Tag:Mark Martin
Posted on: February 13, 2012 4:41 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 4:41 pm

Points swap gives Mark Martin Daytona 500 start

By Pete Pistone

More points swapping and acquisition between race teams has landed veteran Mark Martin with a guaranteed starting position in this year's Daytona 500.

Michael Waltrip Racing has worked out an agreement to transfer points from the FasLane Racing team to the No. 55 Toyota that Martin will pilot in 25 races this season.

FasLane wound up inside the Top 35 of owner points last year and thus was guaranteed a starting spot in the first five events of the new year including the season-opening Daytona 500.

While Waltrip will drive the No. 55 entry in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, Martin will now not have to worry about qualifying for the Daytona 500 through time trials or the Gatorade Duel qualifying races.

FasLane is still expected to field a car this Sprint Cup Series season and veterans Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader remain part of the roster. Labonte brings a past champion's provisional with him that would guarantee a Daytona 500 start for the team if he is tabbed to drive in the season opener.

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Posted on: January 13, 2012 6:07 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 6:08 pm

Friday Daytona media session highlights

By Pete Pistone

Several drivers and NASCAR officials spent time answering reporters' questions during Friday's second day of NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona Internaitonal Speedway. Here are some of the highlights from day two of the test:


"I had a question earlier today: 'Was this something you demanded of Kenny Francis be your crew chief?' It really wasn't," Kahne said. "When I was talking to Mr. Hendrick – when we were getting the deal done – I told him, 'Man, Kenny is really good. He should be part of this place. It would be great if he was my crew chief.'

"And they're like, 'Yeah, we're going to look at it. We're going to figure it out.' And from there it was all them wanting Kenny Francis."


“He’s been texting and emailing so there still is that communication taking place. We’ve got a very competent race team and everybody is following the test plan and we’re going through the motions. Truthfully, a lot of work for this test was done at the shop, getting prepared and now we’re just following the test plan.”

“It’s worked out well for Chad to take some time for himself. I’m really happy that he has decided to do this. As we all know, he doesn’t give himself much personal time. I’ve been on a similar trip to the one he’s on now and know how special it was to Chani and I. I can’t wait to hear stories when he gets back, what he goes through.”


“I've had a great off‑season. Had the time of my life with Hendrick Motorsports and made friends for life there. But this is a new challenge from an organization standpoint, a lot of new faces, and then a lot of guys I've worked with before. I couldn't believe it when I walked through the shop the first time. You can't believe how many people I've worked with before that are at MWR now."

“So it's just exactly where I want to be in life right now. I'm really excited, thrilled to have a company like Aaron's behind us, huge supporter of NASCAR racing, and I think it's going to be fun, the things that we're going to do, Michael and I are going to do. I'm expecting to do a lot of smiling this year.”


"I said, 'Where's your beer cooler around here?' We went and started chit-chatting for the rest of the day about fun stories. That's what this is going to be about for me in 2012." 


"The proof in the pudding, the outcome, will be the Daytona 500. We have not seen anything that we dislike, but we know there’s other things that we’d like to see more of. The progress of the weekend, we’re in the middle of it right now. The progress of the weekend is going in the right direction.”

“Our goal and our responsibility is to try to make decisions so that the racing is as good as everybody expects it to be or better during the Daytona 500. That's the one variable that all the teams, once they get through doing everything they think they can accomplish and get done [here], all of them know [to] let's wait and see what NASCAR does. We have a reputation for [changing things], but it's all in the best interest of having the best racing on the race track that we can deliver.”


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Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:16 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 9:16 pm

Mark Martin to make Nationwide start for Gibbs

By Pete Pistone

Mark Martin's 2012 season won't be limited to his Sprint Cup Series program at Michael Waltrip Racing.

The veteran driver will pilot a Joe Gibbs Racing Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March.

“We’ve always hoped to have the opportunity for Mark to drive for us and to have him behind the wheel of our Interstate Batteries Toyota for the Nationwide race in Vegas is exciting,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He is a great example to all drivers of the dedication it takes to be successful and certainly we’re honored to have him part of our efforts in 2012.”

