Monday, August 13, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Chase bound after a successful trip to The Glen

Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers chat during Friday's practice.
Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images 
Watching NASCAR RaceDay, I was intrigued to see the hosts discussing Michael Waltrip Racing and how their two full-time drivers will be in the 2012 Chase. I sat with a smirk on my face because I have been telling you all season that MWR would be a factor this year and with just 4 races to go before the "playoffs," both Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. are Chase bound.

What does that mean overall? For one, I hope that MWR can garner a bit more respect from fans, media and competitors alike. When you list the tops teams of NASCAR, it should no longer be just Roush, Hendrick, Gibbs and Childress. Add in Waltrip to the mix.

Love him or loathe him, Michael Waltrip has figured out the team ownership hat!

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY
Started: 8th
Finished: 4th
Points: 7th (-58 and gain of three positions)

Even before the green flag dropped, Clint Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie were on fuel conservation mode. Pattie radioed to Bowyer during the pace laps reminding him to save fuel. Bowyer's response, "I haven't even started yet!"

After winning at Sonoma just a few weeks ago, Bowyer was a driver many suspected might sweep the road courses this season and Sunday he came close to doing just that. The No. 15 ran in the top 10 the entire race, so Brian Pattie's strategy paid off.

As the laps wound down, the race pace reached frantic level. While many drivers lost positions following the final restart, Bowyer actually gained two positions to finish the race in fourth. Now seventh in the points, a gain of three positions, Clint Bowyer is 66 points ahead of the 11th place Chase cutoff.

"We needed that," Bowyer said of his top-five finish. "It was a solid weekend for us."

Does this mean Bowyer is a road-course specialist after his win at Sonoma and good finish today? Not in his book, although I disagree! "I would not say I’m an ace. Thank Brian Pattie and everybody on this 5-hour ENERGY Toyota. This isn’t one of my best tracks and they pulled through and gave me a great race car again and got ourselves a good finish."

Vickers during practice over the weekend.
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Brian Vickers, No. 55 
Started: 33rd
Finished: 43rd
Points: 17th (Owner)

Brian Vickers' day was over before he even had a chance to race: a blown engine on Lap 1 sent the No. 55 to the garage and listed as out of the race.

“We blew an engine getting into Turn 6. On the downshift maybe I over-revved it. I’m not sure. It’s really frustrating. Toyota was a really good car and I was really excited about the race.”

Vickers returns for the Irwin Tools 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 25.

Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts
Started: 9th
Finished: 10th
Points: 6th (-49 dropped one position) 

A 10-place finish should feel like a win after the battle Martin Truex Jr. endured at The Glen.

With challenges ranging from handling issues to running out of fuel on Lap 59, Truex was one driver thankful for the cautions at the end of the race. Restarting in 22nd after pitting for fuel, those cautions and a bit of aggressive driving helped him gain 12 positions before the checkered flag flew. Finishing the race in tenth, Truex dropped one position in the points to sixth.

After the race, Truex tweeted and took responsibility for spinning Kasey Kahne after a fan asked if he did it on purpose. "The deal with @kaseykahne was my bad. I was off the gas just couldnt stay off his lr. Sorry to him and his fans."

"Man, it was rough, Truex said of his race. "We dodged a big bullet there with a 10th-place finish. We had a good car. The NAPA Toyota was fast. We were running third and one lap from pitting and we ran out of gas and the caution came out. So, when we pitted we had to go to the tail end of the longest line and I think there were only 25 laps to go and we were in the tail end of the longest line. We had to pass a lot of cars to get back to 10th. Man, if we didn’t run out of gas we were going to get us another top-five here. Those kinds of days when you make mistakes you’ve got to battle back. It was a good points day for us. We dodged a big bullet by being able to come back through the field like that."


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