Monday, March 5, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Practice, pole and persistence pay off

Mark "The Kid" Martin proves that age means nothing in NASCAR,
winning his 52nd pole at the age of 53 years young.
Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR
From pacing practice to a pole award, the Michael Waltrip Racing stable kicked off Phoenix with a bang. MWR drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer paced Friday's happy hour and finished atop the leaderboard. On Saturday Mark Martin picked up where they left off, winning the pole award. 

“I can’t say enough for MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), Aaron’s and my team giving me such great Toyotas," said Martin after qualifying. "I want to make sure that everybody knows that having an owner for a driver is really, really special. I got this pole because of Michael Waltrip and something that he said to me right before I went to qualify and of course a great race car and a great team and everything else. Thank all the fans for cheering, that’s such a privilege to be still racing — thank you all.”

Clint Bowyer - No. 15  5-hour ENERGY 

Started: 16th
Finished: 30th
Points: 17th

Problems early for Clint Bowyer resulted in a tough day. At Lap 17 Bowyer headed to pit road with a flat tire, a second pit stop was required due to splitter damage. Back on track, again the tire went flat and Bowyer ended up 6 laps down while all the repairs were being made. 

A frustrated Bowyer kept fighting and finished the day in 30th. Not the day the team had hoped for, but given the circumstances, it was a hard-earned finish.

 Crew chief Brian Pattie took a positive spin on the day, telling Bowyer on the in-car scanner: "I'm not telling you what position we are in, just that this setup is a good place to start next time." Turning a negative into a positive is the difference between a Chase-contending team and one who runs mid-pack. 

"I think the most frustrating thing is that we had a great 5-hour ENERGY Toyota and turned some really fast lap times, but we just couldn’t gain any ground," said Bowyer. "Today is one of those days where you take what you can get, try to put it behind you as fast as you can and start fresh next week in Vegas.”

Mark Martin - No. 55 Aaron's 

Started: 1st 
Finished: 9th
Points: 6th (tied with Truex Jr.)

Mark Martin is proof that age is merely just a number. At 53, Martin is the elder statesman of NASCAR but can still put a whooping on the young guns.

After starting from the pole, Martin's day was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Going from loose to tight, the No. 55 had handling issues but Martin never let that show. Battling throughout, Martin contended for the lead with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. After getting shuffled back to the mid-teens, Martin was able to bring home a top-10 finish for MWR.

“Proud of the effort and any time you get a top-10 with this group of guys, you have to say it’s a reasonable run," Martin said of his day. "We had a little more than that, maybe not quite enough to win, but definitely a shot at a top-five. I’m excited for what we have here at MWR and what’s coming up. This is going to be a lot of fun.”

Martin Truex Jr. - No. 56 NAPA Filters

Started: 25th
Finished: 7th
Points: 6th 

The No. 56 NAPA Filters Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. had ground to makeup from the get-go. Starting in 25th, Truex and crew chief Chad Johnson also battled handling issues but kept digging and by mid-race they were 16th and still working.

Truex and Johnson took a huge gamble during green-flag pit stops, stretching their fuel window and opting to lead laps. That move could have been costly but cautions played in their favor and after leading two times for a total of 29 laps, that call was a game changer.

Truex finished the race in 7th. He and teammate Mark Martin are both tied for 6th in the Sprint Cup points, 18 points behind Denny Hamlin.

"We were able to get the lead and with no tires and 20-lap tires were able to check out and leave them. It’s just a shame we had to pit," Truex said of the gamble on fuel mileage. "I’m not sure how those guys made it -- there's no way we could have made it from there.  We’ll work on that. I’m really pleased with the team and the car. We fought hard all day and got us a good finish.”

News and Notes:
On Saturday MWR announced they have signed Elliott Sadler for five races this season. Mark Martin is committed to only 24 races and the All Star Race, Michael Waltrip has a total of five races and a yet to be named driver will be in for the road races.

Sadler will be racing at both Bristol races, both Martinsville races and at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.

“This is an awesome opportunity,” said Sadler in a team press release. “We’ve been talking about this for a while, but wanted to get through Daytona before we announced it to everyone. If I had to pick a place on the circuit to start then Bristol would be my first choice. I’ve had a lot of good memories at Bristol. Martinsville is in my home state of Virginia and I’ve always enjoyed racing at Loudon. I can’t thank Michael and everyone at MWR enough for giving me this opportunity."

A report from FoxSports states this deal may be in jeopardy due to a manufacturer conflict, Toyota for MWR and Chevrolet for Childress. The report states that Brian Vickers could fill these five races. Stay tuned ...

For your viewing pleasure: 
I love the MWR commercials: the drivers step out of their comfort zone and show us a bit of humor. Bravo to their sponsors and the drivers for being a bit silly. This week, a little NAPA Know How featuring a parrot!


  1. Amanda, you appear to have been drinking way too much.....Wall-Banger-Kook-Aid! Now, stop that!