Hi Everybody –
Texas produced quite a weekend for Michael Waltrip Racing. We were pretty much the story because of the crash Michael McDowell had during qualifying. McDowell’s wreck was big. While he was crashing, I was just sort of in awe and really didn’t think other than, “Wow.” When it stopped, there was probably 10 to 15 seconds before I knew he was OK and I saw him moving. It seemed like an eternity. It seemed like the longest period of time in the history of the world. When he got out, I was real proud of my team for constructing a car that solid. What I was most thankful for was the advancements that have been made in safety around here. You can point to 100 different things. But one thing you can point to is the SAFER Barriers. Tony George worked with NASCAR along with Dr. Sicking and Dr. Melvin to develop that technology. That to me is one of the biggest, single gains ever made in our sport. I just have to tell you that millions of dollars were spent to try to make a car — through the passion of Brett Bodine and Robin Pemberton and the passion that NASCAR has in that car — to make the car and track safer. But, when you see in a wreck like that, it sure does make you feel good about what we’ve all accomplished.
The media seemed interested in the crash too. McDowell was pretty busy. He made appearances on the CBS Morning Show, the Today Show, MSNBC and Inside Edition. It’s great exposure for all of our sponsors and NASCAR. I even joined him on Saturday night for an appearance on Geraldo At Large on Fox News Channel.
On the competition side, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry did not practice well on Friday. We didn’t have the car right so we really leaned on our teammates. We felt really good about what David Reutimann had for a car and set up. He was way faster than us. We studied a little bit and figured out what the differences were. We made them a whole lot alike. We had a conservative run when it was our time to go out and make a qualifying lap. It was a little bit too tight and I was not able to get all I had there. It was a good improvement and 20th was a decent starting spot.
Saturday, we tried to give ourselves a chance to learn. The first session looked promising for us. It’s wasn’t too speedy on the charts but when you looked at all the fast times, the guys made their time on their very first lap. They were on brand new sticker tires. We ran 31st. Our fastest lap was on our 10th lap on used tires. We never changed tires. Our tires were seasoned. A lay person might have worried about us, but I looked at it, and I felt pretty good about it. The final practice though, we were really loose. We regrouped and were hoping for the best on Sunday. Unfortunately, when it was time to race, the car was not good. I think part of the problem is our lack of testing time. In the last couple of weeks, our scheduled test sessions at Kentucky Speedway were rained out. That hurt us. We really needed that time to prepare for this track and improve our overall program. We are definitely ahead of where we were last year, but there is a lot of room for improvement. We still have more to learn about this new car. We worked so hard during the race and our result was just 31st place. Fortunately, the teams we are racing in points, had challenges too. Through our adversity, we were able to pick up one spot in the owner points standings. That’s one positive that came from our Texas experience. Another is we’re racing for sure on Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway. It’s always good to have another shot at it.
Be watching for us, McDowell and Reutimann too. I’ll be back in touch!