Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reutimann Previews Las Vegas

BREAK ISSUE AT CALIFORNIA

“It was frustrating,” said Reutimann. “We had a really good car from the time we unload the Aaron’s Dream Machine to qualifying. We had a great qualifying run, but we had to change the motor causing us to start in the back. We got the car up front pretty well when the brakes began to fade. Normally the brakes would not be a problem at a track this size. We definitely could have finished better than we did and that cost us a top-10. Given the situation the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine still came out with a decent finish.”

HANGING OUT ON THE WEST COAST

“I have been on the west coast a little over a week,” said Reutimann. First with the race in California, then I went out to Phoenix for an appearance, and now I am here in Vegas for the race this weekend. Friday I have an appearance at a newer Aaron’s store. There won’t be any gambling for me, it’s just not my thing. I have never really had much luck with it; I would rather give my money away to charity instead of to a machine. At least I can feel good about where my money is going. As for preparation, the crew will be preparing the car and I will be in contact with Rodney the crew chief to discuss some ideas and come up with a game plan for the race this weekend. Then it will be time to unload the Aaron’s Dream Machine.

EXPECTATIONS FOR VEGAS

“Vegas has not been very good for me,” said Reutimann. “I have not had a lot of luck at this track. Last year, I had a bang up early in the race and didn’t finish well. In the Nationwide series last season, the car was running well for most of the race. We had a mishap during the race and just was not able to ever get back up towards the front. I hope to be able to turn that around this year. We have a better program this season and Rodney and the guys have been doing a great job so far; we should be able to have a stronger finish this time around.

NEW CHALLENGES AT VEGAS

“The new surface at Vegas will be somewhat of a challenge this weekend,” said Reutimann. Vegas is a fast track where you race on hard tires. The hard tires are not very forgiving making it difficult to get a hold of. The challenges at this track are nothing out of the ordinary. Each and every track has its own challenges you adjust to each week.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE REST OF THE SEASON

“At this point, I really am looking forward each race in the Sprint Cup series,” said Reutimann. We have had a solid start for the 2009 season and I look forward to each week. We have a strong program this year and Rodney and the guys are great to work with. Having Aaron’s on board with us all season, makes it even more exciting. I know we can do great things this year.”

CHASSIS INFORMATION

The primary chassis for the Shelby 427 is #625. This is a new car for the 2009 season. The backup car will be #608; this was a good car for David in the 2008 season.

RACE INFORMATION

Catch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Shelby 427 on Sunday, March 1st at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Watch the race live on FOX at 3:30 pm EST. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hallam Brings a New Approach to MWR

By Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is senior NASCAR writer for FOXSports.com. She also is a correspondent for "Around the Track" on FOX Sports Net.

It's a crisp Carolina morning, certainly not the chamber of commerce weather that was promised to Steve Hallam to lure him across the pond to become the director of competition for Michael Waltrip Racing.

What got the former head of operations for Team McLaren Mercedes, the defending Formula One World Champions, was the adventure of a new racing challenge coupled with Toyota's commitment to succeeding in NASCAR.

"I like the people," said Hallam, who has six F1 Championships to his credit. "I think I can help to make a difference here. I have some very good friends at Toyota and once they understood that I was interested in coming over here, they facilitated some introductions and one thing led to another."

The days of rolling into work in Woking, Surrey at 9 a.m. are over. His day at MWR now starts at 7 a.m. But the Southern hospitality has not been lost on Hallam. The barista at the local Starbucks already anticipates his double tall latte. And instead of bangers and mash, today's lunch at Mac's BBQ is representative of local fare with a sweet tea chaser.

"I'm not going to want to do it every week or even every year, but change is good from time to time," said Hallam of the move. "To break out of your comfort zone, from an area of your career with which you're absolutely totally familiar and part of everything and say, 'OK, for me, I'm going to stop that and move over there.' In principle it's the same, but it's different.

"The challenges that drop on your lap — we do speak the same language, but it is a different country, it is a different culture, it is a different style of racing and a different way of doing things. But the end product is the same: see that checkered flag first."

As quickly as Hallam is adapting to the culture, he's found a similar ease among the racers at MWR. Despite the extreme difference in technology between F1 and NASCAR, there is a bond shared between the motorsports communities.

"Whenever you change companies, particularly when you've been at a company for a long time as I have, you become embedded in its DNA," Hallam said. "To break out of that and to embrace the culture of another company, to understand, to build relationships, to earn respect, and to show that you can contribute in a positive way is a big task. I can't underestimate that too much.

"I'm going through that process and I don't know when it will end. I don't think anyone does. It will just sort of pay out and you'll just suddenly be a part of life here. And in this initial phase, and my learning curve is very steep, my understanding of the people, the cars, the style of racing is all new to me.

"And every day, I'll read a few more pages of the NASCAR rule book, I'll learn something from the guys on the shop floor, I'll learn something from the engineers. I'm taking in so much new information that ... I sleep well at night, let's put it that way. I am running out of time in the day because it's full on from seven o'clock in the morning to whenever I leave."

