Hi from Richmond…..

May 7th, 2008

Hi Everyone — My week started early. It started with my television show on Monday. Tuesday I headed up to Detroit for Dow Automotive to be on their Webcast which was really cool. Thousands of people across the world watched and we were a part of it. We had the UPS car up there that had their logo on it. Then I headed to Louisville, Kentucky and had dinner with some UPS folks. We ate at the restaurant where O.J. Simpson got kicked out of. I thought it was kind of cool. We went over to Churchill Downs on Wednesday which was the first time I had ever been there, especially being from Kentucky. It was pretty cool to see everything. I was able to get a feel for what the Kentucky Derby is all about. I certainly know what it takes to put on a NASCAR race, but it was interesting to see how other sporting events are run.  The highlight of the day was meeting Big Brown. I got to pet him. I also got to talk to his owners and his jockey. I really enjoyed that. It was the first time ever that I really got to know a horse that was running in the Derby. It was fun on Saturday to actually cheer for him and see him win. I even bet on him. I also met a guy named Joe Johnson. He’s a jockey and he’s from Owensboro, Kentucky. He came up to me and introduced himself. He told me he was going to win the next race that was scheduled for the day. I thought it was cool so I decided to bet on him. His horse was eight to one. Unfortunately, I got to talking to some people and did not get to follow through with placing the bet. He ended up winning. That was just my luck!I traveled home that afternoon since it was my birthday and went out to Rock Barn where I play golf. I shot a round with a buddy of mine. He’s about 70 years old and he beat me. Thursday was back at the shop. It was the first time all week that I got to stop in. I got up to speed on all the things we are working on. 

Friday morning it was off to Richmond. We qualified respectively. I think I could have qualified better than that but I overshot Turn 1 on the second lap. I didn’t pick up as much time as I had hoped. I felt really good about what we had for the race on Saturday night. It turns out we were really on it. We stayed on the lead lap early. The car got off a little bit during the middle of the race. It wasn’t to my liking. We got it tuned up. I think we were well on our way to a top-10 finish. We made our final pit stop. We were making really good time against the field. We were catching the leader who still needed to make a pit stop. Unfortunately, we got crashed. With spotters these days and drivers being responsible for their cars – somehow Casey crashed into us. Casey and his spotter must not have communicated. I was way faster than Casey. I wasn’t bothering anyone. I was faster so I kept running on the outside. I was all the way up beside him when he crashed us both. That was disappointing.

The official reason we were out of the race was because we were parked. We were parked by NASCAR for aggressive driving because I hit him back after it happened. NASCAR did not like what I did. The wreck basically put us out so it wasn’t the parking that did the damage. It was the crash.  Looking back, at Phoenix, we had a strong car and gas mileage got us twice. We ended up 23rd. At Talladega we were coming to the white flag with the lead and broke. And then Saturday night, we just got into a wreck. We really had three really solid runs for the NAPA team. Not the points to show for it, but I am certainly real proud of where we are heading.  As I am putting this blog together, I am over at Lowe’s Motor Speedway testing in Charlotte. I am testing the NAPA car we are going to race in the All-Star weekend. We are learning a bunch of valuable information. We are also learning a few things that should work for Darlington this weekend. We will continue to hustle and improve our NAPA cars. I am really looking forward to getting the finishes we deserve and I know they are right around the corner. Before I go, please don’t forget to vote for me in the All-Star balloting. You can vote as many times as you want. So please vote often because I would be proud to represent you as well as NAPA in one of the biggest races of the year. Here’s what you can do: Sprint customers, vote on your phones by texting “NASCAR” to 7777 and your vote counts double. Visit participating Sprint retail stores or visit sprint.com/speed for more information. Vote Now! Vote Often! Thank You!

Aaron’s 499 Talladega

May 1st, 2008

Hi Everyone —

On Thursday I hopped on my plane to head to Talladega. But first, I made a stop in Atlanta to visit NAPA’s Headquarters to attend the annual Employee Appreciation Day. I absolutely love doing it every year as I feel so much a part of the organization. I feel like a valued employee. We had a nice barbeque and gave away some fun prizes. I talked to some great people and signed autographs. It was just the perfect day.

