(photo by Leon Hammack)
When walking into the engineering department at Michael Waltrip Racing you can witness the dichotomy that exists at this NASCAR Sprint Cup team. Scrawled in black marker inside the rooms filled with reams of data, the guide explains that a “bonnet” equals a hood, a “boot” is a trunk, and a “dual carriageway” is a two lane highway. “Knackered” means tired- or “tarred” for the fluent in Southern!
Originally, Waltrip’s organization started running in the Nationwide Series, formally the Busch Series, 13 years ago. In those humble beginning, the team worked out of a small garage in Waltrip’s backyard located between the pens for the chickens and horses. When Mikey was hired with Deal Earnhardt, Sr.’s DEI and was aligned with NAPA Auto Parts, new beginning was born. Waltrip became THE spokesman for NAPA with some really cool commercials began airing on TV. It was around that time frame that Waltrip hooked up with Aaron’s furniture rent to own organization. Both of these companies have been intimately aligned with Michael Waltrip and his racing team.
In 2007 Waltrip started his new Sprint Cup teams, originally a three car team with the “new kid” on the block, Toyota. Because the economy was high flying at MWR’s inception, Waltrip’s original new hires were not necessarily the most qualified employees. That fact became very obvious in the beginning of the first season of competition in 2007. The going was extremely rough that year. At Daytona Michael Waltrip suffered a huge setback. His #55 NAPA Toyota was penalized a 100 points for a violation during inspection. It was an obstacle that very nearly destroyed the team, and Micahel Waltrip Racing as a whole.
In spite of all the shaky circumstances that shouded the start up of this company, things have significantly improved. Michael Waltrip has done something that no other NASCAR Sprint cup team has been able to do. He has been able to reach out to many other forms of motor sports and entice them to join his company, MWR.
Bobby Kennedy, a longtime friend and one of the 5 original employees , now the team’s vice president of race vehicle operations jokes, “We’ve got a of people that talk funny around here. But they’re making us go faster, too. They bring their new thought processes, and we’ve closed the gap quick. We’re not there yet, but we can see it”‘
MWR has recruited some very technically savy veterans from Formula 1 powerhouses of Ferrari and McLaren Mercedes. One of Waltrip’s biggest coups was to snag Steve Hallam. Hallam became director of competition at MWR after a 27 years career in Formula 1 as head of race operations for McLaren. Another very important recruit is Diane Holl, the director of vehicle design at Michael Waltrip Racing, she vacated a suspension design job at McLaren.
Even though NASCAR has tried to keep its series “low tech”, MWR has foreseen the need to “tech up”! The differences between making “the show” and missing it is so minute that attention to the smallest of details are of utmost importance. With that in mind, and in order to be as competitive as possible, Michael Waltrip Racing has seen fit to recruit the best and brightest minds in all forms of racing, wherever that may be!