Hallam's arsenal of technology and talent certainly made winning appear effortless on the outside. Most recently, Hallam worked alongside champion Lewis Hamilton, but his former rosters include a who's who of F1 royalty: Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Michael Andretti, Gerhard Berger, Kimi Raikkonen and Mika Hakkinen.

"We all matured and developed together," Hallam said. "And when you learn how to do it and you find the right synergies with the driver and the people around the driver as well, it's surprising what degree of success can come your way."

Hallam admits that winning requires the right team, environment and opportunity, all of which evolve over time.

Similar to stick and ball strategy, Hallam used a man-to-man position defense in F1 where he assessed the competition's roster and then created teams that are at least equal or greater to his competitors. Now he will be partially responsible for building a similar support system around Waltrip, David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. He instantly won over second-generation racer Reutimann. The driver of the No. 00 Aaron's Toyota call Hallam "a phenomenal guy" and while the results might not be immediate, Reutimann's convinced the results will "be big."

"You think a guy with his level of intelligence and the level of success that he's had at Formula One, you figure a guy would come over here and be somebody that you really couldn't talk to," Reutimann said. "It's completely the opposite. The guy is extremely down to earth, takes the time to explain things to people like me who don't really understand all the engineering aspects and ask a lot of questions because he's learning about this form of racing, as well.

"I think he has brought a lot of organization and leadership to our engineers and they all like him as well. He helps them in their strong suits and builds them up in places that they may not be as strong. It's been a really strong fit and I was one of the biggest skeptics probably going into the thing. He has been great and I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg with him. I think he's got a lot to offer."

Certainly, the results from Daytona were promising. Last year, the driver lineup of Dale Jarrett, Reutimann and Waltrip finished 16th, 18th and 29th, respectively. Last week, Waltrip, Reutimann and newcomer Marcos Ambrose, who drives for the affiliated JTG Daugherty Racing, finished in the top 20 with seventh-place Waltrip scoring his first top 10 since the fall Dover race. At California, Reutimann and Waltrip finished 14th and 15th, respectively, but the results could have been even better as Reutimann had a shot at a top-10 result before brake issues crept up on the No. 00 Toyota.

Waltrip has enlisted a variety of managers to supervise the different divisions of MWR since it expanded its operation to include the Sprint Cup Series for the start of the 2007 season. However, when MWR recruited Hallam it was the first time one individual was "solely responsible for overseeing the entire competition department," according to Waltrip.

The driver/owner believes Hallam's experience in Formula One makes him "the perfect guy for the job" as MWR moves to the next phase in its development. Hallam brings a fresh and fascinating approach to the sport. His philosophy of team structure is very similar to a basketball coach lining up squads by matching up a position's ability to the opposition.

"He totally gets and understands how to take all of the engineering support, all of the support that can be garnered from your manufacturer and have that trickle down directly to the cars," Waltrip said. "He understands people. He understands relationships. He understands that Toyota has a wealth of knowledge and tools for MWR to use that we probably haven't used effectively yet.

"Steve is going to just learn, listen, figure out how to take all of the wonderful support and all the things that Toyota has to offer our team and channel that down to making our cars go faster. I love the guy. I love listening to him talk about his experience in Formula One and the things he's accomplished.

"But what I love most about him is sometimes people show up and want to tell you all that they know and Steve just wanted to show up and have you tell him everything that you know and everything that we have done around here and how we think we could've done better. He's just like a giant sponge to learn all he can so he can begin to have some direction and help us out."

Despite the tremendous racing venues Hallam has witnessed from Monaco to Monza, Daytona was quite an eye-opener for the motorsports veteran's introduction to stock car racing. Although his teams raced on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he adds it wasn't "the proper way" — on the oval. Hallam admits his former desire to work for an American open wheel team "when the Indy 500 was absolutely in its heyday," however, that opportunity has passed. Given the level of competition in NASCAR, Hallam knows he will be tested. His first objective is winning over the employees at MWR. Once he has the crews' respect, Hallam will be able to take the organization to the next level.

"Whenever somebody new comes into a company, particularly a competitive company in a competitive business, you want to try and make a difference, get a marker on the board sooner than later, so that people can see, 'OK, this bloke's not a waster. He can help us,'" Hallam said. "You never know when you've actually done that. They don't tell you, it just sort of happens. When they accept me, when I walk in and they're all saying, 'Good morning,' and 'How are you?' and this, that, and the other, that's great. When I can be one of them, I know that I'll have achieved my first goal.

"The reality of what I do is the goal to measure in success on the track. And I can dream, but what I want to do is contribute. If I'm doing my job well and the people around me are led and do their job well, then there will be better times ahead."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shelby 427 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway NAPA Racing Preview


How happy are you to have left Fontana with a top-15 finish?

