped up from the very beginning with all those people lined up behind him in that Home Depot commercial. I think that commercial was the key to Logano’s victory. It’s my plan to win a race before the season is out so we won’t have to worry about the Sprint Fan Vote next year. Regardless, I’m glad I was up there in the running thanks to you. It makes me feel special and I really appreciate the fact that a lot of people took the time to vote for me.

Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

Darlington Raceway

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

Darlington wasn’t very kind to Michael Waltrip Racing or JTG-Daugherty Racing for that matter. My night could have been a scene from one of my favorite movies, “Talladega Nights”. My NAPA Adaptive One Brake Pads Toyota was on fire. My engine blew up in a major way. We broke a rod and there was a fire. We got quite a bit of coverage on it. In all my interviews after getting out of the car, I credited the NAPA Adaptive One Brake Pads for helping me stop my car quickly and safely. NASCAR driver Greg Biffle asked me if the fire scared me and it did a little bit because of all the unknowns. When all the flames went up, I didn’t get burned, but the flames also didn’t go out as quickly as I thought they would. The flames started burning things in my car. The main thing I was thinking was to get somewhere on the track where I could get out. The cool thing was I got out of my car quickly and with no problems. Back in 2007 at the Auto Club Speedway, I caught on fire and had a hard time getting out of my car. I was stuck in there because the old car was so much smaller inside. I want to thank NASCAR for the new car. Tall guys like me can race on with little worries. I even called my buddy Ron Capps and told him he didn’t have anything on me after Darlington.

I watched the end of the race from my motor home and I have to say, I loved the end of the Southern 500. It was an intense finish. I enjoyed watching Mark Martin make his move. He ran low. Jimmie Johnson was running second and he chose to run high. They mixed it up a little bit. I found out as I sat on my couch that I really like racing. I was so into watching those last 30 laps because I knew the personalities out there on the track. I knew what Mark had and what he was all about. I also knew Jimmie. Mark looked like he was going to tie himself to the bottom and play all his chips from down there. Jimmie was all over the place trying to figure out what he needed to do to get by Mark. I love racing and I wished I would have been out there mixing it up with them.

This weekend should be exciting too with the 25th running of the Sprint All-Star Race. The format is a little different this year. There are four segments. The first segment is 50 laps and it includes a green-flag pit stop on lap 25 that everyone must complete. Then there are two 20-lap segments with a final 10-lap shoot out. I started on the outside of Row 2 for the 10-lap shoot out in 1996 and I won. I was able to win the race from the fourth spot. I don’t know if you are going to be able to win it from much further back in the field.

Last year, we saw Kasey Kahne win the Fan Vote to transfer into the Sprint All-Star Race. He went on to win the whole deal. That just shows you how good everyone is. When that green flag falls for the first 50 lapper on Saturday night, any one of those cars in the field can win the race. As a fan, I want to see that – but I hope to see it from inside my NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry. Wish me luck and enjoy the race!
Michael Waltrip

Richmond International Raceway

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

I want to thank everybody who sent me Happy Birthday messages. I appreciated it. I had a really nice day on my birthday. I played golf and then my NAPA team had a little get together and dinner for me outside my bus at the track. My brother Darrell was there and even Kenny Wallace stopped by to say hello. Kenny gave me a crisp 10-dollar bill for my birthday. We had a lot of good food to eat thanks to my coach driver Benito. My team even surprised me with my favorite chocolate cake with chocolate icing. We ended the evening watching my debut on “My Name is Earl”. We had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.

With this being my 25th season in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, I always got up in the morning and thought I was going to get to race my car because I was a great driver. Watching Reutimann haul the mail in the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine and seeing what Marcos Ambrose is doing by being up front almost every week has been a little bit hard on me as a driver. As an owner, I am very happy. But as a driver, I think I have lost a little bit of my confidence. I know it’s going to get better and the finishes I am expecting are just around the corner. At Talladega, we could have put that car up front. It didn’t work out. We got messed up in a wreck with just eight laps to go. Ty Norris, Cal Wells and Steve Hallam are all doing a great job running our organization, but I’m not happy with the job I am doing behind the wheel. It’s time I have a talk with the driver.

At Richmond, I was really happy about the performance and progression of the NAPA Adaptive One Brake Pads Toyota. We started in the back in 30th position. We got a lap down, but we were able to make it up. The way the car drove and the kind of speed it had, I felt like we could run with them. We improved our car all night long, but at the end when it came time to get with it, I was too loose. We finished 24th.

We had our competition meeting on Monday and we discussed what Marcos’ car did. He did a great job finishing 11th place after getting crashed. He was able to persevere. David Reutimann had a top-10 run going until he was crashed. His car was really damaged after his crash to the point that he lost a lap there at the end. We all talked about our cars and I have to say, I like where we are right now as a team. Our meetings are productive. We learn from each other and it’s great to see how we are continuing to move forward in the right direction.

Looking back, I have seen a lot of people come and go in NASCAR. But I don’t think I have ever seen the enthusiasm or the desire to run every lap like Kyle Busch does. It was no surprise that he completed the Richmond sweep by winning both the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races. He runs every lap like it is the last lap. He will not settle for following someone no matter what. He is genuinely special. So, when you are watching a NASCAR race — whether you like him or not — enjoy what you are watching. Watching him makes me want to try even harder.

My NAPA car will once again have NAPA Adaptive One Brake Pads on it. My NAPA car rarely changes so putting the Adaptive One paint scheme on it for two weeks in a row tells you how special this product is.

Before I go, I would like to tell every Mom out there – Happy Mother’s Day!