Archive for July, 2009

Brickyard 400

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

Last week was busy and it started early for me. I woke up in Los Angeles on Monday as I was doing an event at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. I went there to visit the track’s season-ticket holders. I also did some media which gave NAPA some nice media coverage. It was 115 degrees out and they had over 400 people show up to just visit with me. I really enjoyed the trip out west for a couple of days during our so called off week.

I got home on Tuesday in time to attend a NAPA sales event at the shop. We had all of the NAPA drivers there – Ron Capps and our new guy – Martin Truex Jr. Then on Wednesday morning it was off to Minnesota to take part in a NAPA appearance at the Delta/Northwest Airlines hanger at the St. Paul/Minneapolis airport. NAPA has a store at the airport and all the maintenance workers were invited to bring their equipment to the hanger for inspection. If something needed repaired, NAPA had the parts ready to go for them. While they waited, I signed autographs. From there, I left for Warsaw, Indiana to sign more autographs in the afternoon for Dave Illingworth who opened a Toyota dealership. Dave is a former boss out of Toyota Motor Sales in California. He’s turned a page in his life and has gone on to owning a dealership. Needless to say, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were busy days where I had the chance to meet a lot of really nice people.

On Thursday, I got to golf at the Brickyard and then it was off to another appearance for Coca-Cola in the evening. It was at the new Indiana Live Casino which is a really nice place. If you are in the Indianapolis-Shelbyville area, you should stop.

Friday it was all about being on track. The NAPA team had two really good practice sessions. We were really pleased. Our NAPA Toyota was competitive. We followed it up on Saturday with qualifying. It was delayed for a few hours due to rain, but once it cleared out, we got to qualify. We posted the 23rd-fastest lap.

I felt really good about my car when the race started on Sunday. We were able to be really competitive. We ran 23rd at the start of the race. I was really looking forward to adjusting on the car because it was a little bit loose at first. I knew we could work on it and get it even better so that we could make our way up through the field and contend for a really good finish. We had a car that could mix it up with the best of them in my opinion.

Unfortunately on a restart, a lot of grass stopped up the radiator. A couple of cars in front of me got together and one ran off the road. When it happened, they must have thrown the grass up on the radiator. My crew chief Bootie Barker came over the radio to say that it looked like a whole bale of grass was on our grill when I got to our pit. It really messed us up as it overheated our motor. Then after we got things cooled down and back on the track, the motor started to miss here and there. It finally blew up with less than 20 laps to go.

For a driver, it wasn’t a good day at the track for us. The week on the other hand for our sponsors and fans, it was a good one.

Now I am gearing up for Friday. I am heading out that morning to Pocono to do it all over again.

Bye for Now,

Michael Waltrip

Chicagoland Speedway

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

Well, it’s Saturday night about midnight. We just finished up the running of the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mark Martin won and some lucky fan won $1 million. How crazy is that?

We finished 20th and David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose were 12th and 11th. It was a great week for Michael Waltrip Racing and NAPA. It was great to finally announce what we are doing for the next few years. Martin Truex, Jr. is going to wheel the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. I am proud of NAPA’s commitment to the team and Martin’s decision to come drive for us. He is a former NASCAR Nationwide Series champion – two times. When he showed up to race NASCAR, he was a guy who was fast. He understood what you needed to do to win. He is going to be driving our car in 2010. I couldn’t be more proud.

The whole organization at Chicago – starting with Trevor Bayne who finished 12th on Friday night in the Nationwide race — then all three cars finished in the top 20 tonight — that’s a good weekend for us. We still are a couple of rungs down the ladder of where we need to be. Hendrick Motorsports has it going on. They are all over it. David remains in contention for that top 12 in points to be a part of The Chase. We are certainly focused on that and we will just keep plugging to get better. We will keep trying to figure out why those other cars can go faster than ours. David, Marcos and I can definitely drive better than where we are finishing. We are competitive. Don’t get me wrong, we can always do better. We just need to get the cars tweaked. Hendrick Motorsports had Martin first and Gordon second – I think I read that it was their 27th one-two finish. We haven’t had any of those yet. Granted, Mr. Hendrick has been doing it for 25 years and we have only been doing it for two and a half years, but our sponsors don’t care about that. They need to win and we know and respect that. We have really good people at MWR who are trying to figure it out. Steve Hallam, Rodney Childers, Frankie Kerr and Bootie Barker have been great additions to our organization. They are pulling hard and working together to figure out what we need to do. We will get there. I am confident about that.

Overall, I had a good week like I said. We were on Trackside, NASCAR RaceDay and we were live on SPEED with our press conference. I am really proud about everything we were able to accomplish. I am proud of Traci (Hultzapple) and all of our people for the press conference. I don’t think I have ever seen a sponsor-driver announcement with anymore flair or pizzazz than that one. When Dale Jr. announced he was going to Hendrick Motorsports it wasn’t as cool as our press conference. So I thank everyone involved for that. I thank NAPA for their commitment and I thank SPEED for showing it live and all the other opportunities they gave us for coverage this week.

Next week I am off for a few days. I’ll spend the weekend in Kentucky broadcasting the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Then I am off to Los Angeles for some media commitments. I will be back on the east coast on Tuesday for a NAPA appearance at Raceworld. I’ll follow it up with more appearances on Wednesday for NAPA and Toyota in St. Paul, Minnesota and Indianapolis. Busy week coming up so stay tuned.

