By admin | February 2, 2010
By Richard Allen
Iâ€™ll admit that when I first heard Michael Waltrip was forming his own NASCAR Sprint Cup team I was less than optimistic that the new team would ever be successful. It is extremely difficult for any new car owner to make it in racing, let alone as a driver/owner. And more, Waltripâ€™s television persona did not exactly inspire one to believe this was a serious businessman who could effectively deal with drivers, crew members, sponsors and officials.
After the teamâ€™s disastrous first weekend and first full season with Toyota it seemed as though my initial suspicions would be confirmed. MWR was slapped with harsh penalties for rules violations found in a pre-qualifying inspection at Daytona and went on to miss a number of races during that season.
However, since that time this team and its owner have taken a number of significant strides forward. A strong working relationship with Toyota has been maintained. Each of their teams has sponsorship, which in the current economic climate is a significant accomplishment. Highly regarded crew chiefs and other team members have been added in support of the operation. And, a joint venture with JTG Daugherty Racing has brought in one of the more talented newcomers to NASCAR in Marcos Ambrose.
This year, as Michael Waltrip himself looks to step away from the sport as an active driver, the team has contracted Martin Truex, Jr. to pilot the #56 NAPA Toyota.
All the pieces seem to be coming together for MWR. With that said, it looks as if the organization is about to take that next step up the ladder.
While I do not necessarily believe MWR is set to move all the way to the top in such a way as to threaten Handrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing or Joe Gibbs Racing, I do believe they are set to be one of those teams who are nipping at the heels of those top organizations.
Last year, David Reutimann gave MWR its first win when he took the rain shortened Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. This year, look for Reutimann, Truex and Ambrose to each make visits to victory lane.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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