While Martin is only currently scheduled to race in Las Vegas for JGR, the team is still working on opportunities for the veteran driver to secure additional races.

Martin currently has 49 career victories in 235 Nationwide Series starts, Martin has amassed 111 top-five and 151 top-ten finishes, while leading 8,093 laps. His most recent victory came just last season when he piloted the No. 32 car to victory lane in Las Vegas. He had four total starts in 2011, with the one victory and three top-ten finishes.

“This is exciting,” said Martin. “No organization has been better in the Nationwide Series over the past three or four seasons and to have the chance to get behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide car will be a thrill. Maybe I can pick up a few more races and try to catch Kyle to get my record back again.”

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 5:08 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 11:17 am

2012 Sprint Cup Series driver changes

By Pete Pistone

Fans won't be able to tell the players - or in this case drivers - without a scorecard this coming Sprint Cup Series season. There have been numerous driver changes, swaps and movement since the final checkered flag of 2011 flew at Homestead last November.

You can keep up with all the new faces in new places right here, which will be updated regularly as more changes take place:

No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

In: Kasey Kahne comes over after a one year run at Red Bull Racing to take the reigns of the No. 5 Chevy, which will sport Farmer’s Insurance as its primary sponsor. Kahne signed the deal in 2010 but with nowhere to go in his four-car stable, team owner Rick Hendrick brokered a deal with Red Bull for last season. 

Out: Mark Martin ended his Hendrick tenure at the end of last season with a disappointing performance. Martin has moved on to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012. 

Our Take: Kahne comes to Hendrick with Kenny Francis and the duo has become one of the best driver-crew chief combos in the Sprint Cup Series. They ended their Red Bull careers on a hot streak and bring that same momentum and confidence to the potent Hendrick organization.

No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Clint Bowyer joins MWR after his successful career at Richard Childress Racing. Sponsor 5-Hour Energy will back the entry for the majority of the season and talented crew chief Brian Pattie comes on board to call the shots after leaving Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. 

Out: Waltrip has added a third entry to his stable to join incumbent Martin Truex Jr. as well as newcomer Mark Martin who takes David Reutimann’s spot with the team. 

Our Take: Bowyer brings MWR’s talent level up considerably and seemed ready for a fresh start after his contract talks at RCR stalled. He was in the enviable position of having a sponsor in hand and chose Waltrip’s operation as the place for the next phase of his Cup career. Getting off to a fast start will be key for the new team’s success.

No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge

In: A.J. Allmendinger slides into the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge in a move from Richard Petty Motorsports. The stars aligned for Allmendinger to get a shot at taking over a car that won twice last season and made the Chase and he seems an ideal fit for team owner Roger Penske’s style.

Out: Kurt Busch “mutually parted ways” with Penske after his tumultuous 2011 season and will drive for Phoenix Racing this season.  The infamous incident with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch at the Homestead season finale was the tipping point for Busch to end his tenure with Penske Racing. 

Our Take: Allmendinger has been able to perform under tense conditions at both Red Bull and RPM when financial issues played a big part in each team’s day to day operation. He now can rest assured that there will be stability at Penske and can concentrate on trying to elevate his game. There is some pressure taking over the wheel of a successful entry like the No. 22 and trying to win with a rookie Sprint Cup crew chief in Todd Gordon.

No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford

In: David Ragan lands with Front Row Motorsports after being squeezed out of Roush Fenway Racing due to sponsorship issues and not getting the call for open seats at Penske Racing or Richard Petty Motorsports. Ragan stays in the Ford camp with the move.

Out: Travis Kvapil is the odd man out at this poont although team officials haven't ruled out the possibility of a third entry at selected races with Kvapil splitting time with J.J. Yeley and Michael McDowell. A former truck series champ, Kvapil joins the list of drivers impacted by sponsorship issues in 2012.

