Tag: Martin Truex Jr.

More Than A Season Finale

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When the checkered flag flies in Sunday’s Ford 400 from the Homestead-Miami Speedway, more than just the 2013 season will come to a close. For some drivers it will be the end of tenures with their current teams and for others the end of their careers.

The most prominent driver to be hanging it up at the close of the season is Mark Martin. While the retirement word hasn’t been used, his talk with reporters is one that indicates the driving aspect of his career is over. “It is hard to believe that I’ve lived this dream. I’m so fortunate. I got two chances at it. I got a chance at it and had success and failed, and had to go and start my career all over again and spend several years getting back up on my feet and getting a second opportunity in NASCAR. It is really hard to believe. I am still – deep down inside, I’m still the kid from Arkansas that got the huge thrill the first time I went to Daytona as a spectator to watch the Daytona 500. I wasn’t even a teenager yet. I never dreamed I would be able to do the things that I’ve done and to have the success that I’ve had. It’s been a dream. Living a dream.”

Coming into the race under the radar of his final Sprint Cup Series start is Ken Schrader. The 29 year veteran has been running off and on the past few years, but has said that this will be it. Odds are he still might make a random Camping World Truck Series or appearance in another series, it won’t be the Sprint Cup Series. While not one of the more successful drivers on the track, off the track he’s earned the respect of fans and competitors alike.

Another driver stepping away from the Sprint Cup Series, but could possibly be back in a one off race scenario is Juan Pablo Montoya. After seven years in the Sprint Cup Series, which saw two career wins, Montoya is going back to his roots in the IndyCar Series. He will be driving there for Roger Penske, so coming back for a road course race will always be a rumor. “It’s hard to believe that seven years ago I raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the first time. This race is special to me in a lot of ways; its home, my family and friends will all be there and it’s the last time I will race with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Target. To be honest with you, it’s bittersweet and I’d like to have a good weekend for Target and the team. Nothing would mean more than a win this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”

While not retiring, just yet anyways, Jeff Burton will be stepping away from the full-time side of things in the Sprint Cup Series for a yet to be determined part-time ride in 2014. He will leave the Richard Childress Racing team after just over 9 years with them. During that time he was able to re-ignite his career with four wins from 2006 to 2008. He has struggled as of late, but that should not be a true reflection of his career. “I’ve been really blessed to do it for as long as I’ve done it to do something that you love and to be able to do it as long as I’ve done it really is a blessing.  When I was seven years old I wanted to be a race car driver.  I’m 46 and I’m a race car driver.  I’ve just been really blessed.  The cool thing is I’ve met so many people and experienced so many things that I never would have been able to do.  To have a chance to compete for a living is really is a cool thing.  You know what your job is and go out and try to do it.  Competing to me means something.  To be able to do it this long has been really cool.”

After helping Furniture Row Racing become the first single car team to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kurt Busch will be leaving at year’s end to join the Stewart-Haas Racing stable. Busch helped set marks for the teams with top-5s and top-10s, but was never able to get a victory. “This is our last chance to take the Furniture Row Chevrolet to Victory Lane. There’s nothing I want more for these Furniture Row guys who have worked so hard all year to give me a fast race car. Though we have a bunch of top-fives (11) and top-10’s (16) we don’t have that W.  A victory would cap off an already successful season for our single-car team. It’s been a great ride with a great bunch of guys and with an outstanding organization led by team owner Barney Visser. Each year when we close out the season at Homestead there is that nostalgic feeling of what happened in 2004 — winning the championship in the first year of the Chase. It was a magical time for me and I am looking from some more magic this weekend in my final ride with the No. 78 flat-black Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.”

The man he’s replacing at Stewart-Haas Racing will be Ryan Newman. Newman is moving on to the Richard Childress Racing team after five years with SHR. In that time he’s won four races and qualified for the Chase three times. “I really look forward to Homestead. It’s a really fun racetrack for all of us. For us to go down there and end the season on a racetrack that is very raceable is something I’m happy about. They really did a great job the third time around on redesigning that racetrack. It’s a great place to have a championship weekend for all three series. I’ve not had the best record there, but we did finish third in this race last year. I’d like nothing more than to end the season on a high note and end the season on a good note for everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Also joining Stewart-Haas Racing is Kevin Harvick, who leaves the Richard Childress Racing team after 13 interesting years. It started off as Harvick being pushed into replacing the late Dale Earnhardt. Through squabbles and tribulations along the way, Harvick and his team were able to win 23 times. They finished in the top-5 in the driver standings five times and find themselves as one of the final three for this year’s title. “Homestead (Miami Speedway) has been a great race track for us, whether it was flat or banked. It’s been a race track where we’ve run well. It would be nice to close out my career at Richard Childress Racing with a win there and go out on the right note. RCR is where I got my start and it’s been a great career so far.”

