Waltrip Racing Becomes One Of NASCAR’s Big Boy Teams
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RICHMOND, Va. – Five years ago Michael Waltrip failed to qualify for the September race at Richmond International Raceway. In the wee hours of Sunday morning 2012 one of his Toyotas sat in victory lane with Clint Bowyer and two of his three teams had qualified for the Sprint Cup Series Chase.
“Tonight is really special because somebody famous and smarter than me made a quote that says those that have invested the most appreciate success the most,” Waltrip said. “I’m pretty damn happy right now. That’s what it’s all about, being happy.”
With first-year Michael Waltrip Racing driver Bowyer’s two victories and Martin Truex Jr.’s sixth-place finish in the regular season standings, MWR finds itself in championship contention for the first time in the team’s history. That’s quite an accomplishment for an organization that failed to qualify for 19 races in 2007.
“In 2007 when we started this team, I made it all the way to March ‘til I figured out I was broke,” Waltrip said. “I met Rob (Kauffman) in April. He bought half of the team in October. Since then we’ve just been making steady progress. Over the last year, just the addition of Clint, the addition of (crew chief) Brian (Pattie), the team, Mark Martin, the job he’s done for us, everybody’s just rallied together.”
Waltrip noted his former employer, Dale Earnhardt, was the inspiration for him becoming a team owner.
“I always wanted to have a team like Dale had,” said Waltrip, whose first Cup victory came in the Daytona 500 that cost the seven-time NASCAR champion his life. “So anytime something goes good, I always think about what all he meant to me.”
MWR began its turnaround last season and Mark Martin, who finished third in RIR’s Federated Auto Parts 400, noted Truex Jr. deserved the most credit for it since he “suffered” through the organization’s building stages.
“Starting with Texas last year, last fall, you started seeing the momentum building in the (No.) 56 car,’ said Martin, who’s driving a limited schedule for MWR. “So the groundwork was starting to get laid and had been coming for years. The addition of Scott Miller has helped, too.”
Miller came to MWR from Richard Childress Racing.
“But I think that we need to not short-change Martin Truex Jr. for all the work and the suffering through the building stages,” Martin said. “I was just lucky to come in when I did and get to be a part of it.”
In addition to the two victories this year, MWR has recorded five poles, 15 top 5s and 36 top 10s in 26 races. Brad Keselowski noted it was MWR’s success that was instrumental in keeping Carl Edwards out of the Chase and Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon battling for the final wild card position.
“He’s (Waltrip) turned that team from a team that can barely make the top 35 to a legit championship-contending team. That’s no easy task,” said Denny Hamlin, the Chase’s top seed with four victories. “I think he deserves a lot of credit, but Rob Kauffman also deserves a ton of credit for showing commitment to the race team. They hired the right people. They hired the right drivers. That’s how you become successful.”
Even though it’s MWR’s inaugural season in the Chase, Martin believes Bowyer and Truex Jr. can win in the 10-race title bout.
“Obviously, you’ve seen Clint,” Martin said.
“Martin is on the verge of winning every week. He had an unfortunate set of circumstances catch him out there, but he could have contended to win this race tonight as well. He is on the verge of a hot streak.
“Whoever gets on a hot streak can do it. It doesn’t matter. Definitely, we have the capability.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments