The 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has come to a close and we have a champion. Jimmie Johnson completed the drive for five by winning his fifth-straight NASCAR Sprint Cup. That’s an accomplishment that will be tough to beat. He is certainly going to go down as one of the best, if not the best, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver ever. Congratulations to Rick Hendrick and his entire organization.
As for our race, we had the winning car. There is no doubt in my mind. For close to 200 laps, I was having an incredible time and told my crew that I wished they knew just how much fun I was having out there. The race was ours if only we could have avoided the cut down right rear tire. We showed what we are capable of doing. It’s nice but it also stinks because we couldn’t take advantage of it. I have been proud of these NAPA Know How guys all year long. We’ve got some stuff to work on, but we know what we need to work on so I expect to come out of the box strong in 2011.
I have to say, I have enjoyed my first season as driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. I’ve never been this busy before and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I starred in my first NAPA commercial. I never expected that one commercial to have the impact that it did. I only wish I had a dollar for every time a fan asked me to sing the NAPA Know How jingle.
It was a privilege to bring more than 2,400 people along for my ride at Texas Motor Speedway. I was familiar with NAPA’s efforts to help raise money and awareness for Susan G. Komen All Out for the Cure, but it was great to see firsthand what could be accomplished in a little over three weeks. I enjoyed promoting our message by doing radio commercials, Facebook videos, interviews and television appearances. I’ve never been a big fan of the color pink, but I am now. It means a lot to so many people who have been touched or affected some way by breast cancer.
As for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team on the track, we learned a lot this year. At the midway point, I felt really good about our group as a whole. We were 12th in points and that was impressive especially considering we were a new team. And to be honest, I wasn’t expecting us to be quite that good that soon. So I really had high hopes heading into the second half of the season with us going back to tracks for the second time this season and understanding more about the cars that Michael Waltrip Racing builds. Unfortunately, we went the wrong way on the performance charts. We went downhill. We had a stretch of about three or four weeks where we had rotten luck. Once that went away, our performance wasn’t quite there.
Over the last month, month and a half, we’ve been doing a lot of experimenting in getting ready for 2011. We’re picking apart certain parts of the car and figuring out what is it that we are lacking. It’s important for us to find out what we need to work on during the winter and understanding it better. We’ve been going through a bunch of scenarios over the last few weeks and trying out a bunch of different packages. We’ve found some gains and we’ve found some places where we definitely need to work. All you can do is make your best educated guess and on the things you need improvement on and go to work on it. That’s what we’re going to do.
I think we have a very good idea of the direction we need to take. We will do our best to get it all sorted out and fixed by the time we go back to Daytona, but in reality, you never are 100 percent certain that you have all the solutions until you get to the track and put them into play.
We have an incredibly talented group of people on this NAPA AUTO PARTS race team as well as everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that contributes to our team. I’m confident that we are all on the right track and I’m looking forward to climbing back into our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota and representing NAPA the best way I
can both on and off the racetrack.