Sunday, June 17, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Honor Thy Father at MIS

MWR teams saluted their fathers this weekend, all drivers had tributes on their cars.
This is the No. 56 car as Tweeted by Michael Waltrip
Speeds at Michigan were soaring above 200 mph, Goodyear brought in a new left-side tire because of issues with blistering and then the rain came in, washing away the rubber that was built up on the track. What else can be said about the last few days spent in Michigan? Oh, yeah, Happy Father's Day!

Just an observation that I wanted to share for you to also now watch. Take note to the MWR qualifying order: 13th, 14th and 16th. Almost every week the team has been grouped together in the results from either qualifying or the race. What does this mean? Consistency!

Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota
Started: 13th
Finished: 7th
Points: 9th

Clint Bowyer led the way for the Toyota contingency at Michigan and in doing so led the way for the Michael Waltrip Racing stable.

Handling was the issue, not just for Bowyer, but across the board. A green race track, new left side tire and lower temperatures produced a track that was as slick as ice. Bowyer, a veteran of the dirt track circuit, was able to handle his No. 15 and make gains early on.

Radio chatter with the team was comical at times as Bowyer told his crew he was, "going so fast he's blowing the damn decals off" at about Lap 120.

Bowyer summed it up in his post-race comments, "We had a better car than where we finished -- I think. We just got a little bit behind on that next-to-last run. It was just really hard to pass.  There, midway through the race, I thought I was pretty good. Just came up short -- we’ll have to go after them next week."

Clint Bowyer briefly commented on his race via Twitter, but focused on this huge storyline coming out of the Quicken Loans 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win. "Fell back there at the end but a huge turn around from struggling most of the wk. congrats to Dale Jr and @SteveLetarte...All is right!!!!"

Remembering his father, Julian, Martin climbs into his car before
the Quicken Loans 400 on Father's Day.
Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR
Mark Martin, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
Started: 14th
Finished: 29th
Points: 23rd

Heading into the race, Mark Martin was once again favored to win by many, myself included. After topping 201 mph in Thursday's test session and pacing that day's practice, he was easily a favorite to win the Quicken Loans 400.

Qualifying in 14th, Martin had some ground to make up and the change in track conditions was not in his favor early in the race.

By the second competition caution at Lap 50, Martin reported to crew chief Rodney Childers that the balance was good, as he had made his way up to third. Then, running in sixth position with just 16 laps to go, he and former teammate Jeff Gordon had a great battle going on for fifth position. As the laps wound down, and the attention shifted to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin quietly went to the garage with engine issues.

"Rodney Childers ran a really smart race and our car was fast. We were just 10 laps short of making the finish. Thankful to drive their car," Martin Tweeted. Childers also followed suit, taking to his Twitter account to say, "Geez.. That's tough to be that fast for 4 days straight and then that happen with 7 to go. Proud of @55MarkMartin and all of my guys...." Vaguely explaining what happening with the engine on the No. 55, Childers said, "The failure had nothing to do with our practice laps.. Same thing the 18 broke at Dover and the 55/15 broke at Kansas.."

Get ready for seat swapping - Mark Martin has the next five weeks off and is next scheduled to race at the Brickyard 400. In his absence the No. 55 will be driven by team owner Michael Waltrip as well as Brian Vickers. Next weekend at Sonoma, Vickers climbs into the cockpit for his third race of the season. In Vickers two previous races he finished fifth at Bristol and 18th at Martinsville. It will be interesting to watch Vickers at Sonoma; his best finish is 14th and he has an average finish of 22nd, but the No. 55 car is strong no matter what track you put it on.


Michael Waltrip Racing
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
Started: 16th
Finished: 12th
Points: 7th

Timing was not on Truex's side, no, not the electronic one that plagued teams at Pocono. Timing as in when to pit or when to stay out.

Timing also nipped Truex in relation to wrecks, Denny Hamlin spun out, and he sustained minor damage on the No. 56 car as he was bumped and pushed up the track.

“Our NAPA Toyota was really good all day long. We just kept pitting at the wrong time.  It was one of those deals where we would pit and the caution would come out -- that got us way in the back. From dead last, we got back to like 13th or something and then had a bad restart where I got my fender knocked in and so I got tight. Just one of those days where we couldn’t catch a break, but the car was super fast.  Fortunately, we were able to come back -- we passed a ton of cars today. It’s hard to pass here. That says a lot about the car. Just one of them days where we just couldn’t catch a break.”

"We had an awesome @napaknowhow toyota today. Just couldnt catch a break. Still a solid finish, cant wait for the road course next week," Truex Tweeted post-race.

And a big congratulations to crew chief Chad Johnston and wife Stacey on the birth of their son, Chase Allen. Johnston remained at home this weekend with Chase, Stacey and big sister Sydnee but will return next weekend at Sonoma.

MWR at Le Mans:

MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman, part-time driver of the No. 55 Brian Vickers and Rui Aguas strapped into the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia during the most grueling 24 hours in auto racing. The entry, a joint effort by the Italian AF Corse team and MWR.

Running consistently in the fourth position, late in the race the team encountered a transmission leak and a small fire but kept on running. Finishing the race in sixth, the team improved from their 13th place finish in 2011.

Following the race, Vickers took to Twitter to share his experience at Le Mans with SPEED. "@SPEED List: Lead-check, gear box failure-check, flat-check, fire-check, gear box stuck-check, 24H-check! ‪#LM24onSPEED‬."

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