Before I talk about Pocono and what happened last week, I want to make sure everyone knows that I am handing over the keys to the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota to Patrick Carpentier for the Infineon Raceway event. There are so many great road course racers competing in Sonoma this year, and as the owner and driver of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota, I am in a unique position. If I see where I can improve my car’s performance then that’s exactly what I am going to do. I love being an owner and I want to get another win for NAPA. It will feel just as good if I get the victory for NAPA or watching from the pit box with Patrick driving the car. I appreciate NAPA allowing me to make these kind of personnel moves when I feel it is best for the team.
Now back to last week — what an interesting week for me. First off, I headed off for a day trip on Wednesday to Palm Desert, California where I met the NAPA folks – Dan Askey, Mark Mills and Brad Crawford for a AAA function. It was held at an old mining camp. My new shoes got kind of dirty, but I had a really good time and ended my portion of the event with a joke about ducks. If you ever run into Askey, Mills or Crawford – ask them to tell you my joke. I thought it was really funny.
I got back to Charlotte a little after 6 a.m. on Thursday morning to board the team plane later that afternoon for good old Pocono. What a weird race for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team. On the first lap of the race, I think Scott Speed got into me and messed up my rear fender. Then the caution flew for Denny Hamlin’s problem and we fixed it. Unfortunately at the start of the race, we were in the back of the field. My crew chief Bootie Barker made some great calls in the pits, but fortunately the problems I had in the pits didn’t set us back too much.
All and all, it was a good weekend for Michael Waltrip Racing and JTG-Daugherty Racing. David Reutimann scored a top-five finish and Marcos Ambrose finished sixth. Both guys jumped up two spots in the points and Reutimann is currently in The Chase. I am really pleased and happy for my teammates. Also, Ryan Truex, our Camping World East development driver won up at Watkins Glen International in the No. 00 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. He’s Martin Truex’s little brother. Plus, Trevor Bayne sat on the outside pole at Nashville for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race in the No. 99 Toyota Camry. It was only his second start. We got a couple young kids doing good jobs for us at MWR.
I also want to send out congratulations to Tony Stewart for the win at Pocono and the comeback Ryan Newman made in the race. Ryan spent a lot of time on pit road for a spark plug problem. It was impressive that he rallied back to a top-10 finish. Those guys are two of the best drivers in the garage area. Tony’s record is pretty impressive especially with the two NASCAR Sprint Cup championships he has under his belt so far. Ryan came on the NASCAR scene and dominated pole qualifying. They are a part of a team affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports so it’s not really surprising to me to see the kind of success they are having this season.
This weekend, we saw the new double-file-restart rule put into action. NASCAR announced earlier last week that they were making a change. I loved it. I thought it was cool. The fans got to see something that was unique and new. NASCAR was very smart about implementing it at Pocono where they had a lot of time to work their way through the nuances the rule was going to bring. I think it may be a little bit tougher as time moves forward at places like Bristol where we may see some real tough times figuring out how to do things in a hurry. I think everybody is into it and they understand why NASCAR is doing it. Some Sunday’s we will see how the new rule will be a good break for some competitors and tough on others. It’s just racing.