Hi Everyone –
It’s hard to believe that our season starts in just a few weeks! I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to driving through the tunnel at Daytona. I am approaching this year’s Daytona 500 with the mindset that I can win the race. It’s a great feeling, and as you know, I have had the good fortune to go down there a few times knowing that a win was a very distinct possibility. The Daytona 500 is a wonderful event and it has pretty much defined my career.
This year, I have a new crew chief, Bootie Barker. He comes with a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience. I especially like his matter-of-fact attitude. Things are pretty much black and white to him. He understands that if we get more grip in the car, it will go around the corners faster. He and I talk every day about how to accomplish that. We also talk about past races. We look at what Reutimann had on occasions that made him fast and then compare it to what I had. We also look at the things I really like in my car. I think Bootie is trying to scientifically prove exactly what has been good and what was has been bad with my car so that when we get to the race track in Daytona, I will like my NAPA car even better. I really like his attitude and work ethic with the challenges he is faced with. He inspires me.
I am enjoying this off season since there is no mandated NASCAR testing. I like the ban to be honest with you. I have always been a little different in my approach to things in comparison to some drivers, but as an owner, the ban on testing is a very good thing. It is saving our team a tremendous amount of money. We are able to take those dollars and apply it to things we have to do in order to race. We can buy tires. We can buy hotel rooms. Those are things we have to have. As a driver, I have learned a lot about these new cars as we all have in this sport. We set these cars up by using a computer and utilizing pull-down rigs. Very rarely after we leave the shop, can we make the car a whole lot better. We have already scienced it out for three or four days in the shop. When it gets to the track, we only have 90 minutes of practice. Realistically, we are not going to reinvent the wheel. As time moves forward, we’ll just get smarter on how to set these cars up. In my opinion, testing in the future will not be necessary. The reason why I say it is in regards to the templates we use. Our cars are exactly alike. When you get one set up properly, then the others will be set up properly as well. I just see testing as a colossal waste of time, energy and money. Plus, testing does not make the product that the fans sit in the stands to watch any better. Hopefully, we can take this temporary ban on testing and make it permanent.
My NAPA team and the entire Michael Waltrip Racing organization have come a long way since 2007. We were pretty beaten up back then. We missed races. We didn’t run well. Fast forward to the middle of 2008 and I saw that we were getting where we needed to be. We were building a foundation as well as building the much-needed confidence about who we were and how we could run against the other top teams in our sport. Now, we are racing into 2009 with new, talented people as well as the dedicated folks we already have at Michael Waltrip Racing. I am very optimistic about this season and all signs point to us being very competitive.
Before I go, be on the lookout for the new NAPA commercials with me and Ron Capps. We shot four commercials in two days in Charlotte. It was a lot of fun and as always, the commercials are very funny. The first one is scheduled to air during the Daytona 500 so stay tuned!