Archive for November, 2009

Phoenix

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Hi Everyone – Phoenix was a good weekend for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team and how our Toyota performed. During practice on Friday, I felt really good about my car. We have been doing a lot of work with our setups and trying to develop them. We have been working on getting the front end to stick. It has been something we have been struggling with because the front end doesn’t seem to feel right. But, as soon as I went on the track at Phoenix, I felt like we got that accomplished. I qualified 11th and ran in the top 20. The only real problem I had was I lost my power steering after our first pit stop. On a flat track with the front end setting like we need to get front grip, it is nearly impossible to run without power steering. It was a handful and we really didn’t lose very many spots. We stabilized in the teens and I was proud of that. When the first caution came out, we pitted twice to work on the power steering. It put me back in the pack and on the restart; they crashed in front of me. I thought I was last, but two people passed me to end up in the crash which was kind of strange and it hurt my situation. My car wouldn’t turn because I still didn’t have power steering. We think the pump went out on it. Regardless, I don’t think I could have missed it. The 96 car backed up the track and in front of me. I had nowhere to go. It was unfortunate for us. I was really proud of how my car performed. Hopefully, we can learn something out of all this and be good at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  Michael Waltrip Racing had a lot of good news to announce at Phoenix. NAPA was certainly instrumental in what happened since they are the cornerstone sponsor of my organization. Best Western announced its extension with us through 2010. Toyota also signed an extension with MWR to continue the support of our cars for multiple years. I want to thank NAPA for signing the extension earlier this season and getting Martin Truex Jr. It was really big for our young company. It helped us grow with the addition of TUMS and extend our partnerships. I am really thankful to NAPA and I look forward to more great things to come. Looking back at Phoenix, all of our guys looked really impressive. Martin had a great run and earned a top-five finish. Pat Tryson’s car that Kurt Busch drove ran up front and fought for a chance to win the race. David Reutimann got 10th and Marcos Ambrose finished 11th. That’s a lot of positive momentum moving forward with just one more race to go.  Also, congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and that entire 48 team. They bounced back from adversity at Texas to win the race. What they were able to do was amazing and a sign of true champions.  

Texas Motor Speedway 2

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

 Hi Everyone –

I am so proud of Michael Waltrip Racing and our run at Texas Motor Speedway. The engineers and all of our employees are working so hard especially building our new race cars. Both Marcos and David had two of the fastest cars in Texas. What a great statement that is for our young organization and to be able to go to a track like that and perform at that level is impressive. My NAPA hat is off to them.

MWR announced a new sponsor at Texas. Tums is going to sponsor David’s car in 2010 and beyond. We are gaining a little bit of momentum and I am just proud of our people. We also have more news to announce this weekend in Phoenix so stay tuned.

For those of you who watched TWIN last week, Chad Knaus was right. The Chase is far from over. His team couldn’t have any problems. If they did, it would open the door for more teams to be back in the mix. Heading into Phoenix, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon are back in contention.

I talked to David Reutimann and he said he didn’t know whether or not he hit Sam Hornish Jr. that started the crash. He assumed he did. When they were ready to come off the corner, Sam didn’t go as fast as David thought he would. David said if he made a mistake, he hated it. It was really close. He was disappointed that he may have wrecked Sam causing the points leader to be involved. Obviously, it is a big blow to Jimmie’s team. No one wants to be a part of that.

In my opinion, I think Jimmie Johnson is one of the most underrated drivers in the history of NASCAR. He does more with a race car than I think anyone has ever done.

What we saw on Sunday was the classic fuel mileage race and I loved it as a fan. As a driver and owner, I had two cars running in the top five that ran out of gas. It didn’t work out so well for us. But as a fan of the sport, fuel mileage races happen so you can appreciate the strategy and the knowledge that these teams have about how to conquer one of these races. They are so hard to win. To go and win one the way Pat Tryson and Kurt Busch did was awarding and fun to watch.

Congratulations to Pat Tryson. We are looking forward to him joining the NAPA Racing team. He made a great call by taking a gamble and giving up track position. It would have been easy to follow all the leaders to pit road. Instead, he gave up a second or two a lap by pitting a few laps later which is what it basically amounted to. Pat chose to give up the position so that he could make it to the finish if the race were to go green all the way. Very rarely do we see a race at Texas go green that long, but darn, to me, that’s an exciting part of racing. The crew chiefs were all on the box trying to figure out who was going to make it and who was not. It came down to a lot of teams wishing they would have sacrificed a lap or two on the other end to get where they needed to go on the big end.

Tryson’s team won by over 25 seconds and I think it is the largest margin of victory since NASCAR went to electronic scoring back in the 1990s. It was a big victory. Kurt Busch was fast. He was chasing his little brother down and running right there with him. He didn’t back into the win because of fuel mileage. One of the fastest cars won because they got good fuel mileage.

There you have it. We only have two more races to go and it’s going to be fun to watch what happens in Phoenix.

Till Next Time,

Talladega 2

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Hi Everyone –

We really had a good car this weekend. I want to thank all my NAPA guys for putting together such a solid car on Friday. We were probably as fast as I have ever remembered being as of late. The NAPA Toyota drafted well and we made changes that were positive. That’s really difficult to do these days with these cars because they are really technical. It is really hard to find anything additional that we can make improvements with once we get a superspeedway car to the track, but my crew chief Gene Nead and the NAPA team did a really good job of working some changes that made me a lot faster.

On Sunday, I felt really confident when the race started. We had some issues on pit road. I had a vibration one time and it shook so bad that I couldn’t see. When we finally got the vibration issue squared away, I was all set to go to the finish on gas. I knew that it was going to be really close so we had to save. I lost the draft, but I really wasn’t too concerned because I couldn’t imagine the race going all the way to the checkered flag without a lot of people running out of gas and mainly, people wrecking. Both of those things happened. I ended up pitting during the final caution. We got gas and made some small adjustments that would make the car run fast for a green-white-checkered-flag finish. When the race went green for the final time, I restarted in 17th and made it all the way to seventh. That was a really good run for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team and a solid finish for the NAPA Toyota.

Personally, I knew I was due to finish one of these restrictor-plate races because lately at Talladega, I have been running up front, but have had problems. Last year in the spring race, I was leading and blew up. Unfortunate things like that happen so I’m just glad everything worked out on Sunday. It was a great effort by the NAPA team and we’ll be working hard to improve our performance on pit road. My spotter Ty Norris did a great job for me. The car was set up right so we were able to make a final push at the end. I appreciate everyone’s hard work.

All and all, the racing in general at Talladega was typical. I don’t think Mr. Helton’s comments prior to the race hurt a thing. I believe it might have made us a little bit saner for 300 to 400 miles. At the end of the event, it was the same old Talladega. Drivers pushed the envelope as far as they could. I was asked last night on my TV show if there is a way to avoid the wrecks and in my opinion, there are two things. You can live with it and race or we don’t race at Talladega.

I’ll Talk to You Next Week!