MWR A NASCAR Powerhouse?

Clint Bowyer

(WOMR file photo)

In just its sixth full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, Michael Waltrip Racing is making a big push into becoming a powerhouse in NASCAR’s premier circuit.

Michael Waltrip Racing made its entrance into the Sprint Cup as a three car team with drivers David Reutimann, past Sprint Cup champion, Dale Jarrett, and the namesake owner, Michael Waltrip.  The first year of their existence was extremely ragged and rough for Michael Waltrip. Within two short years, MWR had shrunk two to a two car operation, and stayed in that configuration until the 2012 season.

In just the first six races of the 2012 season, the new three car team fielded by MWR, has combined for four top 5’s and ten top 10 finishes.  This new thrust is spearheaded by Martin Truex, Jr and his MWR #56 Napa Toyota.  MWR finds its two full-time drivers, Truex, Jr, and Clint Bowyer, firmly entrenched in the top 10 in points!

Third year driver, Martin Truex,Jr. and crew chief Chad Johnson finished on an uptick, recording four top 10’s in the final five races of 2011.  That momentum has carried into the 2012 season, as the duo have yet to finish worst than 17th this year.  Included in those finishes are third at Bristol, and fifth at Martinsville.

Newby, Clint Bowyer, a high-profile free-agent previously employed by Richard Childress Racing, has found immediate chemistry with another new-hire, and his new crew chief, Brian Pattie.  Pattie, leading the MWR #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, has managed finishes of sixth at Bristol, and fourth at Las Vegas, brings his team into Texas sitting ninth in the Sprint Cup points.  Their consistent start is the difference between MWR that once contended for wins only three or four times a year, now that team is in the running each and every weekend!

One of the keys to the turnaround at MWR was the hiring of former Richard Childress Racing competition director, Scott Miller as the Vice President of Competition.  Miller is a NASCAR veteran, having sat atop the pit box for both Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton while at RCR.  He brought a level of expertise and confidence to his new role at MWR, when he signed with the company in late 2011.

Another key acquisition was to bring on Mark Martin as a part-time driver of the #55 Aaron’s Toyota.  Martin, one of the most respected drivers in the garage, also brought a level of professionalism not seen at MWR before this season.  Martin has agreed to drive the MWR #55 Toyota for 25 races.

Martin’s absence id two races so far has given way to the 2012 “feel good” storylines.  Michael Waltrip has hired Brian Vickers to drive in eight of the races that Martin will not participate in.  Vickers was a casualty of Red Bull Racing’s departure from NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

In  Vickers’ first appearance for MWR, he led 125 laps at Bristol en route to a fifth place finish.  Between Martin and Vickers, that team has finished no worse that 18th with three top 10’s to its credit.  Those performances find that team, along with the #15 and the #56, ranked in the top 10 in the all important owner points.  That is guaranteeing their places in the starting lineup for this weekends race at Texas.

So it appears that Michael Waltrip Racing has put together some of the missing pieces of the puzzle for their 2012 Sprint Cup season.  The aforementioned personnel additions stand to reason why MWR’s performance will  improve drastically over the past five seasons.


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