Then it was off to Talladega. On Friday in the first practice, I was not all that happy with my car. We were slow. I couldn’t keep up. I wasn’t happy so Bobby Kennedy and the guys who work so hard on the NAPA AUTO PARTS Camry dove in there and started to change gears and shocks. They really tried to work the car over to get it to where it needed to be. In general, specifically at restrictor-plate races, there is not a whole lot of room that NASCAR allows you to work on the cars. To be able to show up with one that I didn’t like, and then have the team tune it up to where I could be actually competitive was impressive. At the end of practice I had the fastest time on the board which is not all that really important. What was important to me is we had the fastest five-lap average and I knew I had a car that I could race and win with. So I went to bed Friday night after practice feeling pretty good. I didn’t realistically see how we could qualify very well. We just did not have the fast speed that we had in Daytona in February. Indeed, I was correct. I woke up on Saturday morning and qualified. I got 27th. All three cars were locked in the show so we were just trying to find us a place to start. We were able to accomplish that. Again, I was still confident. I didn’t feel like I was going to qualify well, but I knew that it really wasn’t going to matter. I knew that I had a good race car.

When qualifying was over in Talladega, I jumped on Elliott Sadler’s jet and flew over to Kansas. I did the Truck race on SPEED. I am a real big fan of the Truck Series and especially SPEED. When I was a kid, if they would have had SPEED and showed all the races, I probably would not have graduated from school because I would have never left home. I love the fact that you can tune in and find out about everything that is going on in my world which is racing. I flew over there with Eddie and Jon Wood. Jon went over there and raced. I did the TV part of it. I came back home. I got home around 10, 11 o’clock on Saturday night.

Sunday was the typical race day. I had appearances for NAPA and Aaron’s. Mr. Susor and his wife Lin came over. I got to spend some time with those folks for awhile. I had a new sponsor for Michael McDowell – Microsoft Small Businesses. It was on his car and there were some folks from that company at the track. Race morning is typically the same. It’s just meeting a lot of fine folks and getting people jazzed up about what they are getting ready to do. This race day was no different. After the driver’s meeting, Macy and Caitlin came with me to Talladega so we ate some lunch. I hung out with them. Then it was time for the race to start.

The Aaron’s 499 went about the way I figured. When they said “go”, I made a half-hearted attempt to go from 27th up towards the front. I didn’t really buy into that at that point because I knew there was a lot of racing to go. While it really would have been cool to charge up there. There were still 180 laps to go. My goal was to be around at the finish and be in a position to win it. Fortunately, our plan worked. I kind of laid back and hung out with Jimmie Johnson for awhile. I charged into the top 10 before halfway. I felt pretty good about my race car and how I needed to position it to run fast and be competitive. I learned a lot during the first half of the race by the strategy I elected to use to get the win and I’ll be darn, with five to go, we were leading the race. Jimmie Johnson was second. We followed about the same line to get there. He was a real key in allowing me to get to the front and get the lead. I was able to block him off and put him behind the NAPA car. By doing so, he had to push me. His pushes were crucial to getting me to the front. We were all lined up to do it again coming to the white flag. Jimmie and I were on the outside getting ready to drive around them and the motor let go on the NAPA car. It’s a shame. Just a couple of days before my 45th birthday, we were so close to have winning the race. We just had a car break down with one lap to go. One more lap and we would have had the race won. It’s a little hard to take for a day or two. But we’ll put it behind us and head off to Richmond, Virginia.

But before I will leave for Richmond, today (Monday) I did our XM radio show. I taped that for Thursday night. Our guest on the show was Ron Capps. Ron is NAPA’s Funny Car driver and he was over in Atlanta. He had a really good car too. He raced all the way to the semifinals. He got beat by the eventual winner Ashley Force. NAPA does such a great job using motorsports to sell there products. Ron and I were talking on Monday about how much of an honor it is to be associated with a company like NAPA. NAPA not only sponsors our cars but they do a great job using us in TV commercials and hospitality. They do it all and understand the value of activation. We are really proud that they are our sponsor. I got the show done with Ron and then headed down to Charlotte to tape This Week in NASCAR on SPEED.