Unplanned at the start of the year, Martin Truex, Jr. will be moving on from Michael Waltrip Racing after this race. He will go to the Furniture Row Racing team after four years with MWR. “I believe this NAPA team has nothing to prove. All we want to do is end on a high note and this track can certainly be the place that we can win. My guys have worked so hard for me over the last four years and I know they really want to close out our time together with a victory. To be honest, it’s been sad to see it end this way. We had such high expectations for all of us. If you really think about it, this year is only our second full season as a team for this group of guys and that’s impressive. We are really just getting started and moving in the direction that we always wanted to go. This NAPA team is such a great group of guys. It’s just unfortunate that we are not going to realize the full potential of this amazing team. All we want to do is go down swinging at Homestead. We want to use this race as a way to show everyone just how good we are and to thank NAPA Auto Parts for supporting and believing in this team. They deserve another visit to victory lane and it’s our plan to get them there on Sunday.”

While it is the end there is excitement for what the future might hold for all of these drivers. They’ll reflect on the season or career that was, but then get focused for what lies ahead.

Column: Keselowski, Debuts, Talladega, MWR, and Irvan Returns

In this week’s column I take a look at the most recent Sprint Cup Series winner, Brad Keselowski, along with the three drivers who made their Cup debuts Saturday under the lights. My two cents on the Michael Waltrip Racing situation that came out Monday. And to round things out I will touch on what a wildcard Talladega is to the Chase and a former Talladega winner is back involved in NASCAR. Continue reading “Column: Keselowski, Debuts, Talladega, MWR, and Irvan Returns”

Column: Marty Reid, Truck Schedule, Chase Elliott, & More

Trying something new before the end of the season by debuting a couple things this week. First up is a weekly column I want to start so I can hit on some topics quickly and give my two cents. This week I touch on ESPN’s dismissal of Marty Reid, the rumored Camping World Truck Series schedule, Chase Elliott reaching out to Ty Dillon, and lots more. Continue reading “Column: Marty Reid, Truck Schedule, Chase Elliott, & More”

Truex To Joe Gibbs Racing?

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There has been much speculation where Martin Truex, Jr. might end up now that NAPA is pulling their sponsorship of his current ride with Michael Waltrip Racing. This weekend team owner Michael Waltrip said he is fully prepared to keep the #56 team going, but if Truex found another deal he wouldn’t stand in his way.

Early rumors connect Truex with Furniture Row Racing and Richard Childress Racing. Furniture Row needs a driver and not necessarily a sponsor, as the team owner also sponsors the car. They also have put forth the impression that they are looking at younger talents to bring up to the Cup Series, but wouldn’t say no to Truex.

Richard Childress Racing would need sponsorship for a fourth team. That reason is why Jeff Burton was cut loose, because they only had funding for half the season on a fourth entry. With NAPA leaving the Waltrip led team many speculate that they might go where Truex goes.

Not so fast, reports are coming out that NAPA might be leaving NASCAR all together after “Spingate,” although nothing official has been announced. Another kink to them staying with another team is NAPA was reportedly paying Waltrip $16 million for full season sponsorship. That number isn’t high enough for other teams to pay for a full-season of sponsorship. NAPA might have to pony up to get with a bigger team or keep paying the same on a partial-sponsorship.

On ESPN’s NASCAR Countdown commentator Rusty Wallace said that Joe Gibbs Racing would be Truex’s destination. That was rebuffed by team owner Joe Gibbs, that nothing has been talked about in regards to Truex or NAPA. They’re a team in the same situation as Childress, wanting a fourth team, but not having the funds to do so.

A lot more dominos will have to fall before this Silly Season will finish being sorted out. Just about everyone should be a player for Truex’s services at this point, it’s just a matter of if he’ll stick it out with Michael Waltrip Racing or go looking for something new.

What Now For NAPA And Truex?

Here’s what we do know: Once the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2013, NAPA Auto Parts will no long be the primary sponsor of the #56 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Michael Waltrip Racing vows to run the #56 Toyota car with or without new sponsorship coming into replace NAPA and their reported $15-20 million dollar a year sponsorship. Continue reading “What Now For NAPA And Truex?”