Our Take: Ragan is a Sprint Cup Series race winner with his Daytona victory last July and has the talent to potentially bring this team up a notch or two in the performance department. But make no mistake, Front Row is by no means anywhere close to having the resources of a Roush Fenway Racing and Ragan will have a challenging season ahead trying to be success with a much smaller and less funded race team.

No. 35 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet

In: David Reutimann has landed with the upstart independent team after his release from Michael Waltrip Racing. The popular driver will pair with Dave Blaney in what TBR hopes will be a two-car effort for at least 26 races with sponsorship dictating the complete schedule. 

Out: TBR ran a handful of races with the car last season that saw the likes of Stephen Leicht, Geoffrey Bodine and Steve Park behind the wheel. 

Our Take: TBR was the quintessential David vs. Goliath story last season and scored some much needed exposure with a number of solid runs particularly at Daytona and Talladega. The team will face another uphill battle this season but the addition of Reutimann and his marketability could bring in additional sponsorship dollars that will in turn help the organization became more competitive.

No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

In: Aric Almirola was the somewhat surprising choice to take the wheel of the famed No. 43 entry at RPM. Almirola spent last year driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and after running a handful of Cup races for RPM in 2010 was tabbed to fill the seat of the iconic ride for 2012. 

Out: A.J. Allmendinger was granted his release from the team after primary sponsor Best Buy opted to leave for Roush Fenway Racing. Allmendinger then signed on to drive the No. 22 Dodge at Penske Racing. 

Our Take: The good news is RPM remains a two-car effort and that the No. 43 stays on track for 2012. But the team once again faces a rebuilding process taking on a new driver in Almirola to pair with Marcos Ambrose. Allmendinger had made strides to bring the organization up to the next level and seemed to be knocking on the door for his first career Sprint Cup win last season. There will be pressure on Almirola to continue that upward trend.

No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

In: Kurt Busch takes his much-publicized leap from Penske Racing to James Finch’s operation in hopes of “putting the fun” back into his racing career. The team once again continues its relationship with Hendrick Motorsports ensuring quality cars and potent engines for its 2012 effort. 

Out: Landon Cassill piloted the ride for the bulk of the 2011 season when the 51 entry wound up finishing 30<sup>th</sup> in the final owner point standings. 

Our Take: Right out of the box look for Busch to be a factor at Daytona as Finch’s teams always perform well at restrictor plate tracks. The former series champion’s considerable talents automatically elevates the organization and it won’t hurt having someone of Busch’s stature when hunting down new sponsors. But whether Busch is in for the long haul when tough times inevitably come for the small, one car operation remains to be seen as well as whether he can take the team further up the point standings.

No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Mark Martin signed a two-year deal to drive the former No. 00 Camry with sponsor Aaron’s on board in a 25-race schedule. Team owner Waltrip plans to pilot the entry for five more races at Daytona, Talladega and Kentucky.

Out: David Reutimann was released at the end of last season with Waltrip and sponsor Aaron’s citing a lack of performance as the main reason for the change. 

Our Take: Martin still has the desire to drive and at times showed he could get the job done last year in both his time with Hendrick’s No. 5 Sprint Cup entry as well as some limited starts for Turner Motorsports’ Nationwide program. The 25-race slate should fit perfectly into Martin’s limited schedule desires. Waltrip’s four plate race starts as well as the home date in Kentucky will provide exposure and publicity for the sponsor, the former Daytona 500 winner and spokesperson extraordinaire's specialty.

Dropped teams

No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford

The loss of full-time sponsor UPS forced team owner Jack Roush to shut down his fourth entry for the 2012 season leaving David Ragan on the unmployment line. Despite winning his first career Sprint Cup Series race last July at Daytona, Ragan was forced out of RFR at season's end.