“I am really proud of my team and what we were able to accomplish at the Auto Club 500. I was nervous heading into this past race weekend because last year, we couldn’t pass a soul. We were terrible. While we got off to a great start at Daytona this month, I knew California would be more indicative to what we would see throughout the course of this season. I believe we have passed an important test. We were really strong throughout the early and middle stages of the race. We started the Auto Club 500 in the last spot and we were able to drive up through the field and pretty much stay on the lead lap. We were able to gain a lot of ground. I am really proud of Bootie (Barker) and the guys and what we were able to accomplish in California. As for my other two drivers, Marcos Ambrose and David Reutimann had good races too so all three teams are off to a good start.”

Do you still like what you see with the new car especially after you drove your Nationwide car this past weekend?

“Absolutely. I really believe this new car is great for racing. The car we are racing now in Cup is a much better race car. Guys can do more stuff by driving them than they could with the old car because the old car was so aero dependant. Now, we are not really leaning on the air that much. We are working on set ups, springs and shocks. It isn’t quite as dramatic when you get behind cars. It makes for much better racing.”

What can we expect to see this weekend at Las Vegas?

“Las Vegas Motor Speedway is really fun to race on. Granted, everyone likes the way the garage is set up. It is very fan friendly. But the best part I like about Las Vegas Motor Speedway is it provides for really good racing. You can go three wide. You can race all over the track. There is a lot of speed out there so it provides for plenty of side-by-side racing. You go to Vegas to do the shows and have fun and when they throw the green flag on Sunday, you are going to see another good show. Plus, it’s always nice to see Wayne Newton and the showgirls in victory lane.”

What does it take to win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

“When you look at the teams who have been successful, you’ve got Hendrick and Roush. Predominantly, those two teams have been the only ones to have been able to figure Vegas out. When you take those teams into consideration, they are basically going to have nine cars out there. That’s about a quarter of the field that you are going to have to beat. It’s very difficult to overcome those super teams, but it’s not impossible. It’s my plan to take them on and beat them.”
 

 
MICHAEL WALTRIP FAST FACTS

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will start in his 728th NASCAR Sprint Cup race when he competes in the Shelby 427 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He will start in his 11th race at LVMS. His best start at the 1.5-mile track is 2nd (March 7, 1999) and best finish is 3rd (March 2, 2003).

During his career at the 1.5-mile oval, Waltrip has earned one top-5 and one top-10 finish. His average start is 16th and average finish is 23rd.

Waltrip has completed 2,438 of 2,554 laps (95.5%) at the track and has led a total of 18 laps in competition.

The NAPA AUTO PARTS team is guaranteed a starting spot in the Shelby 427. The team finished 29th in the owner points standings in 2008. Currently, Waltrip ranks seventh in the driver and owner points standings.

Monday, February 23, 2009

MEDIA ALERT – This Week in NASCAR

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

NAPA Racing’s Michael Waltrip and Special Guest Aric Almirola will join Steve Byrnes on This Week in NASCAR Monday at 8 pm ET on SPEED. The show will cover the following:

- Recap of California Sprint Cup race
- Review the best scanner from the California Sprint Cup race
- Recap the Camping World Truck race and the Nationwide race from California
- Preview the Las Vegas Sprint Cup race including a look back to some of the hardest wrecks at the 1 ½ mile track

Waltrip Earns 15th-Place Finish in Auto Club 500

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Fontana, CA – Michael Waltrip earned a 15th-place finish in Sunday’s Auto Club 500 at the Auto Club Speedway. The result was impressive since the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota had to start at the back of the field due to an engine change after qualifying. Waltrip’s finish moves the team up one position in the driver and owner points standings to seventh place.
 
“We had a really solid NAPA car all night,” said Waltrip who was forced to start 42nd after experiencing engine failure during his qualifying lap on Friday. “We made a couple of adjustments in the beginning that really made the NAPA Toyota go. Then we made a couple of adjustments at the end that really made it loose and we couldn’t get going again. These cars are so sensitive. For the most part, we ran up in the top 15 for most of the night. I am proud of my team especially since we drove up from last place. By lap 10, I realized I had passed more cars than I did in 2007 or 2008 here at California. I’m really pretty proud of this team. We’ve been able to overcome a lot and it’s great to see progress like this.”  
 
The opening laps of the Auto Club 500 saw Waltrip make a hard charge toward the front of the field. By lap 50, the NAPA driver was in 23rd position after a series of early pit stops on laps 7, 21 and 43. Crew chief Bootie Barker ordered up air pressure changes to help the NAPA Camry as it was loose on entry and tight through the center. The pit crew performed the stops in a blistering fast 13-second pace. 
 
Waltrip’s lap times started to pick up as he was one of the fastest cars on the track. By lap 68, he was in 19th place. The car’s balance was getting better as it had plenty of grip but was loose on entry. Under green-flag conditions, Barker had the crew make air pressure and track bar changes. The service took just 13.5 seconds.
 
