Sunday, August 19, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Two top 10s highlight the day as Mark Martin falls victim to horrific crash

Mark Martin was lucky enough to walk away from this scary accident.
Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR
In six years, Michael Waltrip Racing has finished no higher than 16th in the points (2009 with David Reutimann.) With two drivers in the top 10 now, that will probably change this year.

Today at Michigan looked to be a banner day for the organization; all three cars were running strong in the early laps and any of them could have won. That came to a screeching halt when Mark Martin got hit. Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. both brought home top 10 finishes, rounding out an overall good day for the team. Between all three teams, the Michael Waltrip Racing organization led a total of 85 laps at Michigan.

I still cannot shake seeing Martin's crash. That is one that will stick with me for a while. I say it so many times, but once again, "Thank you, NASCAR!" Your safety innovations protect these drivers week in and week out.

Clint Bowyer leads at Michigan.
Credit: Michael Waltripi Racing
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY
Started: 12th
Finished: 7th
Points: 7th (-66)

In 2011 while with Richard Childress Racing, Clint Bowyer had one win, four top 5s and 16 top-10 finishes for the entire season and finished 13th in points. To date in the 2012 season, he has one win, five top 5s, and 13 top-10 finishes while ranking 7th in points.

Leading for 19 laps, Bowyer and all three of the MWR cars were strong at MIS. Fighting hard on the restart, Bowyer held on for a seventh place finish and also ranks seventh in the points. This finish also earned Bowyer the Mobil 1 Oil Driver of the Race award.

Taking on Twitter, like all the MWR drivers do so well, Bowyer simply said "Good day for us, exactly what we needed. Chase is getting closer!!!"

“It was a solid day for us," Bowyer said. "We got up there and we led then we pitted and lost track position. You just can’t pass. It will age and it will keep getting better. This race was better than last time and it will keep improving. We did what we needed to do. I said we needed single digit numbers. If we keep doing that then they are running out of races to catch us. Kasey (Kahne) from outside the top-12 is catching us, but everybody behind us inside the top-10 finished behind us.  Proud of my guys on the 5-HOUR Energy Toyota -- it was a good day and we’ll go on to Bristol.”

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Mark Martin, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine
Started: POLE
Finished: 35th
Points: 18th (-195) owners points

Mark Martin won the pole and was on track to become the oldest winner in NASCAR. His car was strong and he looked unbeatable. What any driver cannot change is the occurrence of freak accidents, which we saw today.

In case you missed it, take a look at the video. (Remember, everyone is ok!)

After the wreck, a smiling Martin spoke to the media surrounding the infield care center.

When he was asked what happened, Martin said, “Aw heck, I don’t know. The 47 (Bobby Labonte) got turned around there and we got jammed up and the 5 (Kasey Kahne) got into the back of him. I just want to thank all the race fans because I wouldn’t get an opportunity to drive something like this if Aaron’s wouldn’t sponsor me -- Aaron’s and Toyota behind me and MWR. Michael Waltrip gave me a chance to drive awesome race cars and this is just the coolest thing in the world. I’m disappointed that we got tore up, but man, what a hot rod. Big steam under the hood from Toyota and Rodney Childers is such an awesome crew chief. Driving stuff like that -- that’s what it’s all about. I’m glad I’m okay and I’m glad I got to drive that thing. It was awesome. Wish we could have finished the day off, but I’m so grateful to have a chance to drive race cars like that.”

"That was a pretty freak angle that I got at that," Martin said, on hitting pit wall. "I’m not sure what you could do. It could have been really bad if I would have got in that hole a little deeper where it caught me in the door instead of in the crush area back there. It’s hard to keep up with what exactly is going to be happening there. I was hoping that I was going to miss the pit wall completely and not tear the car up, but then I saw that the angle I was going that I was going to hit the end of pit wall. I never thought about getting on the other side of pit wall. I think that would have been hard at the angle that I was coming, but that certainly would not have been good.”

Even after that wreck, Martin took to Twitter to cheer on his teammates. "I hope @MartinTruexJr56 or @ClintBowyer wins this race." Addressing all the Tweets of concern, Martin said "Thank you all for the concern. I'm all good and headed home to see my sweetheart."

Brian Vickers is back in the No. 55 car at Bristol.

Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts
Started: 7th
Finished: 10th
Points: 6th (-60)

Racing in the top 10 for much of the race, Martin Truex Jr. again fell short of a much needed victory.

Like his teammates, he had a strong car, proven by leading 12 laps. The final restart, lining up in 8th proved a bit difficult, as he tried to make the outside lane work. Truex lost spots and finished the race in tenth. He now has a 68-point cushion on 11th place for a Chase berth.

After the race, Truex tweeted "Had a great car all day. Pit strategy and getting stuck outside 3 wide on the last 2 restarts hurt us but happy with top 10."

“We had a really strong NAPA Toyota in today’s race, but it was all about track position. We just were in the wrong lane on a couple of those restarts and that ultimately hurt us because it was just too tough to pass. The guys did a really good job giving me a strong car today and we showed our strength early on, but unfortunately it was just tough to get that track position," Truex said.

"Overall, a good day," said crew chief Chad Johnston. "That’s what we needed to do. We just need top-10 finishes from now until Richmond and we get in the Chase and then we’ll start playing hard ball."


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