No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Sponsorship issues led to team owner Richard Childress to eliminate this entry from his Sprint Cup stable and to part ways with Clint Bowyer, who left for Michael Waltrip Racing. RCR goes back to three teams for the 2012 season with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard

No. 4 and No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyotas

The departure of Red Bull as both owner and sponsor of this team means two less entries for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series campaign. General Manager Jay Frye was not successful finding new investors to keep the organization's doors open and an official shut down was the aftermath. While Kasey Kahne has landed at Hendrick Motorsports, Brian Vickers does not have a ride lined up for the new season. 


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Posted on: January 2, 2012 1:47 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 3:46 pm

2011 Team Review/Preview: Hendrick Motorsports

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Jimmie Johnson's run for a sixth straight Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011 came up short for Hendrick)


For the first time since the 2005 season Hendrick Motorsports did not celebrate a Sprint Cup championship. 

Jimmie Johnson’s amazing run of five straight titles came to an end last season putting a period on one of the most incredible accomplishments in sports. 

"Just thinking about it, like wow, it really is over," Johnson said. "I'm disappointed that it is over but very proud of what this team has done. What we have done over the last, really, 10 years, the last five obviously stand out, but what we have done as a group over the 10-year run so far has been truly amazing." 

Johnson did make the Chase as did his Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. but none of the trio was really able to mount a run at the title. 

Johnson’s regular season included 17 top five finishes including a victories at Talladega and Kansas. But once the playoffs began, Johnson could not muster the championship magic that brought him titles from 2006 through 2010. 

“We had a lot of things that happened with the wreck in Charlotte and Talladega,” team owner Rick Hendrick said analyzing Johnson’s Chase performance. “We played our cards wrong at Talladega, our whole organization did, to have cars as good as we had and end up where we did. But that’s racing. I think when you’ve tasted the success they have, and now you’ve been beat, you’ve got to go to work, and you’ve got to come back stronger.”

Jeff Gordon came back to perform stronger in 2011 than he has in recent years and scored three victories with new crew chief Alan Gustafson. 

It marked the first time Gordon had put together a multiple win season since 2007. 

Gordon’s victory in the second race of the season at Phoenix kicked off the solid season that also included wins at Pocono as well as an historic effort at Atlanta when the four-time series champion registered his eighty fifth career victory.

The win put Gordon alone in third-place on the all-time series victory list and he was overwhelmed by the presentation from NASCAR president Mike Helton in victory lane.

"Everybody knows when Mike Helton speaks he has a way with words," Gordon said. "So to be up there, get presented that beautiful plaque that they put together with all the victories, just looking back on all the people that have contributed to it from Hendrick Motorsports, different crew chiefs and crew members and guys in the engine shop. I mean, it’s a team effort." 

But despite carrying tremendous momentum into the Chase, Gordon stumbled and in the end was eighth in the final point standings. 

"It's just disappointing because I feel like Alan is a guy that deserves a championship and deserves to be up there battling for one,” Gordon said. “He proved it with Mark (Martin) and I thought we were going to prove it this year with the way we were running leading into the Chase so it's disappointing, but I'm hoping that next year now having a year under our belt and we get along well. I've got just a ton of respect and belief in him and I feel the same thing is in return that puts us in position to have a great year next year." 

Like Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. enjoyed a comeback season that saw the sport’s perennial most popular driver make the Chase for the first time in three seasons. 

While Earnhardt wasn’t able to end his now three year winless drought, he was as competitive as he’s ever been during his tenure at Hendrick and finished the campaign seventh in the standings. 

Earnhardt gave much of the credit for his turnaround to the relationship shared with new crew chief Steve Letarte, who took the reigns of the No. 88 team last season. 

"We just have a lot in common and our personalities make it where it seems like it's easy for us to have a conversation," Earnhardt said. "I've been spending a ton of time around the hauler all day long during each day on Friday and Saturday and when you're sitting there you just never know when that idea or that thought is going to come into your head or come into [Letarte's] head about what might really be able to help the car.

"And if you just sit around long enough, eventually it's going to pop up and I want to be there for that conversation; I don't want him texting me on the phone while I'm in the bus going, 'Hey, I think I know what we can do.' I want to be there so that I can understand and talk about it. I think that's helping us." 