Before I go, I want to say that I appreciate all your support – mainly for the opportunity. It means a lot to help work with NAPA and sell more parts over the next few years. It means a lot to me. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Michael Waltrip

MWR NAPA Press Conference

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

Yesterday was a big day for me. We announced that NAPA was coming back and that Martin Truex, Jr. will drive the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota in 2010. I will also run for NAPA in the Daytona 500 so you will see two of your cars go out there in February and try to win the race for you.

I couldn’t be happier about what was announced. NAPA is by far the best sponsor any driver could hope to have. They have stuck with me as I have built this team and experienced some struggles. Now they are seeing the performance of the teams really improve. It’s time for us to take it to the next level and win a championship for them. NAPA deserves it as they have been my sponsor for nine years and won two Daytona 500s with me. But the main thing I want to say about NAPA is they have over achieved for me. They have been there every step of the way. My dream was to build Michael Waltrip Racing and with their support, we were able to do that. The MWR facility and people would not be here if it wasn’t for NAPA and their commitment to MWR. That’s a very humbling thought for me. It’s also very motivation to me. It makes me want to do everything I can in the whole world for them and to insure that we get NAPA more victories and a place at the championship table in 2010 with Martin Truex, Jr.

I am going to share with you some of my thoughts and parts of my speech from yesterday’s press conference. While some people think I may be sad, I am not. I couldn’t be happier about what transpired as we continue to move forward together.

I was born; my brother was 16 years old, and all I’ve ever known my whole life is running up and down the road going to races. From a very young age I knew exactly what I wanted to be:  I wanted to be a race car driver, just like my big brother.

And I wanted to be a team owner at some point, just like my big brother, so I’ve got a lot of my inspiration and a lot of the direction and things I’ve done in my life come from Darrell. And the thing that I’m most proud about is he never let me down.

He was a role model that was there for me, and I’m certainly thankful for him in more ways than you can imagine, especially in this world where sometimes your heroes let you down, my brother never did, so thank you, big brother.

I started racing because I wanted to drive a car. And today, you know, that’s exactly where I am. I just love driving race cars. Having a team was a part of my dream.

I’m here today to tell you that there has been a time or two when I thought maybe it was going to say “for sale” or “for lease” out front instead of “Michael Waltrip Racing,” but we pushed through, and we’ve made this place a formidable competition to the rest.

Winning the Coca Cola was one of the best days of my career, and I can’t tell you how wonderful having that trophy is. I didn’t think about winning a race, I just thought about racing. I’ve won $47 million; I read the other day, and FYI, my half in this team cost about $48, so I’m not up by any stretch of the imagination.

But it’s been fun to be “all in” and invest in the sport like I’ve been able to do. There are so many people that have helped me get here, and I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for and some that I wish were here now, including my dad, LeRoy, Mr. France gave me direction and suggestions on how to act at a time or two, told me not to act like my brother, which that was kinda hard, Dick Bahre, Chuck Rider and Dale Earnhardt, who helped me to find my career.

There have been great sponsors, Pennzoil, Aaron’s, Kraft, Citizens, Best Western, Freightliner, and those folks have helped me get to where we are today. But there has been one sponsor that has defined my career, and we’ve been together for nine seasons, and that’s NAPA AUTO PARTS. I’m the only driver that has ever driven the car full time for NAPA, and we have one of the longest driver-sponsor relationships in the sport.

I’m certainly proud of our relationship and all we’ve been able to accomplish over the last nine years and especially proud of how much their support has meant to me. They started running ad campaigns that let me goof off and be me, and I think it helped make NAPA and me synonymous with one another.

It certainly was a joy for me to be a part of. I told them about my dream in 2005 about owning a Sprint Cup team, and they said they wanted to live my dream with me and we started on this road in the middle of ‘05 toward racing for the first time in ‘07.

There was a time or two in ‘07 when we all thought maybe the dream wasn’t that good of an idea, but when I got down, they were there saying, “You’re our owner, you’re our driver, we’ll get through this. This isn’t how the dream ends. The dream ends with the NAPA car being in victory lane.”

And that’s what kept me going.  As an owner I knew there would come a time when I wouldn’t be a full time driver anymore, and that time is now. In 2010, I’m going to run a limited schedule, a few races here and there, not really sure how many or where they will be. I do know that for the 52nd running of my favorite race and the biggest race in the world, the 52nd run of the Daytona 500, thanks to NAPA AUTO PARTS I will be racing in the 500 in my NAPA car, No. 55.

I’m proud and happy. I’m turning my car over to a guy that I think can go win the championship in it, and I’ve always said    I’ve been racing these cars for a long time, as we all well know — if I thought I wasn’t the best man for the job, I wouldn’t have had a ride for this long. If I wasn’t the guy to go race it on Sunday, somebody else would take my place. And I believe at this time in my career that Martin is the right guy to take over my car and go win races in it. I’m sitting here happy about the fact that Martin is taking over my car. I didn’t have to quit, I didn’t need to quit, I just wanted to do this for to me it’s always been about the sponsors, and NAPA has been the greatest sponsor I could ever have, and I thought this was an opportunity to put them in victory lane on a regular basis, and that’s why we’re sitting here today. I couldn’t be happier or prouder. I’m really thankful.

Thanks Everybody,

Michael Waltrip

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