Tuesday it’s off to Detroit to do a shareholders meeting for Dow Automotive. Then Wednesday (on my birthday), I go to Louisville, Kentucky to do some stuff for UPS at Churchill Downs.

As you can see, my week is pretty busy. It’s not always like that but it will be over the next couple of weeks. I am proud to have the sponsors I have and the opportunity to represent them.

Thursday, it’s off to Richmond where the NAPA team will continue the momentum of a great run we had at Talladega. It’s really sad just looking at the end result – 27th. You look at that and think I am 27th again, but I certainly need to remember that we almost won. We will try to keep the good momentum going and look forward at the chance to do it at Richmond.

Subway Fresh Fit 500 – Phoenix International Raceway

April 17th, 2008

Hi Everybody –

This week I would like to start off by saying how much I love to go to Phoenix. I actually went out last Tuesday evening via US Airways because I had to do a Toyota appearance on Wednesday morning. There’s nothing like waking up in Phoenix. It’s so pretty there, and even better, they have great golf courses. I got to play against Jamie McMurray and Mike Skinner. Skinner was better than us. He shot 80. I shot 85. We played from the shorter tees and there is no way to get a bad lie where we played. The grass was that perfect. Obviously from my score, you can tell I wasn’t very good that day, but I was able to make one birdie. I like birdies.

Thursday it was off to the track and we qualified. It was a decent run for all three cars. We all ran the same which was weird. We ran within a hundredth of each other. We all three had different set-ups, and we are three different drivers so it just goes to show you that it is a testament to the car. The cars are just so equal. You can go about it three different ways and still end up in the same place.

Overall, I was proud of Michael McDowell. He did a nice job on Thursday qualifying. He was really good in Happy Hour. We felt like he had a good car on Sunday. Sometimes you tend to forget he is a rookie because he is so predictable. I appreciate that out of him. He can log laps, give you good feedback, learn, and go through the process of getting up to speed. He’s doing such a great job. I really am proud of him.

David Reutimann was solid and steady as always — from the time practice started and until the checkered flag was flown at Phoenix. He just did a great job. I was real happy with him too. He got his car back into the top 35 in owner points. There is still no room for error, but it’s great to know we head to a track like Talladega where we all feel very confident with what we have, especially considering how we qualified at Daytona and at Talladega last fall.

As far as my race went, we started out a little free, but I was able to make some good moves. We were able to move up to 21st. I felt pretty comfortable that after an adjustment, I would be good. Unfortunately the first adjustment didn’t fix my NAPA Camry. It really didn’t affect it. It felt like we didn’t do anything. Then we lost a bunch of spots on pit road. Ultimately, we had to pit under green when some other cars were able to stay out and catch a caution to get their pit road service. I ended up being two laps down after just being on the lead lap running right on the edge of a top 20. So when they said go on the next restart, I was able to run third in line and out in front of the leaders. I was able to get one of my laps back. Then the next adjustment, the NAPA Camry got better. We raced hard to get the free pass, but we weren’t able to get in contention to get it. Late in the going, while running 21st, which is about where we should have finished, we had to stop and get gas again. That set us back to
a 24th-place finish.

Looking back at the last two weeks, Texas was as bad as we have ever run for two thirds of the race. We really worked hard to adjust. The last third of that race, we were actually a top-20 car. Unfortunately, we started so far behind that we were not able to show that. Then if you take how we ran on Saturday night, and how we tuned and made it better, I think it shows the confidence I have in my crew chief Bobby Kennedy, and my team, is justified. I am proud of my team. I am proud of the organization.

Wrapping up Phoenix, we flew home on the team plane. It’s quite a commitment for the organization to get close to 100 people back home. We got home to Statesville at about 6 a.m. on Sunday. I spent most of the day in bed watching the Masters. Then I went and had a pizza party at my mom’s house for my sister who turned 59. That was pretty cool. My sister has been a very important part of my career. When I first started racing, she worked for Darrell doing his books, and then she would help me do mine. She handled my books for a long time. It was great to spend time with her and my mom.

I am looking forward to Talladega. I am not only looking forward to Talladega, but Richmond and on down the road. We have some tracks coming up where we need to make some good headway in points. Richmond has always been a strong track for me. Unfortunately I did not get to race there last year, but when I drove for DEI, we always ran up front. I have won and set on the pole five times in the Nationwide car so I hope for another strong showing.