Unfortunately the lone Hendrick driver to not make the Chase last season was veteran Mark Martin, who ended his tenure with the organization in 2011.

Martin and crew chief Lance McGrew struggled to find the right balance most of the season. Martin, who will join Michael Waltrip Racing next season, finished the year with only a pair of top 5 finishes.



Martin’s departure makes way for Kasey Kahne to take the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet. After a one year stint at Red Bull Racing, which included a November victory at Phoenix, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis bring their considerable chemistry to the Hendrick organization.

"I'll be so excited and happy to get back in a race car, it's crazy," Kahne said. "Joining Hendrick is exciting. It feels good. They've given me such a good opportunity, I need to take full advantage of it and perform. It may take a little bit of time to figure everything out, but I think we can get off to a pretty quick start."

Kahne figures to be a formidable foe for all of his Hendrick teammates including Johnson, who is using the end of his championship streak as motivation in 2012.

“We have a lot to learn from this year and [crew chief] Chad [Knaus] and I have already been in meetings throughout this last week setting up wish lists of what we think we can do better, how we can do a better job at it,” Johnson said. “We are moving forward on next year and figuring out how we can dissect weak spots, if it is on track, you know pit calls have changed dramatically this year, what can I do differently as a driver, all those different components, we are addressing and working on them now.”

Gordon also plans on taking what was accomplished in 2011 as a foundation to build for a better new season.

"It's easy for us to be hanging our heads and think about the disappointments, but I'm also reminded and encouraged of how great of a year this has been for us," Gordon said. "With the three wins -- we did have incredible momentum coming into the Chase so I think as a competitor and as a race team, we certainly are very focused on what we did wrong and what we're going to do to make it better next year."

And season number two of the Earnhardt-Letarte combination also comes with high hopes from the duo.

“We learned a lot last year and had some success,” said Letarte. “We didn’t finish the job by winning races or the championship but I’m very convinced this race team can accomplish those goals in 2012.”


Only by Hendrick’s high standards could 2011 be considered a down season for the organization. That will happen when you take home five straight titles. But the entire four-car stable should all be considered championship contenders heading into the new season and the entire quartet could very well be in the Chase. All eyes will be on newcomer Kahne as he finally gets an opportunity to run with a stable and solid team, something that was missing during his tenures at Richard Petty Motorsports and Red Bull. Johnson is determined to snap back to championship form while Gordon and Earnhardt bring positive momentum and confidence into 2012. Overall this powerhouse team will be a major factor in the coming season.


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Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:12 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 7:51 pm

Team Review/Preview: Michael Waltrip Racing

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Waltrip and Bowyer hope to team up and put together a successful Sprint Cup Series season in 2012)


The 2011 season didn’t go exactly as planned for Michael Waltrip Racing. 

After showing improved performance the previous year, MWR came into the new campaign with high hopes for both drivers Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann

But by the time the final checkered flag of the year flew the duo ended up winless and Truex Jr. had himself a new crew chief while Reutimann was out of a ride. 

Truex ended the year eighteenth in the final standings with three top five finishes and a pole as highlights along the way. 

But it was a rough year for the New Jersey native who endured a vicious wreck in the spring Martinsville race. 

Truex hit the third turn wall at full speed in his April wreck at the Virginia half-mile track and completely destroyed his NAPA Toyota. He was shaken but fortunately otherwise uninjured in the accident. 

"Everything was fine and I went to let off [the brakes] to go into [turn] three and it stuck to the floor," Truex said. "At that point, there's nothing you can do. It happens so fast, there's no way you can hit the kill switch or shut the thing off. Just lock up the brakes and you are just a passenger at that point." 

Although we walked away from the incident things didn’t go very well for Truex from that point on. The frustration with poor finishes and performances finally boiled over to the point of crew chief Pat Tryson being replaced by Chad Johnston in early June. 

The veteran Tryson wasn’t sure why the change was made when news came of his release from the position. 

