Sunday, April 22, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Oh so close to a win

The NAPA team springs into action on a green flag pit stop during the STP 400
at Kansas Speedway.  Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
Hometown native Clint Bowyer wanted nothing more than to be battling for the win at Kansas Speedway, in the end it was teammate Martin Truex Jr. who was the class of the field today.

Truex was the lone MWR car to survive the race whereas Bowyer and Mark Martin both suffered terminal engine problems.

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR 
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota
Started: 8th
Finished: 36th
Points: 11th (-85)

Bringing out the first caution, not the best start to a hometown race as Bowyer would have planned.

Heading home to Kansas Speedway, just a short jaunt from Bowyer’s hometown of Emporia, there was a sense of confidence in the No. 15 camp. On Friday afternoon Michael Waltrip Racing proudly announced that 5-hour ENERGY expanded their sponsorship with Bowyer this season. Later that evening he would head to nearby Kauffman Stadium to throw out the opening pitch at the Kansas Royals baseball game, an honor for the MWR driver. And if you are wondering, yes, the pitch made it to the plate.

Unfortunately the race was not so easy. At Lap 52 Bowyer spun in Turn 4 to bring out the first caution flag. At Lap 138 his day would end in the garage with a terminal engine failure.

“It was just a major bummer. I’m really upset -- I just wish it wouldn’t have happened here. This is the nature of the beast. Unfortunately, this happens from time to time. These guys do such a good job with the engine program. They were bringing a good car, you know we were running up front, I think we were a couple adjustments away from at least being part of the game here today. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day. We’ll regroup and go back after it in Richmond.”
Courtesy of MichaelWaltripRacing.com

Mark Martin, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
Started: 5th
Finished: 33rd
Points: 11th (owners)

The “oh so close” theme also pertains to Mark Martin this weekend - oh so close to a finish in his case.

Racing in the top-five with just 15 laps remaining Martin reported to crew chief Rodney Childers that he lost a cylinder. Just three laps later the engine blew up completely. 

After the race Martin said, “We had a really good Aaron’s Dream Machine today. You won’t see that in the results but we had a great car. That was a good performance by my team. Something happened under the hood late in the race. It looked like we could finish fifth and that would have been awesome. These cars are a pleasure to drive.”

Crew chief Rodney Childers said on Twitter, “Thanks everyone. We had a great day going. Not what we expected but our friends at TRD and@toyotaracing will figure it out.”


Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
Started: 6th
Finished: 2nd
Points: 2nd (-15 behind Greg Biffle)

After the race I kept thinking of the saying "second place sucks" - even more so when you lead a race high 173 laps.

Things went awry after the last pit stop at Lap 223. Truex radioed in that he was "wrecking loose." Denny Hamlin and Truex put on an amazing show with just three laps remaining, the two drivers were side-by-side. As Truex attempted the pass on the No. 11 a small wiggle cost him valuable seconds and Hamlin was able to maintain the lead and continue on for the win.

When asked in his post-race presser if there is anything else he could have done, Truex replied, “I don’t know. I’d like to try it again. You know, I don’t think so. I mean, I drove as hard as I could. You know, the 11(Denny Hamlin) gained some ground on the last green flag stop. We had a bit of a cushion. He pitted a lap before we did, we came out side by side and I was able to fight him off. I just was just way too loose from there. I don’t think there’s anything I could have done. I got the lead back after the pit stop, I just couldn’t hang onto it. Car just got too loose right there for those 20 laps or so.”

“What a day. Disappointed in second but what an awesome race car we had. Our last set of tires were real loose for no reason at all,” Truex said as he took to Twitter after the race. He continued, “Very proud of Chad and the whole team. We are going to win some races soon. @napaknowhow @MWRteam thank you so much.” [sic]

On a positive note, Michael Waltrip is already in talks to re-sign Truex and NAPA beyond their 2012 contracts...and that my friends is some NAPA Know How.

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