Monday it was back to the same old thing even though we are off this weekend. I did my television show for SPEED. Then Tuesday, I did my radio show for XM. I also spent a lot of time around the shop trying to get the pulse of the place since I was gone for almost a week. I like to ask the guys how it’s going. I also like to ask them what they see and what they need. If I can help, I can.

Thursday’s going to be a big day at MWR. NAPA is coming to visit. I get to see Mr. Susor and other key NAPA folks. I am really looking forward to hosting them.

For the first time in my life of 44 years, I am going to play in what is called a “Member-Member” golf tournament. It’s at my local country club. I’ve been a member there for about a year. I really have never lived the country club life until now, so it should be interesting. It’s definitely a new chapter in my life. So that’s my big plans for the weekend.

Thanks for reading my blog this week and hope to have a lot to share with you after Talladega!

Michael

MICHAEL WALTRIP BLOG: Samsung 500 – Texas Motor Speedway

April 9th, 2008

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!

Goody’s Cool Orange 500

April 1st, 2008

Hi!

I hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend. I have forwarded some pictures to share with you on what I did over the holiday. I had a great time visiting my friend Rob Kauffman and his family in Italy. I ate a lot but somehow managed to lose a few pounds. If you have never been to Italy, I highly recommend it. I got to see the famous Coliseum, and I have to say, it reminded me a lot of Bristol Motor Speedway!

Speaking of Bristol, it was sure nice to have had a decent finish there so that I could go to Martinsville and not worry about qualifying. There’s a really big difference between wanting to do good and having to do good. I wanted to do a really good in qualifying at Martinsville, which meant I was going to be calm and aggressive and do my job. I knew I could mess up, and it wouldn’t be the end of me so I wasn’t timid. I wasn’t nervous. I was focused. That’s the biggest difference. Even when you qualify and make the race, which we got better at last year obviously, but even when you did your job it was still very hard because you knew you had to be right. On Friday, I was just able to focus on the job at hand and not worry about any other issues. I got after it as hard as I thought I could, and it almost got away from me on the first lap so I was a little conservative on the second lap. We ended up qualifying 16th so I was pretty pleased since I had a competitive car for Sunday.

We had a couple of new things with MWR this weekend. I had a new driver in Michael McDowell. I am proud of Michael joining our driver lineup. Dale Jarrett is just a great champion and we appreciated what he has meant to our team. He helped get us going and helped bring credibility to a young organization when he signed up to be a part of our team. He brought a wonderful partner like UPS onboard at MWR and obviously, we paid the price of a new team — trying to start an organization at the Cup level at absolutely the perfectly worse time ever to do so — when there was more competition and more cars than ever before, a new manufacturer that had to build two types of cars. Ignorance is bliss sometimes. We were in trouble, and I didn’t know it. I felt happy for the opportunity and wanted to be a car owner and wanted to provide not only a race team that the drivers and the crew members could be proud of, but one that the fans could connect to. A lot of thought went into a lot of different parts and pieces of MWR. All the way from the fan interactive race shop that we have to the chrome wheels that I thought was just a touch that the fans have really appreciated. We had a lot of fun things going on, but we also had it stocked up against us. To fast forward a year and come here and have all three cars locked in the show and David and I and Michael all qualify respectively, I’m very proud of where we are, but when I say that, I also know we’ve got a long way to go. We didn’t sign up to be in the top 35. We signed up to win races. That is what Toyota has always been able to do, and I think you see with the type of commitment we made in this business, that is our plan as well.

Also new at Martinsville is I had a new crew chief. Bobby Kennedy is my new crew chief. The word that I didn’t know what it meant until I was welcomed at Dale Earnhardt Inc. was chemistry. Those people could talk and know what each other meant. Sometimes they didn’t have to say words. They would just look at each other and they would know what to do. Bobby Kennedy and I have always been that way. We can relay and communicate well together. I missed what he brought to me as a driver. Paul did a great job. He’s a real technical guy. He’s really good. There was no reason why he couldn’t be the crew chief, but I felt like the best chance for me to win and run up front was to have a guy that knows exactly what I am thinking, and what I want to get accomplished. Paul is now on the test team. We felt with Paul’s methodical and technical approaches to the process, he will be a real asset to ramp up our test team.

When it came to our race at Martinsville, it was real disappointing. We had a really good car and were running 14th when Kurt Busch got into me. I wasn’t too happy about what he did. The NAPA team regrouped and Bobby made a great call for us to take on two tires. It allowed me regain most of the spots I lost. Our car ran really competitive, and we had no problems holding our own against the guys who had taken on four fresh tires. We felt like we had a good game plan in place for the end of the race in regards to when to put on four tires and when to put on two. Unfortunately, I got into the back of another car because I did not see the cars in front of me suddenly slow down. It’s frustrating when you have a good car, and plan in place, but then not take advantage of the situation. We were right where we needed to be and instead, ended up in 35th place. I have no doubts that this team will learn from our mistakes this past weekend and get better.

Before I go, I want to give a shout out to my buddy Ron Capps. He made it to the opening round of the eliminations at Houston. His day was tough like mine, but we are all working hard to get our NAPA machines up front. In no time, we’ll all be there celebrating so thanks for all your continued support.

Texas is up next and I am looking forward to racing on Sunday! Be watching for us and I’ll be back in touch!

Happy Easter!

March 26th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

Bristol was a huge weekend for us. Our qualifying streak continued. We’re five for five in getting all three of the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas in the race, and now, all three MWR Toyotas are guaranteed a starting spot at Martinsville. How awesome is that?

On Friday qualifying was rained out. I was glad to see that happen since our NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry was damaged earlier in the day during practice. We went to a back-up car and were not able to shake it down in practice since the weather set in. 

Saturday, we were pretty much able to get in both practices. David Reutimann had a good practice finishing second in both sessions. My NAPA Toyota wasn’t as fast as David’s at the start of the run, but it was quicker than his on the longer runs.  We kind of need to have both of those scenarios when setting up our Toyotas for Bristol so we had a meeting with all three Cup teams to make sure we were all on the same page.  Obviously we’ll see some teams fast throughout an entire run. For some reason, our cars are one or the other. I think that is part of the learning process that our young team is going through. We have put together a very strong group of people who are building our cars, and I feel as if we have come a long way in a short period of time. Still, we have more work to do, be we are certainly off to a better start … we are making races, and running competitively. 

Today was Dale Jarrett’s last points race in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. MWR ran a special decal for DJ on the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry and the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry to salute him. I am very grateful for everything DJ has done not only for MWR, but for NASCAR. He has been an invaluable resource to my organization since we launched in 2007, and he will continue to be.  Thanks DJ!

When it came to our race, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry was really good. Paul made a good call to leave us out during the third caution of the day to gain track position. It felt good to lead the race for you guys. The NAPA Toyota was in contention for a top-10 finish until we had two wheels left loose on the car. It set us back, but we were able to regroup and make it to the finish without a major problem on the track. It feels awesome to be locked in for Martinsville! I won’t know what to do with myself on Friday.

The NAPA team won’t be racing this weekend, but you can still watch David run in the Nationwide race. I’m taking a little vacation to Italy so I’ll catch up with you after I get back from Martinsville.

Happy Easter!

Kobalt Tools 500

March 11th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

Atlanta was a fun trip. I went down on Wednesday to say hello to everyone at NAPA’s annual Manager’s Meeting. It was held at the Georgia World Congress Center. I had the opportunity to speak to the attendees and then sign autographs with Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA NHRA Funny Car. I have to say, Capps had the coolest looking hats to hand out, so I took one. I had him sign it, and I wore it most of the weekend.

This trip was special since my girls came down on Thursday night to spend the weekend with me. Both Caitlin and Macy had school projects to work on. Caitlin shadowed Jennifer Chapple, one of my public relations representatives since she was working on a paper. Macy’s project was on the state of Georgia. What better way to learn about Georgia than to bring her to Atlanta? Did you know Vidalia onions are only grown in Georgia? Thanks to Macy, I now know that.