Two more green-flap pit stops followed on laps 87 and 124. During this time, Waltrip felt his car going over to the tight side. Despite the new challenge, his lap times were fast so the driver opted to figure out how to drive it versus losing the speed. Unfortunately, the long green-flag runs saw Waltrip go a lap to the leader, Greg Biffle on lap 136. Fortunately for the team, rain brought out the caution on lap 141. The NAPA team was the beneficiary of the Lucky Dog award. During the yellow, Waltrip asked for his car to be loosened up so Barker called for wedge and air pressure changes. When the race restarted on lap 151, Waltrip was 17th and Matt Kenseth was the leader.
 
A tense moment for the team came on lap 188. Waltrip called in to say his engine was running extremely hot. The news came just as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin suffered engine failures. The NAPA team tried to see if trash has clogged up the front grill of their Toyota, but they could not see anything. A break soon came on lap 208 when Kevin Harvick lost an engine causing his car to slam hard into the Turn 1 wall. The yellow provided the NAPA team the chance to come back down pit road. During the service, the team made wedge and more air pressure changes. It was also during that time that the team was also able to breathe a sigh of relief. Trash was on the front grill causing the engine to run hot. Their focus could now shift from a possible engine problem back to getting a strong finish.
 
The final green flag waved on lap 215. Waltrip held on despite battling a very loose handling Toyota Camry to finish 15th place. Kenseth was able to hold off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon for his second-straight victory in 2009. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers.
 
Michael Waltrip Racing once again turned in good performances. Besides Waltrip’s top-15 finish, David Reutimann scored 14th place and Marcos Ambrose finished 21st.
 
Next up for Waltrip and his NAPA Racing team is the Shelby 427 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. Broadcast Coverage gets underway Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. It can also be heard on PRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Auto Club 500 Unofficial Race Results:
http://www.nascar.com/races/cup/2009/2/data/results_unofficial.html
 
Auto Club 500 Unofficial Driver Points Standings (7th place/+1):
http://www.nascar.com/races/cup/2009/data/standings_unofficial.html

Ambrose Leaves California with 22nd-Place Finish in No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota Camry

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Fontana, CA (February 22, 2009) – Marcos Ambrose started 14th and finished 22nd in the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway Sunday night with his No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota Camry.
 
After completing 249 of 250 laps in the second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the 36-race season, Ambrose is currently 21st in the owner point standings with Las Vegas Motor Speedway next up on the schedule. 

“We had a better car than where we finished, but we’ll take that position and go on to Las Vegas,” Ambrose said. “We just got caught a lap down and never recovered from that.”
Ambrose started the 500-mile race by moving forward into 12th-place. Then rain started to fall on the two-mile D-shaped oval and NASCAR placed the field under caution at Lap 5 for 17 laps. Back under green, Ambrose maintained a top 15 run until he began to experience handling problems.

“The Little Debbie® Toyota was tight late when I got back into the gas,” Ambrose said.

When rain began to fall again and the caution flag waved for a second time, the JTG-Daugherty team pitted the No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota on Lap 43. The pit crew took the opportunity to change four tires and make a wedge adjustment. Ambrose restarted in 13th place on Lap 46.

“A few laps later it just wouldn’t turn in the middle,” Ambrose said.

By Lap 73, Ambrose drifted back to 22nd as his car was also loose in and off.

When the frontrunners began green flag pit stops at Lap 84, Ambrose was shown in 15th place when he entered pit road two laps later for four tires and more adjustments.

Ambrose continued his efforts and maintained a top 25 position as he approached Lap 100. Even though leader Jeff Gordon was lurking 15 car lengths behind Ambrose, his No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota was turning faster lap times than Gordon.

Within the next 15 laps, Gordon was able to reel in Ambrose and finally make the pass to put him one lap down.

“We made an adjustment and for some reason it hurt the balance of the car and we lost a lap during that time,” Ambrose said. “We just never got it back, and that’s what hurt us--just track position and getting trapped a lap down.”

For the remainder of the 250-lap event, the JTG-Daugherty pit crew serviced the car every chance available to improve the handling. 

“It was tight through the middle,” Ambrose said. “It just would not roll. They made a variety of changes on each pit stop. Before Lap 200, the car was sliding and I still couldn’t turn it. There wasn’t much we could do for the center. Just after Lap 200, it was spinning the right rear tire. The right rear was just giving up.”

Ambrose soldiered on to cross the finish line in 22nd-place and earn $106,473 in winnings for his effort.

“I’m continuing to learn and getting more confident every day,” Ambrose said. “I feel like we have a good foundation heading into Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.”  

Ambrose’s teammates from Michael Waltrip Racing both earned top-15 finishes. Michael Waltrip finished 15th in his No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry and David Reutimann finished 14th behind the wheel of the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry. Waltrip is now seventh in the owner point standings and Reutimann is 12th.