Commentary: Good Intensions Fall Short

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Michael Waltrip Racing was founded in dreams and good intentions when they decided to be the flagship for Toyota and enter the 2007 season full-time. When pressures came to them they panicked and made some poor choices, like the ones they made in Richmond two weeks ago.

Right from their first race there were bad decisions made. Michael Waltrip, driving for himself, was the driver busted for one of the biggest cheating scandal in Daytona 500 history. NASCAR found a fuel additive in his car which prompted them to suspend his crew chief David Hyder, fine Hyder $100,000 and suspended team direct Bobby Kennedy. Waltrip placed blame on unidentified individual or individuals whom he did not fire after it was all said and done. He went on to apologize and life continued in NASCAR.

Flash forward to six years to the situation in Richmond. With their backs against the wall again to get driver Martin Truex, Jr. in the Chase, a few bad eggs spoiled it all for everyone. Driver Clint Bowyer, who was locked into the Chase, mysteriously spun near the end of the race to bring out the caution. That caution helped close up the field so that race leader Ryan Newman, whom Truex was battling for the last wildcard spot, might not win the race. That worked as Newman lost spots on pit road and Carl Edwards won the race.

They also wanted to make sure Joey Logano would not drop out of the top-10 in points, thus being the last wildcard over Truex. So drivers Bowyer and Brian Vickers were ordered to slow on the track and pit multiple times so Logano could gain positions on the track.

General Manager Ty Norris was caught on the radio pleading with Vickers to pit, even though nothing was needed to be done to car. There was no way that this was Norris’ decision alone and there’s no way that Bowyer spun accidently. Once again the pressure was on to perform and MWR went the path of quick success with hopes of not being caught.

Now these actions have finally hit them where it really hurts, sponsorship. Truex’s sponsor NAPA, who was on Waltrip’s car in 2007, decided enough was enough and announced they would not be back with the team. This cuts short their contract with the team by two years and puts the team in an unenviable position of needing to do damage control, find a sponsor, and concentrate on the rest of the season.

Most of the people have cycled through the MWR shop, but one person has remained constant throughout all of these scandals. Team owner Michael Waltrip.

You have to wonder how much of this pushing the envelope comes from him. Even if he has been clueless through both scandals, he is fostering an environment where these actions are happening. If MWR wants to prove to sponsors, NASCAR, and fans that it will be changing, there needs to be a total shift in the MWR environment.

MWR Penalty Reaction

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NASCAR laid down the law Monday by penalizing Michael Waltrip Racing in what the sanctioning body considered manipulation of the outcome of last Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 race at the Richmond International Raceway. The actions in question was a late race spin by driver Clint Bowyer and directions from general manager/spotter Ty Norris to driver Brian Vickers to pit because they needed a point.

What I liked is how NASCAR responded and responded big. My gut feeling at first was nothing much would happen with this and it would be swept up under the rug. Since it gained steam as a national story, then it became possible for something bigger to be done. The penalties fit the crime with the exception of one of those.

The 50 point reduction for Clint Bowyer counts towards his pre-Chase point total. In essence, he is not affected at all by this. I believe that was done because they could never conclusively determine his spin with six laps to go was intentional. Even with audio of cryptic messages from his crew to Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s testimonial, that was not enough to decide 100% Bowyer took one for the team.

It is a bit disappointing on how Michael Waltrip Racing reacted to the penalties. Sure it’s nice they won’t appeal, because that would make it really messy, but in effect MWR and owner Michael Waltrip just piled the blame on Ty Norris and moved on.

Waltrip’s statement was “What occurred on the No. 55 radio at the end of Saturday night’s race in Richmond was a split-second decision made by team spotter Ty Norris to bring the No. 55 to pit lane and help a teammate earn a place in the Chase.” I’m going to say it now; that is a bold face lie. In no way was that Norris just winging it on the spotter’s stand to get Vickers in.

There had to have been conversations earlier in the week that laid out what would happened late in a race if Truex was close, but needed help. Norris spent more than a split-second basically begging Vickers to pit. Add to that Bowyer’s crypt radio chatter that almost showed code words between he and crew chief Brian Pattie.

Which brings me to my next point another reason NASCAR had to act was how blatant this whole thing was by Michael Waltrip Racing. Bowyer spin aside, the Vickers pit talk. They had code words for Bowyer, why not Vickers? If Norris is as questionable as we’re led to believe, why not lie to Vickers and say “yeah, sure, you’re tire is going down” or something like that? Because there was a clear direction of do anything possible to get Truex into the Chase.

It sucks that Truex drove his butt off these past few weeks with a broken wrist just to be slapped in the face, but MWR should have known the consequences when they started trying to play God on the race track.