Sunday, June 10, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: A win slips away at Pocono

Mark Martin leads the pack during the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR.
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
All season long, Michael Waltrip Racing has been so close to a win, whether it was Truex Jr.'s second place finish at Kansas or the team sweeping 3rd, 4th and 5th at Bristol; they are there and just need to close the deal.

Today looked to be the day. In the closing laps of the Pocono 400 Presented by #NASCAR, Mark Martin was on his way toward making history as the oldest winner in NASCAR. Joey Logano had other plans which were simply to make it to victory lane!

Clint Bowyer climbs into his car during practice at Pocono.
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing 
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota
Started: 16th
Finished: 6th
Points: 9th (-80)

As teammate Martin Truex Jr. had problems on Lap 1, Clint Bowyer exclaimed how slick the track was, stating this was going to be a crazy race. Boy, was it ever!

Starting off, Bowyer was loose everywhere and crew chief Brian Pattie worked to get the right adjustments on the No. 15. Slowly improving on handling, Bowyer gained ground on track. At Lap 73, Bowyer radioed in that now he was tight, adjustments had gone too far.

Also among Bowyer's problems, he was one of the drivers tagged with one of the 22 speeding penalties dished out by NASCAR.

The engine seemed amiss on Bowyer's car, but adding oil during a pit stop things returned to normal and Bowyer was finally able to make a charge to the front. In the closing laps, Bowyer went from 13th place to finish in 6th. Clint now holds onto ninth in the points, 80 behind new leader Matt Kenseth.

"That was a crazy day for the 5-hour ENERGY team, but I'm glad we ended up where we did," Bowyer said. "The Toyota TRD (Toyota Racing Development) engines looked strong today. We were having a little issue with our temperature, but we got it figured out and finished strong. I'm happy for Joey Logano -- that's a big win for him and the Toyota folks. I wish Mark Martin could have held on and got the win for the MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) guys, but overall it was a solid day. That should help us in the point standings."

Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Mark Martin, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
Started: 6th
Finished: 2nd
Points: 23rd (-197)

One driver led the way in the Pocono test sessions earlier in the week: none other then Mark "The Kid" Martin. And with 50 previous starts at the track, he boasts an average finish of 11.2, though that number is a bit deceiving when he has finished second a total of six times.

Martin qualified well and would start the Pocono 400 in sixth position. After his qualifying lap, Martin was confident in his car, stating, "Feel real good about our race setup, so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow."

His intuition was spot on, because the No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine was on point under race conditions. Martin and crew chief Rodney Childers found the right setup during the Pocono marthon, I mean test, and put their notes to work.

Early on in the race, Martin complained he was loose and needed grip. Childers got the car dialed in and by Lap 49 he radioed to Martin he had been the fastest car on the track the past two laps.

As the race wound down, Childers and Martin did not pit, opting to save fuel to stretch it to the end. Cautions played in their favor as Martin was able to save enough fuel. Childers radioed to Martin, "Amount you have saved throughout this race will put us dead on the mark at end of the race, and I think we'll have more cautions." That premonition came true, cautions came out and the fuel situation disappeared.

Mark Martin took the lead at Lap 142 passing Joey Logano. Logano and Martin swapped the lead a lap later and the battle was on. Martin settled into second, but at Lap 153 he mounted his charge for the lead, passing Logano with just 7 laps to go. The excitement was palpable. Would MWR get their first win of the season? Would Mark Martin become the oldest winner in NASCAR?

No! Victory was denied once again for the team! Martin got slightly loose, Logano capitalized and pulled a bump-and-run maneuver on him. Saying that, it was not a blatant attempt at a bump-and-run. Martin did not wreck, but it was just enough to get him loose and cost him the chance to hold the lead.

''I'd call that a bump-and-run,'' Martin said in his post-race press conference. ''It has been acceptable in this racing for a long time. It's not how I would have done it. Certainly, had I had a fast enough car, he would have gotten a return.''

"What a great race team. I’m so thankful that I have a chance to bid for a win. I wanted it really bad.  Believe it or not, I fought for it tooth and nail."

"I'm so proud of my team for putting me in a position to challenge for that win. We were so close. Maybe next week," Martin said on his Twitter account after the race .

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
Martin Truex Jr, No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota
Started: 23rd
Finished: 20th
Points: 7th (-57)

Heading into Pocono, there were many unknowns because of the repave, but Martin Truex Jr. was at an even greater disadvantage without his crew chief this weekend. Chad Johnston and his wife Stacey are about to welcome their first child, a baby boy, any day now and Johnston was at home for the weekend. Stepping into the role of crew chief was Scott Miller, MWR's director of competition.

Miller's weekend at the track with Truex would not be an easy one. An accident on Lap 1 of the race caused extensive damage to the right side of the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota, forcing multiple pit stops to repair the damage. The No. 83 car of Landon Cassill hit hard into the side door panel, ripping open the door area, sending foam into the air. NASCAR held the team in the pit box until new foam was in place. The NAPA team did a great job replacing the foam and sticking on BearBond to get Truex back on track.

The win was not in the cards at Pocono, but Truex held onto the car for a 20th place finish. Dropping one position to 7th in the points, it is now onto another repaved track at Michigan next weekend.

An abridged version of Truex's post-race Tweet: "That sucked didnt even get to race."


  1. Logano couldn't outdrive Martin so he pushed him out of the way. In the old days he would be called a dirty driver.

  2. I like Mark and have been an Michael Waltrip fan for years, But what Joey did was acceptable. At least he didn't pull a Junior and wreck Mark. Mark had to get off the gas and Joey was accelerating and gave him a nudge. No problem in my mind. What disappointed me was Mark got the fresh air on his car and Joey was able to run him down.

  3. Thanks for the comments, I love seeing the two different sides to this.