"Somebody always has to be that guy," he said. "I wouldn't say I was part of the problem. As a company we aren't running well. It's a strange deal. I really can't say much." 

Improvement came gradually for the 56 team as the season wore on and Truex was pleased with the progress while still disappointed with his overall season. 

“I think our team has done a nice job all year as far as bringing fast race cars to the race track,” Truex said. “There have been some other things that we’ve missed on, parts failures and making mistakes and things that really hurt us in the points. But we’ve had fast cars all year long.

“For us ... it’s been a lot of what could’ve been or what might have been.”

Reutimann’s year was worse than his teammate's and ended up in the popular driver’s release. He struggled from nearly the opening green flag of the season and after winning a race in 2010 could muster only one top five finish this season.

The disastrous campaign came to a head when Reutimann was informed he would not return to the No. 00 ride next season and was dismissed from the team.

"I had no indication," said Reutimann, when informed of his fate. "They never told me my job was on the line or in jeopardy.

“It’s been an awful season for us, for sure. We haven’t run up to our expectations or our standards. But I thought I’d have a chance to make up for it. … It’s a bit of a shock. I wasn’t expecting it.”


The team has undergone a huge overhaul heading into 2012 with two new drivers as well as a change in management.

Scott Miller comes to MWR after a long career at Richard Childress Racing and slides into the Director of Competition role of the now three-car team.

“This is the highest ranking role in our competition department and we needed a person with great knowledge of our sport, experience in managing highly competitive personnel, and a vast technical background,” said team co-owner Michael Waltrip. “Scott is exactly all of those things. This is such an important hire for our organization.”

Miller’s job will be to bring Truex Jr. as well as newcomers Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin to the next level and turn MWR into an organization capable of winning races as well as competing for Chase berths.

Bowyer follows Miller from RCR and with 5-Hour Energy as the main sponsor behind the effort of the new No. 15 Toyota believes he can be an impact player in the 2012 championship hunt.

“This is a great opportunity and you can see the foundation for big things in place here,” said Bowyer. “To say I’m excited about what lies ahead is a very true statement.”

Bowyer will be teamed up with veteran crew chief Brian Pattie, who helped guide Juan Pablo Montoya into the Chase for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in 2009.

“I’ve known Brian Pattie for a long time and the thing that impresses me the most is how he calls a race and his knowledge of race cars,” Bowyer said. “We both grew up working on dirt cars and have pretty similar backgrounds. We understand each other and I think we speak the same language. I know once we get together and start working we’re going to see great results.”

Joining Truex and Bowyer for a limited schedule will be Mark Martin, who takes the wheel of Reutimann’s old ride with the Camry now sporting the No. 55. Martin’s tenure at Hendrick Motorsports came to an end this past season and he was seeking an opportunity to remain at the Cup level but on a scaled down schedule.

“I’m really excited about having an opportunity to be a part of something that I can sort of transition to, whether it’s with this organization or another organization when we get around to 2014,” Martin said of his 25-race schedule in the car. “I love this sport. I don’t want to go away. I want to be involved in this sport for a long, long time.”

Waltrip will run five additional races in the No. 55, the four restrictor plate events at Daytona and Talladega as well as the summer stop at Kentucky Speedway.


Things couldn’t have been much more disappointing for MWR in 2011 so a fresh start and shake-up was just what the team needed. The addition of Miller to run the day-to-day operations of the organization is a huge move that should bring stability to a team dearly in need of it. Truex is still the anchor and will need to carry the momentum of his final 2011 outings into the new year. Bowyer and Pattie should make a formidable pair but the chemistry of a brand new team usually takes some time to develop. Martin can still wheel a race car and his veteran presence will be a major benefit to have around. More speed and reliability from Toyota’s engine program is a necessity. Overall things look much better for MWR going forward but the team needs to find some cohesiveness quickly in order to compete with the top echelon of the series.


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Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:20 am

Martin, Waltrip to share No. 55

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

The familiar No. 00 car is going away next year as Michael Waltrip Racing announced today that Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip’s Toyota Camrys will carry the number 55 during the 2012 and 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons.

