Tag:Michael Waltrip
Posted on: March 8, 2012 6:18 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 7:34 pm

Brian Vickers to drive Waltrip's No. 55 car

By Pete Pistone

Elliott Sadler's inability to drive Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 car for five races has opened the door for Brian Vickers to get an opportunity.

Vickers will pilot the entry in the six events as an addition to the car's schedule for Mark Martin and Waltrip.

Sadler was named as the team's choice to fill the seat last week but withdrew after team owner Richard Childress felt it necessary to have the driver concentrate on his full-time Nationwide Series effort for RCR.

Vickers has been without a ride since the Red Bull Racing team shut its doors at season's end. He'll have an opportunity to drive a car that Martin has gotten off to a good start with this season running competitively at both Daytona and Phoenix.

“I am thrilled to get back behind the wheel of not just a race car, but a very fast race car,” said Vickers. 

“I’m lucky to find a ride of this quality so early in the season. That Toyota won the pole last weekend in Phoenix and you saw it up front throughout the race. I know how good (crew chief) Rodney Childers and team are. I’ve known Rodney since I was eight years old. This car is tied for sixth in points right now. This is going to be fun. I appreciate the opportunity Michael and the entire MWR organization are giving me.” 

Vickers will begin his schedule next Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway and Waltrip is excited to get his new driver behind the wheel.

“Brian Vickers is a veteran driver with almost 10 years experience, but he hasn’t even turned 30 yet,” said Waltrip. 

“He’s shown he can win at this level and we have every confidence he’ll run well with us. I believe in second chances and this is great opportunity for us and Brian. He wants to show the world how good he really is and we believe in the equipment and people we’re putting him with in 2012.”

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Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 7:28 pm

Gatorade Duel at Daytona: Winners and Losers

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For the first time since 1972 there will not be a Waltrip in the Daytona 500.

Unfortunately for Michael Waltrip he was one of the big losers in Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races and failed to qualify for Sunday's "Great American Race."

Waltrip, who crashed in the day's first 150-mile race, wasn't alone in the disappointment department with the likes of Kenny and Mike Wallace, Bill Elliott, J.J. Yeley and Robert Richardson Jr. also missing out on gaining a spot in the biggest race of the season.

"I just went the wrong way and lost the car," said Waltrip, who after hitting pit road for fuel lost control of his Hillman Racing Toyotya while racing through turns one and two. "I feel like I let everybody down. I raced my way to the front and then I let them down. It’s just really hard. I don’t know what to say -- it’s just sad. Thankful to my team and Aaron’s for giving me the opportunity and hate that I let everybody down.” 

Kenny Wallace was trying to drive the underfunded RAB Racing Toyota into Sunday's race and was the victim of a fuel pick-up problem that mired him deep in the field unable to challenge for the spot he needed to transfer to the 500.

"It's a tough pill to swallow for sure," said Wallace. "This team tried so hard and it just wasn't meant to be. But I'm so proud of the effort put forth to try and get into the Daytona 500 and that's what I'll take away from today's experience."

On the other side of the coin were the stories of drivers that survived Thursday with what they needed to move on to Sunday.

Michael McDowell and Robby Gordon transfered from the day's opening race and both drivers were thankful for the turn of events that led to their starts in the 500.

"It's amazing," said McDowell, who got a push from his friend and defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne to help secure the sixth place finish. "I've been here once before and made the race. I had to qualify in and I've been on the outside looking in too, so just know that this is extremely special not just for me and my family, but for our whole team. Phil Parsons Racing is a small team. We've got six guys back at the shop that worked really hard in the off-season to give us a fast car..."

Gordon had an early race scare when smoke started to billow from his Dodge but was able to nurse his car through that issue and notch the ninth place finish he needed to make the 500.

"It's big for us," said Gordon, who ran a partial schedule last season in his independent entry. "We were in a position last year, it sounds kind of crazy, we've won Indy Car races, I've won NASCAR races and we were in position we didn't have the funding to run all of the races so we found ourselves outside the Top 35.

"I'm proud of my guys. I'm proud of my team and I'm proud of the Daytona 500."