Matt Kenseth won his second-consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Jeff Gordon finished second, Kyle Busch finished third, Greg Biffle finished fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.

Live coverage of the Shelby 427 will air on Sunday, March 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ambrose Starts 14th in No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota at Auto Club Speedway

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Fontana, CA. (February 20, 2009) – Today Marcos Ambrose posted a time 39.636 seconds (181.653 mph) in the No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota Camry to secure the 14th starting position for the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The top five starters for the 250-lap event are Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle.  
 
“We had a really solid lap and a good pick up from where we were in practice,” Ambrose said. “We feel good about our car and the weekend ahead. The No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota Camry JTG-Daugherty team did a great job. It feels good to have a solid starting position.”

His teammate David Reutimann had the seventh quickest time (39.541 seconds – 182.089 mph). Michael Waltrip experienced engine woes with his No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry and did not complete a lap. Fortunately, Waltrip is locked into the top 35 owner point standings and is guaranteed a starting position for the 500-mile race. Waltrip will make his 727th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start from the 42nd starting position.
 
After a one and half hour practice today before qualifying, Ambrose was 28th (40.391 seconds – 178.258 mph) out of 48 cars with Jimmie Johnson posting the fastest time of 39.584 seconds (181.892 mph) during that session. Tomorrow the Australian driver and his JTG-Daugherty Racing team have final practice from 2:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific.
 
On Sunday, Ambrose will make his 13th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start following a strong 17th-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. This is Ambrose’s second attempt in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry at the Auto Club Speedway two-mile D-shaped oval. In August of last year, the Australian driver finished 32nd in the 250 lap event.
 
To date, Ambrose’s career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start is seventh (6/22/08) at Infineon Raceway and his career-best finish is third-place at Watkins Glen International (8/10/08).
 
Live coverage of the Auto Club 500 on Sunday, February 22 will air at 5 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

James Thompson Jr. Named Honorary Pit Crew Member for Daytona 500

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Daytona Beach, FL. – Michael Waltrip had a new crew member in his pits during his seventh-place finish in the season-opener Daytona 500. James Thompson Jr. of Florida got the experience of a lifetime when he was chosen by NAPA Jacksonville to be NAPA’s first Honorary Pit Crew Member in its NASCAR program.
 
Thompson Jr. is a valued customer of NAPA Jacksonville as he is the co-owner of five JD Byrider stores. Four of those stores are NAPA AutoCare Centers and are located in Atlantic, Cassat, Blanding and Tallahassee.
Thompson Jr. not only enjoyed the NAPA Race Day Experience as all guests are treated as VIPs, but he received a NAPA AUTO PARTS crew shirt and hat from Waltrip himself who also autographed them. He was then escorted down to the garage where he toured the team’s hauler, ate lunch with the team, participated in driver introductions and lined up with the crew on pit road as the National Anthem was performed. To top it all off, Thompson posed for a photo with the two-time Daytona 500 by a decal that saluted Thompson as the Honorary Pit Crew Member. The decal was located on the quarter panel of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry. The father of two also got to wave the team’s pit sign showing Waltrip the exact location of his pit stall and then for several laps, watched the race with crew chief Bootie Barker on the team’s pit box.
 
“I really enjoyed the experience,” said Thompson. “It was all kind of unexpected so I didn't really know what to expect. I knew I would be able to go into the pits, but I was shocked to see my name on the car. I really enjoyed the personal interaction with the crew and all of the NAPA team members were awesome. They were all very good at what they do and my impression is that it is a very well run machine. I guess I knew that the drivers have a ton of commitments to live up to with various sponsors, but you could tell that Michael really likes his relationship with NAPA. The memories will definitely live on in my mind.”
 
This season at NASCAR Sprint Cup events where NAPA is hosting its popular Race Day Experience, a guest will be chosen based on different criteria determined by the NAPA management from that region.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

MEDIA ALERT: Waltrip on Best Damn Sports Show Period -- Tonight!

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

NAPA driver Michael Waltrip is out on the west coast talking up his seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500 and pulling double duty this weekend at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. He’ll be driving his No 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race as well as his No. 99 Best Western Toyota Camry in Saturday’s Nationwide Series event.
 
Waltrip is a guest on tonight’s edition of the Best Damn Sports Show Period! It airs at 11 p.m. ET on FOX Sports Net. Please check your cable listings as times are subject to change.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Waltrip Looks Forward to the Auto Club 500 at the AAA Speedway

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //
You’ve always enjoyed going to the Auto Club Speedway. What can fans expect to see?
“Races at the Auto Club Speedway are a lot of fun to watch. If I am a race fan, which I am, I am going to want to go and see the race because there are some unknowns heading into this event. I am very interested to see how these new cars will run without any testing and how that factor plays out in the race. Will it be the usual suspects back up front like Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle? Or has someone else figured out a way to test their car and prepare for this 2009 season? To me, this race is very important and could be a key to how this season will play out.
 