The number commemorates Charlie Loudermilk’s founding of Aaron’s, Inc. in 1955.

“This is a new era for the Aaron’s Dream Machine,” said Aaron’s Chief Operating Officer Ken Butler. “Our new driver lineup with Mark and Michael created a good opportunity for us to make more changes, including the car number. Every one of our employees knows the significance of the number 55 in our company, and I know they will have pride watching that number compete on Sundays while flying our colors.”

Martin will drive in 25 Sprint Cup events each of the next two seasons, sharing the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine with Waltrip who will drive seven events with Aaron’s sponsorship. Martin will join Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. in the MWR stable of drivers.

Martin will begin his tenure with MWR at the 2012 Daytona 500. Waltrip will run the remaining restrictor plate races plus the race in his home state of Kentucky. MWR plans to run a combination of drivers and sponsor partners to fill the remaining races when Martin and Waltrip are not behind the wheel.

“I love it, a new team, a new car and a new number,” said Martin. “The car number means a lot to the driver. We talked about a lot of different number options, but the number 55 means a lot to Aaron’s and to Michael, so I am proud to drive it.”

Waltrip raced the No. 55 at Bill Davis Racing in 2006 and 2007-2009, the first three years of MWR’s existence.

“This means a lot to me,” said Waltrip. “I know how far MWR has come since we started with the No. 55 NAPA Toyota and how much we’ve grown heading into 2012. To get back into the No. 55 Toyota in 2012 and share driving duties with a first ballot hall of famer in Mark Martin is certainly an honor.”

Aaron’s relationship with MWR began in 2000 when the Atlanta-based company sponsored six races for Waltrip’s Nationwide team. The relationship grew from a partial Nationwide program to one of the most recognizable Cup partnerships in the sport with aggressive activation and extensive usage of Waltrip and MWR in television and radio commercials.

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Posted on: November 4, 2011 5:14 pm

Michael Waltrip explains Reutimann dismissal

By Pete Pistone

Michael Waltrip responded to the decision to release David Reutimann from his team's No. 00 Toyota next season in favor of veteran Mark Martin.

Waltrip gave his side of how the change came down when he met with the media including PilotOnline.com Friday at Texas Motor Speedway:

On the decision to let David Reutimann go:

WALTRIP: "It was very difficult. I love David. He's a great man and he's always been there to do anything I needed him to do. We weren't where we were supposed to be in the points and our contract (with sponsor Aaron's) was winding up. It's important as a team owner to extend those relationships and give the sponsors what they want. Heck, the Wood Brothers fired me and they're my favorite people in the whole world. It's business. It isn't personal. Chuck Rider fired me and. I felt forever indebted to Chuck for giving me the opportunity to start racing. I know it was hard for David to get the news. That all didn't go like I had planned. I do believe that he will wind up with a great opportunity somewhere, and I'm thankful that he drove for me for so long.''

Did Reutimann know he was in jeopardy if he was at a certain spot in the points at a certain time in the year?

WALTRIP: "Yes. Most of my contracts in the history of NASCAR said that if you're outside the top 25 or whatever, the sponsor could leave or you could be terminated for those reasons. I don't want to discuss the specifics of his contract but that's not unusual.''

Why did it not go the way you intended in telling Reutimann?

WALTRIP: "He went to Vegas on Tuesday. I had to be out of town on Monday and when I got home Monday night, I thought I would meet him for breakfast on Tuesday morning and he was off early to Vegas. Poor planning on my part I would say. It was totally quiet Monday and it was totally quiet Tuesday morning and I thought, "Well, when he gets back, we'll sit down and talk about this,' and then it blew up. I called Rob (Kauffman, MWR co-owner) and told him I was disappointed the way it went down. He made me feel better, he said, "It wouldn't matter how it went down, it would be sad. There wouldn't be a good way to do this, so don't beat yourself over it.' We had a good conversation on the phone. I think my brother called as well. David was very professional and very focused on what's next.''

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