Monday, August 6, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Pondering after Pocono


All season long I have told you that Michael Waltrip Racing was a team that would be contending as we got down to the Chase - just weeks from the Richmond cut off, that is a guarantee. Martin Truex Jr. is currently fifth in the points while teammate Clint Bowyer sits on the fence in 10th, but either way MWR will be in the 2012 Chase. The value of that alone is priceless, it shows how hard the organization has worked to compete alongside of Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush and Childress and in the words of Mikey Waltrip himself, "Golly" they are doing it.

I am pondering whether or not the team will actually be a factor in the Chase. Your guess is as good as mine, but just making it to the Chase can be a huge boost to the organization. I cannot wait until Richmond, to see if Bowyer makes it and to see the reaction of Michael Waltrip.

Clint Bowyer can't resist jumping a puddle at Pocono.
Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY
Started: 19th
Finished: 8th
Points: 10th (-65)

Clint Bowyer and the No. 15 5-hour ENERGY team  finished eighth in Sunday’s rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400. Starting the race in 19th, Bowyer made progress early on and was in the top 10 by Lap 34.

Restarting in 12th after Kurt Busch's accident, Bowyer narrowly missing the pileup with leaders Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. Rain came in as cleanup happened and the race was called. Bowyer took home an 8th place finish and remains 10th in the points with a 57 point cushion over 11th place.

"We'll take it," Bowyer said on his top 10 finish. "I wish we could have had a couple more laps because I know we would have gained a few extra spots, but big picture an eighth place day is not going to hurt us too bad. The 5-hour ENERGY Toyota was good and we were making up ground, but with only a handful of races left until the cutoff we’ll take the points and head to Watkins Glen."

Mark Martin and crew chief Rodney Childers during qualifying.
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Mark Martin, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine
Started: 18th
Finished: 12th
Points: 13th (-128) owners

A different pit strategy was working for Mark Martin and the No. 55 team...until the rain came and ended the racing at Pocono Raceway. Martin and crew chief Rodney Childers had opted to run their own race and it was working as he was running in the top-five for a portion of the race and then would fall to the back as stops cycled for the rest of the field.

Restarting the race in 15th (following Busch's accident), Martin had four fresh Goodyears while most of the drivers ahead of him were on old tires. With the final caution and the race ending rain, Martin finished the day in 12th.

As the No. 55 heads to Watkins Glen this week, Brian Vickers will be back behind the wheel.

"Oh man, I wish we could have restarted that race, " Martin said. "The Aaron’s Dream Machine was on four fresh tires and we had a fast car. I know we could have passed a lot of cars. A 12th place finish isn’t too bad."

After leaving the track, crew chief Rodney Childers was involved in a car accident. Tweeting, "Geez.. Just got piled in the ass by some guy and just sitting still.. And had been sitting still for a while. Texting and driving I'm sure." Childers continued later, "We will be fine.. We are moving again.. Just glad it was no worse. Not a good ending to the day though." Please take this as a lesson, do not text and drive!

"I just got home and found out about the tragic loss we had today at Pocono. I am so sorry for the family's that we're involved," Martin Tweeted late Sunday evening.

Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS
Started: 15th
Finished: 3rd
Points: 5th (-50 and a gain of two)

Finishing third in the rain shortened Pennsylvania 400, Martin Truex Jr. was again so close to that elusive win. Working his way up from a 15th place start, Truex cracked the top 10 around Lap 60. With weather looming, Truex was on the move and running laps comparable to the top-five cars. As the leaders wrecked (Johnson, Kenseth and Hamlin) Truex was able to dodge the chaos and moved up to third. Caution came for rain and the race was never restarted.

This finish leaped  Truex to fifth-place in points and he now holds a 72-point cushion on 11th place for the tenth and final Chase points berth.

"The big thing is nobody took tires," Truex said as he started to discuss the restart. "We were all trying to save fuel because we knew the rain was coming. A lot of guys had stuff all over their tires.  Everybody was throwing rubber off their tires trying to get them cleaned up before we took the restart. So, all that stuff combined into those guys going off into  (turn) one, all of them looked like they took off up the track. Fortunately, I was the third guy that didn't slide. The 24 (Jeff Gordon), 5 (Kasey Kahne), and me, we all went down in there and stuck. It’s just one of those deals where you're just trying to save fuel and you don't have a lot of time to get the tires cleaned up."


My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Pocono Raceway tragedy. 

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