“Another reason why I like racing at the Auto Club Speedway is you are going to see speeds well in excess of 210 miles per hour. That’s something you don’t ever see at a place like Daytona International Speedway. At Daytona, speed was very important. At California, handling will really come into play especially in the corners. There will be three-wide racing with guys running up high and guys running down low. Drivers enjoy racing here because they have options. It’s all there at California.
 
“I also can’t wait to see how my new crew chief Bootie Barker works with my guys and see how they work together to change my set up for this weekend. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to run up front and do better than I did last year.”

 
What are your thoughts on Michael Waltrip Racing leaving Daytona with three cars in the top 20?
“I’m really proud that all three cars did well and finished in the top 20 at Daytona. Marcos Ambrose did a great job especially considering it was his first Daytona 500. Reutimann got 12th. It was a day that MWR needed and now we are going to hopefully build on that and continue the momentum with good runs.
 
“As for the NAPA AUTO PARTS team, our NAPA Toyota really handled well. We didn’t have the speed we needed, but it really drove well. As the cars were getting strung out, I could march up through the field. At the end, I knew the end was near so I just had to make the charge. We were real fortunate to get in a couple of holes and make it all work out.
I am really proud of the NAPA team. It was my first race with new crew chief Bootie Barker. I really enjoyed working with him. It was a lot of fun. I really look forward to going to California.”

 
Michael Waltrip Fast Facts
 
NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will start in his 727th NASCAR Sprint Cup race when he competes in the Auto Club 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
He will be competing in his 17th race at the Auto Club Speedway. His best start at the track is 6th (April 28, 2002) and best finish is 7th (April 27, 2003).
During his Cup career at the 2.0-mile oval, Waltrip has earned two top-10 and seven top-25 finishes.
He has completed 3,628 of 4,005 laps (90.6%) at the track and has led a total of 16 laps in competition.
His average start is 25th and average finish is 26th
Waltrip will be pulling double duty at the Auto Club Speedway as we will also compete in the Nationwide Series race. Waltrip will drive his No. 99 Best Western Toyota Camry in the Stater Bros. 300.
The NAPA AUTO PARTS team is guaranteed a starting spot in the Auto Club 500. The team finished 29th in the owner point standings in 2008. Currently, Waltrip ranks eighth in driver and owner points standings.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Waltrip Scores Seventh-Place Finish in Daytona 500

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Daytona Beach, FL. – Michael Waltrip kicked off the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a solid seventh-place finish in his No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The two-time Daytona 500 champ was in contention for the win when rain shortened the race to just 152 laps out of 200.

 “We might have over achieved a little bit,” said Waltrip who started the race in 27th position in a back-up car. “We didn’t have a great car especially in comparison to my primary car that was wrecked Wednesday in practice. We had to scramble to get in the top-10 so I’m happy with that. If we would have gone back to racing,e miht have gotten an even better finish. I didn’t feel like I had the fastest car, but it handled great. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t so fast because it was set up to handle well. I’ll just tke what I can get.”
 
The opening laps of the Daytona 500 saw Waltrip battle both a loose and tight-handling condition. Crew chief Bootie Barker used the competition yellow on lap 25 to make air pressure and track bar adjustments. Waltrip returned to the track in 33rd place and Kyle Busch took over the lead from the pole sitter Martin Truex Jr.
 
Waltrip’s NAPA Toyota responded well to the changes as he was able to run just outside the top 10 by the 50-lap mark. The driver called over the radio to say the car was very well balanced, but just needed more speed. However, the lack of speed wasn’t the only concern for Barker and the boys. Tire failures slowed the race down two times to bring out the caution on laps 55 (Travis Kvapil) and 119 (David Stremme). Plus, inclement weather was lurking. During the caution periods, the team inspected the tires, bolted on four fresh Goodyears and added fuel.
 
When the race restarted for the fifth time on lap 124, the NAPA Toyota Camry was 20th and Elliott Sadler was the new leader. Unfortunately, it took just one lap for the race to slow after Brian Vickers tried to put a block on the lapped car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Instead of a clean block, the two touched triggering a 10-car crash involving drivers Kurt and Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray and Scott Speed. Waltrip dodged the melee, and to be on the safe side, Barker brought his driver in to inspect the car, change all four tires and take on fuel. 
 
The green flag once again waved on lap 133 with Waltrip in 20th. The NAPA driver knew rain was on its way so he made another fast charge to the front. He climbed to 11th place when Jeff Burton and Regan Smith got together to bring out the yellow flag on lap 138. Barker kept the NAPA Camry out on track to maintain the track position as rain drops started to fall. Fortunately, the weather improved and NASCAR threw the green flag on lap 143. In just two laps, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota was in fifth position and in contention for the win. Unfortunately, Waltrip’s momentum slowed when Aric Almirola wrecked on the backstretch. The NAPA Toyota was posted in seventh position, but moments later, the rain once again began to fall. NASCAR was forced to call the race completed after being under a red-flag period for 20 minutes. 
 