Friday remained anything but stress free. Rain greeted us in the morning, and I was hoping it would rain us out. It wasn’t meant to be. Practice started off a little rough. My car was extremely loose, but Paul Andrews and the crew made some great calls to get my car drivable. I am so proud of my team, and how they were able to turn around our day. It was really impressive. I ended up 16th. We ranked second out of the go-or-go-home teams. I felt good about what we had learned, and thought we had a good shot at making it into the show. As always, the longer the day went, the more nervous I got.

The rain pretty much stayed away and qualifying worked out well for us. The NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry qualified 27th. David Reutimann posted the 30th-fastest lap, and Dale Jarrett earned 43rd. For the fourth week in a row, all three of us were in the show. What a relief! In all, 10 Toyotas made the Kobalt Tools 500.

The kids and I woke up Saturday to snow! Macy and I watched the movie Harry and the Hendersons before final practice. I was pretty happy with how my car drove once practice got underway. The NAPA Camry was still a little tight on exit, but I believed I had a car that would be competitive. Unfortunately during the race, my car was back to a loose condition. My car felt no different than it did at Fontana and Las Vegas. It was so tough to drive. We managed a 30th-place finish, and remained 33rd in owner points. I told Paul after the race that our new cars drive way too loose for my liking. We’ll get it worked out, but it still is frustrating.

I really wanted to have a good showing in front of all my friends from NAPA. I want to thank everyone who showed me a nice time when I watched the Nationwide race up in the NAPA suite. Then on Sunday, everyone up in the suite was so kind to wish me good luck. I appreciate all of your continued support and well wishes. THANK YOU!!

I also want to congratulate Toyota for getting its first win in the Sprint Cup Series on Sunday. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to be that driver who got Toyota its first win. I guess I’ll just have to be the second!

Talk to you next week after Bristol!

Las Vegas 400

March 4th, 2008

Hi Everyone —

I cannot tell you how happy I am about the start to our season. We are three for three in qualifying for all three of my cars. Fridays are so nerve wracking. It is excruciating for me and my crew. It doesn’t matter how well we practice because anything can happen during the two laps in qualifying. In Las Vegas, I ran a 30.446-second lap in practice, and it was good for 15th position. There were 10 more positions behind me that ran in the 30.40s as well. It was so close out there.

If anyone got to watch SPEED on Friday, they could certainly see by the look on my face that I was incredibly nervous before qualifying. I was so nervous that reporter Bob Dillner gave me hug. A few minutes later, I was back on SPEED with a much prettier reporter in Krista Voda. I asked if she would follow suit and give me another hug for luck. I found out she’s not a hugger, but she was willing to help out our cause. I really appreciated it. The hugs helped. All three of my cars picked up speed to comfortably make it into the Las Vegas 400. I am so proud of my team. There were a lot of smiles when I got out of my NAPA AUTO PARTS Camry. A year ago, it was quite the opposite. It just means the world to me to see Dale Jarrett smiling. I told him: ‘We just needed to get off to a start like this a year ago and maybe we could have made it a lot more fun for everybody.’ It’s a real proud group of men and women that are here with me at the track. We all just dig in. I feel like my success hinges on all three cars, not just me driving, but Dale Jarrett driving, and David Reutimann driving. It’s a lot to think about. 

Today’s race was a tough one all around for Michael Waltrip Racing. Reutimann hit the wall on the first lap to finish 37th. DJ was running really well, but crashed with about 50 laps to go to finish 39th. The NAPA team also struggled. My car was so loose that all I could do was hang on and hope for the best. It was tough out there, and it was evident since 11 caution flags were thrown.

Good news is we are testing this week in Phoenix and next week in Kentucky, so hopefully we will get a better handle on these new cars. They are tricky to set up. Overall, our weekend was not a total wash. We all earned valuable points. The NAPA team as well as my other two teams remain in the top 35 in points. Just two more races to go before NASCAR reverts to the current points standings. I sure hope the next two races go well because I will be so happy to have all three of my cars locked into the top 35. I will be able to get in my NAPA Camry and just drive. That’s the best times … just get in the car and drive. 

Can’t wait to see everyone this weekend in Atlanta! Talk to you soon!

Greetings from the #55 car!

February 27th, 2008

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