By admin | May 29, 2009
By Richard Allen
There are three and possibly four elite organizations in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing account for the vast majority of wins and championships on the circuit over the past decade or so.
As a matter of fact, only one car owner aside form the three mentioned above has won a championship since 1995. If Richard Childress Racing, which placed three cars in the Chase for the Championship last year, is included that string of titles becomes even more daunting. With that team added, those four organizations have claimed 21 of the last 24 championship trophies.
RCR now appears to be teetering on the brink of dropping from that elite status. If indeed that organization falls to a secondary position, who will take their place at or near the top? Or, will anyone take their place?
Penske Racing South has been one of the teams to flirt with elite status over the years. They have never had the type of success in NASCAR that their primary owner has had in other forms of racing, but they have won multiple races and contended for championships in years gone by.
It would not come a major surprise if a team headed up by â€˜The Captainâ€™ Roger Penske were to join the ranks of the elite.
However, there is another possibility that could emerge as a threat to the powerful mega-teams at the top of the NASCAR heap.
Michael Waltrip Racing is working its way up the ladder of the racing hierarchy. Their win in the Coca-Cola 600 certainly was a significant milestone in the somewhat brief history of this team.
Granted, the win did come in a rain shortened event and was the result of staying on the track when most other lead lap cars pitted, but a win is a win. Consider, though, that David Reutimann has raced in or near the Top 12 of the standings all season.
Michael Waltrip was among the first car owners to maneuver himself into the good graces of Toyota when that auto giant announced it would enter the Sprint Cup Series in 2007. However, that season could not have started much worse for MWR. The team was slapped with a major penalty after a rules violation was found in pre-race inspection for the Daytona 500.
The team struggled mightily throughout 2007 as they suffered through missed races and poor performances.
Now, things seem to definitely be on the upswing. Reutimannâ€™s win in the Coke 600 was only one piece of good news to come out of the two weeks spent in Charlotte. Rumor has it that Martin Truex may be set to join former Dale Earnhardt, Inc. co-horts Waltrip and Ty Norris(MWR General Manager).
According to numerous reports, Truex would replace Waltrip as the driver of car #55, which would leave Waltrip to focus on the business end of the organization.
Also, this season MWR has entered into a partnership with JTG-Daugherty Racing. This has helped bring aboard additional name recognition through former NBA player and ESPN personality Brad Daugherty and Australian driver Marcos Ambrose.
Michael Waltrip Racing has taken its first major step toward elite status by winning a Sprint Cup race. However, there are many more steps yet to be taken.
This company has a number of things working in its favor. If they are able to sign Truex he will add to a reasonably strong driver lineup along with Reutimann and Ambrose. Norris provides sound leadership. Waltrip is one of the best corporate spokesmen in NASCAR today.
If MWR continues on its upward flight and plays its positive attributes just right, they could find themselves among the racing elite in the not so distant future.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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