Archive for September, 2009

Dover

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

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Hi Everyone –

Before I start this week’s blog I would like to wish my beautiful daughter Macy a Happy Birthday! She turns 12 today.

I also want to congratulate Ryan Truex and his No. 00 NAPA AUTO PARTS team for winning the 2009 NASCAR Camping World East Series championship at Dover on Friday. It was nerve wracking watching him race. I am proud of the kid as he did exactly what he needed to do to win MWR its first NASCAR championship. Big brother Martin was there as well and we had a nice celebration on Friday night. Now it’s Martin’s turn to win NAPA and MWR another championship!

Speaking of Martin, Ty Norris and I flew to New Jersey last Tuesday to play in Martin’s golf tournament. We had a great time and I enjoyed being an auctioneer at his auction. Larry McReynolds, Hermie Sadler and Bob Dilner also joined me at the podium to help Martin out. It was all to benefit his Foundation. It’s a great cause that helps kids so I appreciate him allowing us to join him.

Right now, I am currently testing with the No. 55 team at the Little Rock in Rockingham, N.C. We went there earlier this season and decided to come back. We are running some laps to prepare for Martinsville. It’s a nice fall day so we are all enjoying ourselves.

As for the Dover race weekend with the NAPA AUTO PARTS team, I have mixed feelings. I didn’t like the way my car handled on Friday and when it came to qualifying, it didn’t resemble the car we had in practice. It was so loose. It never seemed like we could make significant progress in getting it to handle right. Saturday was more of the same. Sunday, we were fast, but it was still a handful to drive. We avoided the big wreck with Joey Logano, but it wasn’t long until our day was done. I blew a right front tire when I drove off into Turn 1. If I had done that 15 years ago, it could have been career ending. A man by the name of Larry Pollard crashed at Dover and it ended his career. Joe Nemechek broke his shoulder and was out for a couple of weeks. I want to thank Dr. Melvin, Dean Sickling, NASCAR, Tony George – all those men went in and worked together to develop and make the safer barrier a reality. I appreciate it!

We saw a pretty spectacular crash on Sunday. Joey Logano barrel rolled over seven times. It shook the kid up a bit. Tony Stewart was genuinely sorry for what happened, but as we looked at it, Bobby Labonte pulled down and that sort of started the chain-reaction crash. Bobby did have a lane to himself, but he chose to go to the bottom. His move did result in a crash, but it is hard to blame a guy for just taking a lane that was there. It was just circumstances that led to the terrible looking crash. Joey said he had been on roller coasters and none of them were as crazy as the ride he took at Dover. Ty came over the radio when I was setting on the backstretch during the red flag to say that Joey’s crash would definitely make the highlight reel. Home Depot was in for some serious TV time. Ty was right. It’s been played a lot on ESPN Sportscenter.

In case you didn’t see the Truck race, you missed a good one. I didn’t go to Las Vegas for SPEED, but I followed what was going on. As soon as the green flag flew in the first practice, you could tell Johnny Sauter was going to be tough to beat. Phil Parsons and Rick Allen, who called the shots out there for SPEED, called me and said that Sauter was ‘the man.’ They were right. He drove straight to the front. It was good to see him get his first win and it was the team’s first one-two finish. That was a good accomplishment for the ThorSport Racing organization.

Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson for his win at Dover. He won there in the old-style car as well as the new car so that’s impressive. His accomplishment there can be attributed to a true team effort. Hendrick Motorsports is the pinnacle of race teams. They are the team that everyone has to beat. Three of their four cars are up front every week. At Loudon, all four cars were up front. As a team owner, I strive to get my cars to look like Mr. Hendrick’s cars. The way Jimmie’s car looked at Dover is exactly the way we strive to get our cars. I thought it was a fun show to watch. I just wish I would have been able to run the whole deal.

I’ve got to go now as it is time to climb back into my NAPA Toyota. We’ve got Kansas Speedway this weekend and I sure hope we can get the ball rolling in the right direction. It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but we are not giving up. It’s all about getting Martin as many points as possible for next season and it sure would be awesome to get a win for NAPA before I turn the wheel over to him.

As always, I greatly appreciate your support.

Bye for Now,

Hampshire Motor Speedway

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Hi Everyone –

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is one of my favorite tracks so I really enjoy racing there. It has always been a place where I have performed well. I almost won that race a couple of times. I really look forward to going up there especially during this time of year – September. The weather is perfect. The fans are so enthusiastic and so into what is going on. They had over 100,000 people there. It was sold out. It was a great feeling and a great time in our sport to be able to celebrate such an event especially when people have to pick and choose what events to go to because of the economy. To be involved in the sport as a driver, a sponsor or a crew member and look up in the stands at New Hampshire and see all the people that want to be there and want to watch what we do is very humbling.

What a race it was. There was a bunch of side-by-side racing all day long. It was a good race for the fans. The finish was exciting with the double-file restarts. The racing all day long was intense. Our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota was off. It was totally off when we started the race. When we practiced on Saturday morning, our car was a top-20 car. On the long runs, it was actually better than most. I was very happy. Then during the second practice, we made some changes and it hurt the car. I went from 19th fastest to 38th fastest. I just didn’t have the car under me in the second practice. Unfortunately, when the race started, our attempt to put the car back to where it was on Saturday morning, didn’t work. We didn’t quite get there. We spent all day chasing it. Looking back, it was disappointing to know that I was capable of running right up front but wasn’t able to do it with the set up we went with. We struggled early, but were able to improve all day long. We got better and better and were competitive in the end. We ended up finishing 27th. It is certainly not something to brag about, but at least we got it better. We were able to survive a big crash that happened in front of us and make it to the checkered flag.