Two other David vs.Goliath stories played out in the day's second race when Joe Nemechek and Dave Blaney punched their tickets to the 500.

For the journeyman Nemechek, a former Nationwide Series champion who made every Sprint Cup race last year with his small operation, making Daytona was a key to his entire 2012 effort.

"We're not sure what we can do this year," Nemechek said. "But now just getting into this race is such a huge shot in the arm for this team and will go a long way in helping us this year to say the least. This is so hard but we just keep plugging away and this was a great day for this race.

Blaney, who saw his guaranteed Daytona starting spot go to Danica Patrick when Tommy Baldwin Racing createda "collaborative partnership" with Stewart-Haas Racing, was forced to race his way into the big event with a twelfth place finish Thursday.

"Nah I don't feel any satisfaction or redemption," Blaney said. "Just happy to be able to start in the Daytona 500."

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 8:06 pm

Michael Waltrip set for 26th Daytona 500

By Pete Pistone

Michael Waltrip has worked out a deal to drive for Hillman Racin gin this year's running of the Daytona 500.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner will pilot the No. 40 entry for the team owned by Mike Hillman with Aaron's sponsorship.

Hillman acquired the Camping World Truck Series assets of Germain Racing after the 2011 season and plans to expand his program to a Sprint Cup effort beginning with Waltrip at Daytona.

“I can’t think of a better way to start off the season than to have Michael Waltrip behind the wheel of our car at Daytona,” said Hillman, who credits longtime friend and co-owner Joe Falk for the inclusion of the Cup program under the Hillman Racing banner. “I’ve been in this sport a long time, but I’ve never been so excited to go to Daytona. To have two Daytona 500 champions at the start of the season – with Ward Burton in the truck and Michael in the Cup car – positions Hillman Racing for a strong debut and a chance to win both races.” 

Waltrip will now compete against the three teams he owns and drivers Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer in the biggest race of the year.

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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: 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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Posted on: November 4, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2011 4:45 pm

Reutimann 'bummed out' over Waltrip's decision

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
David Reutimann
was more than surprised to find out he was being released from Michael Waltrip Racing.

The veteran driver spoke with reporters Friday at Texas Motor Speedway and shared his emotional thoughts on the decision earlier in the week by MWR to remove him from the team's No. 00 Toyota in favor of Mark Martin in 2012.

“There’s no sugar coating this deal, it’s tough," said Reutimann. "For sure, I’ll take some of the blame, I messed up this year some. But at the end of the day, it hasn’t been all me, either. It’s equal parts, and that’s kind of how it works.”

Reutimann has a pair of Sprint Cup wins to his credit while a member of the Waltrip organization but has struggled this season. He comes into the Texas weekend 28th in the point standings.

“It’s been an awful season for us, for sure,” Reutimann said. “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 decision being made this late in the season doesn't give Reutimann many options with Sprint Cup as well as Nationwide and truck series rides for 2012 at a premium. That challenge has added to his disappointment.

"I was just disappointed – disappointed, bummed out to put it mildly,” Reutimann said. “It happened. It is what it is.

"The thing about it is there’s not a lot out there. If there were to be something out there, it’s going to involve you doing the same thing that got done to me. I’m not exactly up for that, either. I don’t know what will happen. It may come down to something like that. I’ve got to think on that a little bit – when one person’s gain is another person’s big loss, you’ve got to weigh the plusses there, and I’m not sure there’s a lot.”

Reutimann acknowledged his respect for Martin but that doesn't take away the sting of being replaced. However he understands that it's part of the business at times and in fact may have to face the same situation in reverse to remain in the sport.

“People looking out for No. 1 is what got me in this situation to begin with,” Reutimann said. “That’s the mentality. I’m no angel, but I’m just struggling a little bit with it. I’m not saying that would happen, but I’m saying that if I was to go to another car, it would probably be at the expense of somebody else unfortunately.

“I know how bad it feels for me right now. I’m not really sure, you’ve just got to wonder if it’s worth it in the long run. I don’t now.”

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