Winning his first Daytona 500 was former NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Kevin Harvick, AJ Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Elliott Sadler, David Ragan, Waltrip, Tony Stewart, Reed Sorenson and Kurt Busch.
 
Michael Waltrip Racing turned in the highest finishes for Toyota in the Daytona 500. Besides Waltrip’s top-10 finish, David Reutimann scored 12th place and Marcos Ambrose finished 17th.
 
Next up for Waltrip and his NAPA Racing team is the Auto Club 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Broadcast Coverage gets underway Sunday at 5:00 p.m. ET on FOX. It can also be heard on MRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Reutimann Finishes 12th in the 51st Running of the Daytona 500

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Daytona Beach, FL (February 15, 2009) David Reutimann drove the No. 00 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Aaron’s Dream Machine to a 12th place finish in Sunday’s 51st running of the Daytona 500. Reutimann was moving through the field when the caution flag came flew with 55-laps to go as rain moved into the area. The race was called official after a 20-minute rain delay and Reutimann would settle for the 12th place finish in the opening race of the 36-race season.
 
Starting the Great American Race in the 28th position, Reutimann quickly moved up to as far as 13th while struggling with a loose condition early the race. Crew Chief Rodney Childers and the team made minor chassis adjustments to the Aaron’s Dream Machine over several outstanding pit stops and improved the handling through the high-banks of Daytona International Speedway.
 
While running 17th midway through the race, Reutimann dodged a multi-car wreck at the front of the field on lap 123 that damaged several cars as sprinkles of rain began to fall in the area. After a long caution to clean the debris, Reutimann would restart 21st and begin his march to the front.
 
Running the outside high line with teammate Marcos Ambrose the duo moved up through the field until the final caution fell on lap 145. Rain began to pepper the track and the racecars were ordered to pit road in hopes that the weather would pass. After a 20 minute red flag, NASCAR officials finally called the race and Reutimann would collect a 12th place finish, the best in his short NSCS career.
 
The next race for Reutimann and the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine will be at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA next Sunday Feb. 22 at 4:00 PM eastern. The Auto Club Speedway will also be the site of the debut of Ken Butler III in the NASCAR Nationwide Series where he will drive R3 Motorsports No. 23 Aaron’s Lucky Dog Dream Machine in the Stater Bros 300 Saturday Feb. 21. 

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Waltrip to Roll Off 17th in Bud Shootout

// Courtesy : Michael Waltrip Racing //

Daytona Beach, FL – Michael Waltrip and the NAPA Racing team will kick off the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season on Saturday, Feb. 7 by competing in the 31st annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. Last night Waltrip entertained a live audience when he participated in the event’s qualifying-draw party. The driver pulled the number 17 flag from a Budweiser bottle which equated to his starting spot and it also was the car number his older brother Darrell ran when he won the 1989 Daytona 500.
 
“My draw obviously didn’t go well,” shrugged Waltrip. “I really enjoyed my time here and it was great to see all the fans that came to watch because it was cold out on the SPEED stage.”
 
Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout will feature a star-studded lineup as well as a new format. The field will consist of the top six teams from each manufacturer based on the final 2008 owner points standings Eligibility is based on owners competing in the event with the same manufacturer as last season. In addition, each manufacturer will be able to enter a seventh car or "wild card" entry.
 
The criteria for the wild card entry are:
Any owner outside the top six in year end 2008 owner points whose driver is a past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion that attempted to qualify for all 2008 events (only one position will be filled per manufacturer and will be based on the most recent past champion per manufacturer).
n IfAn owner/manufacturer does not have a past champion driver, the next highest eligible owner outside the top six in year end 2008 owner points from each manufacturer will be eligible to compete in the event.
 
Among the drivers that will be competing against Waltrip include two-time and reigning Budweiser Shootout champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon, three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, three-time Budweiser Shootout winner Tony Stewart, Waltrip’s teammate David Reutimann, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. A total of 28 drivers will make up the field.
 
Drawing the pole position was Paul Menard. Reutimann and his No. 00 Aaron’s Dream MachineToyota Camry will line up 22nd.
 
The new format boasts a longer distance going from 70 to 75 laps (187.5 miles) on the 2.5-mile tri-oval. The race will have two segments of 25 and 50 laps. Both green- and yellow-flag laps will count. Between segments, there will be a 10-minute pit stop at which time teams will pit and may elect to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments.
 
“I am really looking forward to racing my car in the Shootout on Saturday night,” said Waltrip. “It is a great opportunity for the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota to show off a little bit. I love Daytona.”
 
