Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Accidents Take Michael Waltrip Racing Out of Contention at Pocono Raceway

LONG POND, Pa. – Michael Waltrip Racing was looking like it was going to repeat another solid run at Pocono Raceway, but two accidents late in the running of Monday’s rain-delayed Pennsylvania 500 took drivers Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann out of contention.

JTG-Daugherty Racing’s Marcos Ambrose suffered a similar fate when he was collected in Reutimann’s crash that occurred when the No. 11 Toyota Camry of Denny Hamlin made contact with the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota. All three cars were able to limp home to the finish. Reutimann scored 29th followed by Waltrip in 31st and Ambrose in 34th.

“It was a tough weekend for us,” said Waltrip, who had to go to a back-up car after he crashed during the first practice on Friday at Pocono Raceway. “We made a lot of progress during the race. We had a solid top-20 run going and we kept getting the car running better. There was a wreck and I was on the bottom. Someone came down from the top and I had nowhere to go. I hit him so it kind of messed us up. It turned out to be a tough day for all of us. The new cars here certainly favor track position and David was able to get some track position and run right up front. Unfortunately, he got spun around and when he did, he wrecked Marcos too. All three of our cars had a tough day.”

Sunny skies welcomed the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams as they were finally able to run the 200-lap event. Waltrip started 31st after NASCAR set the field by the rulebook on Friday as rain canceled qualifying. The opening laps saw Waltrip battle a major push so during the competition yellow on lap 20, crew chief Bootie Barker put the NAPA crew to work by having air pressure, spring rubber and wedge adjustments completed. Waltrip returned to the track in 34th position and Denny Hamlin was the leader. The adjustments were in the right direction as Waltrip made up five positions on the track before the next caution flag was thrown on lap 54 for debris. More wedge and air pressure changes were made in just 14.2 seconds. The NAPA Toyota returned to the track in 24th position.

The half-way mark saw Kasey Kahne as the new leader and Waltrip running in the top 25 after he topped off for fuel. His lap times were fast and Barker was focused on one thing – fine tuning the 55 machine so that the two-time Daytona champion could make another run to the front and mix it up with the leaders. Unfortunately, Waltrip’s car moved to the extremely loose side. So much so, he had to make an impressive save as he broke loose in the tunnel turn on lap 105. Then a few laps later, he brushed the wall. Both incidents cost him track position. On lap 125, the NAPA Toyota was scored in 31st position. Two more pit stops were made on laps 134 and 143. Both times, wedge and air pressure changes were made. The adjustments put Waltrip back on track as he was able to break back into the top 25 by lap 153.

The tide started to turn for Michael Waltrip Racing on lap 175. That’s when Reutimann’s machine was hit from behind by Hamlin. The contact sent Reutimann hard into Ambrose’s machine on the frontstretch. Both cars were heavily damaged. Reutimann’s team was able to make repairs on pit road, but Ambrose was sent to the garage for repairs.

Then on lap 180, the race returned to green. But just one lap later, a big wreck occurred when David Regan bumped Bobby Labonte going into Turn 1. This time Waltrip’s car was heavily damaged along with the cars of Reed Sorenson, Joey Logano and Jeff Burton. The NAPA team worked vigorously on pit road to get Waltrip’s Toyota back in running form. The service put Waltrip down a lap, but he was able to continue on to finish the event in 31st place.

Winning his third victory at Pocono in eight events at the 2.5-mile tri-oval was Denny Hamlin. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer, Sam Hornish Jr., Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart.

Patrick Carpentier will return to the NAPA Toyota’s driver’s seat for the second and final road-course event of the season at Watkins Glen. Broadcast coverage will get underway Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. It can also be heard on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and MRN.

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