Pocono 2

Hi Everyone —

I’m back from Watkins Glen. Did you know that four of the last five years, qualifying at The Glen has been rained out? When I was in my motorcoach getting ready to walk over to the garage for the first practice, I looked out and thought to myself, “Come on! Work with me!” Sure enough, as soon as I got into my NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota it rained, so we didn’t do much on Friday. The field was set by the rulebook. Marcos Ambrose, who won the Nationwide race on Saturday, lined up last on Sunday and was able to race his way to a third-place finish. That was awesome!

Looking back, Saturday during practice I expected to be fast, at least faster than I was. I had gone to Infineon Raceway, and while I finished 25th, I really felt it was a top-10 car. We were just stuck in the back because of poor gas mileage. I loved my car. So when we went up to Watkins Glen, I thought we could do the same and run in the top 10. I felt like we were going to have a good race on Sunday, but then the car ended up not cooperating. Bobby Kennedy and the guys worked hard. They made some great changes after practice so heading into Sunday, the car was better. I was competitive. I passed some guys. I think we ran around 25th for most of the day. Unfortunately, I got into that big crash. That deal was pretty interesting. I never knew what was happening. Never in my career has anything like that happened. I have always been able to see what I am fixing to hit. At Watkins Glen, I didn’t see anything. Bam! It happened. It really wasn’t a huge hit on the NAPA Toyota. I think the guys wrecked hard in front of me and bounced mostly out of my way. I think if I had been a car length back, I would have been OK. The wreck didn’t have anything to do with me. I was just blindsided. My spotter couldn’t even see it. He never mentioned it. Then all of a sudden, I am on fire. Cars are flying up behind me and I am thinking, “Well, this is not the way I envisioned the race ending.” I felt like we could get a top-20 finish. I think it was still realistic at that point, but I had to go to the garage area.

What’s important to me about all of this is the NAPA AUTO PARTS car needs to finish the race. NAPA sells quality parts. They don’t break down. I don’t want to see DNFs (did not finish) beside my name and the NAPA Toyota. What was great was my NAPA boys. Bobby Kennedy, Ron Otto, Chris Hall … all the guys that work so hard on the NAPA car feel the same way too. There were only five laps to go and I didn’t have a radiator or oil cooler. The front end was tore all to pieces. Those boys cut the front end away. They changed the radiator. They bypassed the oil cooler and got me back on the track when the white flag was flying. I drove down pit road; I came around and took the checkered flag. That shows what kind of guys I have on my NAPA team. It really means a lot to me what they were able to get done on Sunday.

Now for the big news! NAPA and I will be back together in 2009. I am very happy. I believe we are moving in the right direction at Michael Waltrip Racing. NAPA has been a huge part of building the foundation for my race team. I think sometimes people lose sight of the fact that we are a year-and-a-half old. We are racing against organizations that have been doing this for 20-plus years. We are gaining on it. We are getting a foot hold in the garage area. I really appreciate NAPA’s support in order for us to continue to grow and improve performance. Thanks, NAPA.

With that said, I am looking forward to going back to Michigan to turn things around for us. Three bad weeks in a row is enough! Enjoy the race and I’ll write to you soon!

Leave a Reply