Sunday, September 23, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Bowyer is MWR's shining star

It's a good time to be Michael Waltrip!
Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
If any team has something to prove in the Chase, besides winning the Cup championship, it has to be Michael Waltrip Racing. Every other organization in the Chase has at least one Sprint Cup title to their name, but this is a first time experience for MWR.

After watching the season unfold, the Michael Waltrip Racing stable has come into the Chase with guns blazing. While many have doubted the team's ability to perform, let's call this MWR 2.0 and not the MWR of yesteryear.

After New Hampshire, I hate to count out the No. 56 team in their hunt for the championship but -34 points is almost a full race. (Of course, Talladega could be a HUGE factor for everyone. Surviving that track and the mayhem it produces will be key.) Heading into week three, I am thinking that Clint Bowyer is the best chance of Mikey Waltrip winning a Sprint Cup title in 2012.

Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY
Started: 12th
Finished: 4th 
Points: 6th (-15) 

So many people doubted Bowyer's move to MWR, but it has clearly paid off. Not since way back in 2008 has Bowyer been running this high in the points. With two wins so far this season, Bowyer and the entire No. 15 team seem energized and ready to take home that Cup.

After qualifying for the Sylvania 300 in the 12th position, Clint Bowyer clearly had a dominant car as the race went on. Running as high as second, he finished in fourth for the third consecutive top 10 for the team.

After the race, Bowyer tweeted, "Not what we wanted but solid day for us. Kept us in the running! Congrats to@dennyhamlin for calling his shot and backing it up..."

"Well, there’s a lot of racing left. Certainly, we’re still in the thing -- just got to keep these solid finishes coming," Bowyer said when asked about his position in the Chase. "Really proud of our race team. We’ve been doing a good job and we‘ve got to keep going."

Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing
Brian Vickers, No. 55 Freightliner/Jet Edge Toyota
Started: 4th (dropped to rear due to an engine change) 
Finished: 9th 
Points: 14th (owners points) 

While everyone was focusing on Denny Hamlin's tale of coming from the back of the pack to win the race, Brian Vickers was in that same boat.

After qualifying in fourth, the team found a bad valve spring and decided to change engines before the start of the race. Overcoming the odds is a bit of a theme for Vickers. Wth just a few races this season, he has made more of those races then expected. In seven races, four were top 10s - not a bad average for so little seat time.

Vickers success today is in part due to calls by crew chief Rodney Childers. Taking two tires gained track position and put Vickers in the lead for five laps. On the final pit stop, Childers took four tires and Vickers restarted the race in seventh. Taking the checkers in ninth, Vickers continues to show why he deserves a full-time ride for 2013.

"Ended up P9. Another top ten. Great work by everyone. Awesome strategy by Rodney. Track position was key. One more left at Martinsville," Vickers tweeted post race.

“It’s been pretty good. Really proud of the guys -- everyone at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), Toyota -- just this 55 crew.  Rodney (Childers, crew chief), all the guys did a great job all day -- all year really.”

Mark Martin returns to the No. 55 team at Dover. Vickers has one more race this season at Martinsville.

Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR
MartinTruex Jr, No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS
Started: 9th
Finished: 17th
Points: 10th (-34)

While his teammates had top 10 finishes, Martin Truex Jr. barely squeaked into the top 20.

After running in the top 10 early on in the race, handling issues plagued the No. 56 team. Battling a tight car, Truex had no opportunity for adjustments with the long green flag runs. Finishing 17th, Truex is now 10th in the Chase points. Lucky for him, they head to his home track of Dover, the site of his only NASCAR victory.

"We missed the mark today," Truex said. "We had a lot to do in the pits just to try and get this NAPA Toyota running where we needed. It was a long day for us. We've struggled here the last few years and it's still a track we need to improve on. We're 10th in points and have a good track coming up so we'll keep plugging away next week in Dover."

Check it out: SPEED's coverage of MWR All-Access have been amazing! If you missed this week's segments, head over to SPEED to see them.

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