Monday, September 3, 2012

MWR Weekly Wrap-Up: Truex and Bowyer clinch Chase berths at Atlanta

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
HOT-lanta started out with big news out of the Michael Waltrip Racing stable. MWR, driver Martin Truex Jr. and NAPA have all inked new deals, and commercials will be in the works. (NAPA Know How, anyone?)

While the racing itself had mixed results, Michael Waltrip Racing has now clinched two Chase berths with Truex and Clint Bowyer. This is a monumental moment for the team, whose previous best points finish was 16th.

Owner Michael Waltrip spoke on what this means to his team:

“Tonight is what NASCAR racing is all about. We’re so disappointed that Martin (Truex Jr.) didn’t win, and then we have to be thankful we’re in the Chase and it looks like both cars are in -- or two of our three are in and another top-10 run by the Rodney Childers’ (crew chief) 55 car (Mark Martin). I don’t know -- you’re supposed to be happy when you race and you have success, but somehow we were able to rob the joy of making the Chase. I don’t know how, but we did. We just thought we had it won and Jamie (McMurray) had a flat tire. There was nothing we could do about that and we didn’t win.”

Continuing, Waltrip spoke of the team's path thus far. “I don’t like to look at the journey as having a destination today. It has one some time, but this is just a point along the way. As bad as everything looked in ’07 and as good as it looks now, you just -- if you’d have took a snapshot of ’07 you would have quit. If you took one of now, you might be satisfied. I will never give up and I will never be satisfied. I just keep going and keep trying. Hopefully, the people that have trusted me and this team and Rob (Kauffman, co-owner) with their money will be rewarded in the end. I’m thankful. I’m happy, but it’s just a point along the way. We’re going to keep going.”

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY
Started: 30th
Finished: 27th
Points: 8th (-68) 

After dropping to the rear of the field for an engine change, Bowyer's night got worse, not better.

Bowyer was running well, have moved into the top-10 by Lap 63, but suffered battery issues. The No. 15 team changed his battery on pit road, putting him three laps down. He finished the night in 27th and four laps behind the leaders, but clinched a Chase berth.

“Man that was a disappointing finish because we had such a great car tonight,” Bowyer said. “I’m bummed we had to change the battery. That just killed us. The 5-hour car was stout. I’m proud of earning the spot in the Chase. That’s something everyone connected with MWR should be proud of. There will be plenty of time to celebrate. But I want to go to Richmond now and win that thing. We have a chance for some great things the rest of the way.”

Mark Martin, No. 55 Aaron's
Started: 6th
Finished: 10th 
Points: 17th (owners points) 
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs

Racing in the top 10 for the evening, Mark Martin was strong, yet quiet.

Restarts were a problem throughout the evening and with six cautions, he lost position all six times. Finishing in 10th, Martin was the second of two top 10s for MWR.

Martin tweeted, "We had a fast car last night. I got myself behind a couple times on restarts and once pitting on the green but we passed a lot of cars."

“We had really a lot better race car than we finished. It’s just we got set back several times. Most of them were my fault. I had a couple of really bad situations I got myself in on restarts a couple times and got us way behind.”

“This is an amazing night for Michael Waltrip Racing. We’ve all seen how far this team has come in just a few years. There have been so many people who’ve worked so hard for this and I’m very happy for everyone. This is just the start of many good things. The folks at Aaron’s need to take great pride in tonight. They’ve been with Michael and the race team from the start and tonight they’ve been rewarded. I just wish Martin could have got that win.”

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 NAPA Shocks
Started: 28th
Finished: 4th
Points: 5th (-41)

Truex's weekend was amazing, announcing his new deal with NAPA and contending for the win at Atlanta.

In the second half of the race, Truex's No. 56 car was dominant, leading 39 laps as the race neared an end. He had pulled out to over a three second lead with Jeff Gordon in second.

With victory in sight, anticipation was building for the entire MWR organization. Truex's last victory came in June of 2007 at Dover. In fact, that was his only career Cup win.

Jamie McMurray brought a caution out with four laps to go, sending the leaders to pit road. Restarting in second, Truex spun his tires and was obviously frustrated and disappointed as he saw his chance at a win slip away. After a fourth place finish, Truex is now locked into the Chase, his first appearance since 2007.

“Yes and no,” Truex replied, when asked if he was happy with his night. “It sure would have been nice to get a win. We’ve been pretty close here lately. It just sucks when you have one locked up like that and a caution comes out. That’s the way it goes and we weren’t good enough on restarts. Just wasn’t good enough tonight.”


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