We have a goal—a modest goal. It is important to us. We want to finish in the top 30 in the owner points. We are only 60 points out. If we can perform in the next nine races like I know we are capable of doing, I believe we can accomplish that. That is what the NAPA team is focused on. It means we have to get every position we can. We are just not riding the year out here. It has been a little tough, but we are head down, and focused on the rest of the season. We are going to try and get all we can out of it.

The addition of Gene Nead has been really positive. Gene works really well with the guys. I think we will continue to get better and better. The problems we had on Sunday when the race started were just adjustments that didn’t work out properly. That’s part of it. We’ll regroup and we’ll go to Dover. Dover is a place where I won my first Cup pole. I won the Nationwide race there a couple of times. I run well there and I look forward to going because of the history I have had. It’s a fun track. It will be another big event. There will be a ton of people watching the NAPA Toyota. We hope to be a part of the story on Sunday.

Bye for Now,

Richmond International Raceway

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

It was a tough race for the old NAPA Toyota at Richmond International Raceway. We thought we had a good car despite a bad qualifying effort. I really had a good car at the start of the race. We moved up. The first two or three stops in the pits really messed us up. We had some issues and it made for a long night. It would have been nice to have seen what the car would have been able to do if we would have had a normal night on pit road, but we didn’t. Now, we just need to put it behind us. Despite it all, I feel like we learned a lot. I really love working with my new crew chief Gene Nead. He is fun. I think he is learning and contributing a lot to Michael Waltrip Racing.

All and all it was a good week for us as we prepared to go to Richmond with all the team meetings and everything we did to prepare. I thought we showed up with a pretty good package. I am real proud of my team. I am just sorry we didn’t get a better finish. We’ll keep working at it and I look forward to going to Loudon. We always run well there. We need to work on getting better results and Loudon could be a good opportunity for us.

Yesterday, we announced that veteran crew chief Pat Tryson will be joining the NAPA Racing Family. He will be the crew chief of the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota with Martin Truex Jr. We feel very fortunate to have Pat joining us. He has made The Chase five out of six times. He is a passionate competitor, a winner and a championship contender. He and Kurt Busch will start The Chase in seventh place at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and we wish him luck. Pat joins our team the end of season.

Meanwhile, I am currently in Italy to visit my partner Rob Kauffman. He and I are testing a Ferrari at a track called Vallelunga. If it goes well, we might do some Endurance Racing in 2010. You never know, you might see us at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring. This is the second time I have been to Italy to see Rob. I enjoy spending time with him and see how he lives in his world.

Ciao for now!

Last Week

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Hi Everyone –

I had a really fun time at the Michael Waltrip Racing Sponsor Summit last week. We had it at the Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia. I got to spend good quality time with a lot of our sponsors. What was great about it was we got to spend time in both a business and social setting. I think all of the attendees were pleased with everything they saw and heard.

I am really happy with the job Chris Marciani and all of the folks in our sales and marketing department were able to accomplish. I knew they were working hard on it and then to see the actual program that they set up and the direction they went with – the speakers and engaging our sponsors with information we felt can help us all in this world – was very impressive and rewarding to experience. I was also impressed with the attendees who wanted to be a part of our program. Mr. Gallagher from GPC, Paul Donahue, Mike Rearden and Gaylord Spencer from NAPA were all on hand. Mr. Butler and his folks from Aaron’s, Ed Laukes of Toyota and Best Western also played a huge part in the success. Mike Helton from NASCAR was also in attendance. My partner Rob Kauffman even came over from England.

I think everyone left our event feeling like it was worth their time to be there. Across the board, the comments were positive. The thing I am most excited about is the follow up with future meetings and discussions. Those meetings are going to generate even more interaction between us and our sponsors that will be beneficial for everyone.

When I started my team, I really wanted it to be a partnership between the race team, fans and of course, the sponsors. I think my goal has been accomplished. Folks are integrated into our program whether it is the sponsors who get to sponsor our car or the fans that get to come to Raceworld or the track. It is totally working and I am pleased with all that.

Fast forward to Saturday … we had a good qualifying run. We started 19th. We had a bit of a struggle in practice. We could never get the car to do what I wanted it to do. Atlanta is one of those tracks I generally love to race on. I have a really good feel for what I need and what the car needs to feel like in order for me to be competitive. We never could get it. I was optimistic that we could go over all of the teams’ notes and pull from it so that we could put a set up under me that was competitive. It just did not come to be for some reason. It wasn’t even close to what we were hoping. I slid around a lot and felt fortunate that we didn’t run into anything. The back end just would not stick to the road. We made it to the finish line, but that’s about all we did. It made for a very long night. We are getting ready now to meet and talk about what we did, what we might have done wrong, what we could have done differently and then make sure we are better when we head to the next big track like Kansas City or Texas.

Despite this past weekend, I am still very optimistic. I enjoyed working with Gene Nead and look forward to the rest of the season. I loved the way he worked on my car and how he is so passionate about racing. I feel like we can enjoy some success for the remainder of the year. I feel like we have some good races ahead of us. I look forward to racing my last 11 races in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota.

Bye for Now,