The Budweiser Shootout will get underway at 8 p.m. ET and will air on FOX television network and the MRN and Sirius XM Satellite Radio networks.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reutimann's Ready for First Ever Bud Shootout

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

EXCITEMENT ABOUT FIRST BUD SHOOTOUT AND GOALS FOR THE RACE

"This is a good opportunity for the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry team to get out there and use this race as sort of a test," said Reutimann. "The Bud Shootout will give us a chance to learn how our car will react in the draft. It also gives me and my new crew chief, Rodney Childers, and I a chance to work together in a race environment for the first time. We had the chance to go test together at Texas Motor Speedway during a Goodyear tire test and that went really well. We're still learning each other, but I know we are going to be just fine. I think we're probably somewhat alike. Our focus is to go out there and log some laps and in the end be there in contention for a win. It would be a great way to kick off Speedweeks and give us some momentum going into the Daytona 500 even though we'll use a different car."

TEAM IN TACT AND REUTIMANN'S HAPPY TO HAVE FAMILY NUMBER BACK

"All my team from last year will be the same group of guys aside from the new crew chief for the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine," said Reutimann. "There's a few of my guys that were with me back in the Truck Series days when I drove for Darrell Waltrip. I’m thankful the team is in tact and I am really happy about having the No. 00 back on my NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's Dream Machine. The fabled number has been in my family for over 50 years and it means a lot to me personally to have it on my door. I'm thankful for Aaron's sticking with me through my career. They were there with me for my first NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Memphis Motorsports Park a couple years ago and I hope to be able to win my first Cup race with them."

RACING IN HOMETOWN

"It’s great to have an opportunity to race close to home," said Reutimann. "Zephyrhills (Fla.) is only a couple hours away. Because my hometown is so close, it gives my friends and family a chance to come out to watch me race. Being at Daytona doesn’t give me an advantage over the other drivers. Daytona is its own animal, anything can happen here."
WORKING THE DRAFT: "You've got to make friends out there to make your way to the front," said Reutimann. "You have to prove yourself and make the other guys comfortable around you so they will draft with you. You have to be in the right line at the right time. The draft is certainly what helps win the race, but it’s all about timing. If the line is moving forward down low you just have to stay down there with the pack. You’ll change your line the entire race."

BREAKING AWAY FROM THE TRACK TO RELAX BEFORE YOU RUN THE DAYTONA 500

"My focus will be on the Daytona 500," said Reutimann. I will be preparing for the race all throughout the week. I will probably try to watch my dad (Buzzie 68) race in the modified race in Tampa. At 68, he is still heavily involved in the Winternationals Open Wheel Modified Series at East Bay Raceway. This is actually a big weekend for the Modifieds; it’s like the Daytona of the dirt track Modified lasting from Wednesday to Saturday."
CHASSIS INFORMATION: The No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine for the Bud Shootout is chassis #617. "I don't believe it has ever been on a racetrack before I came over," said Crew Chief Rodney Childers. "It should be a good car and has a lot of improvements from last year."

RACE INFORMATION

Live coverage of the NASCAR Budweiser Shootout will be Saturday, February 7th at 8:00 p.m. EST on FOX.

Cajun Industries Joins MWR for the 51st Daytona 500

// Courtesy : Autostock Images //

Cajun Industries, LLC to Sponsor Three Entities for Daytona

Martinsville, VA (February 4, 2009) – Cajun Industries, LLC a nationally recognized construction leader will sponsor the No. 25 HT Motorsports Toyota Tundra in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway. As well, the Cajun Industries banner will be placed on the hood of the No. 91 MSRP Motorsports driven by Terry Cook and the No. 90 driven by Johnny Chapman in the Nationwide Series. Cajun Industries also will be placed as an associate of the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota driven by David Reutimann in the Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 event. 

We are thrilled to have Cajun Industries on board with our team,” said team owner Jim Harris. “Daytona is the Superbowl for our industry and we are so excited that we were able to introduce Cajun Industries in such a huge event and have them be a part of all three series there. We hope to perform at the rate of success of Cajun Industries who have been awarded time and time again for performance.” 

Cajun Industries, LLC and its subsidiaries are nationally recognized companies providing a broad range of construction services to various markets including government infrastructure, industrial, water quality, power, manufacturing, and oil and gas. Execution-based construction services provided by Cajun include civil, mechanical, deep foundations, offshore and inland marine construction, and specialized heavy equipment hauling.

“Cajun embraces all of the same strict standards of excellence that are part of the HT Motorsports and NASCAR organizations,“ said Ken Jacob, President and CEO of Cajun Industries. “We salute all those involved with the sport. Like the race teams, our success is possible only through the loyalty and dedication to safety, quality and performance of our over 2000 employees.“

Driver Terry Cook echoed Jacob’s sentiments. “At the end of last year we were running so strong and had so many things figured out. So to start off in Daytona with an award-winning company Cajun Industries, a successful team and a new teammate, we have all the tools in place to win races this year. I’m looking forward to it.”

The 2009 NASCAR Camping World Series season kicks off on February 13th with the running of the NextEra Energy Resources 250.