NASCAR Notes: Sprint Cup Class Of 2013: Michael Waltrip Racing
By Dave Grayson
In January, Michael Waltrip addressed the media and, with a big smile on his face, said “this is breaking news: we don’t have any news. There’s really nothing new or different from 2012. Man, are we happy about that.”
He has ever right to be happy about “no news to report.” Michael Waltrip Racing, (MWR), had a stellar season in 2012 and everyone who had anything to do with it is lined up and set to return in 2013.
CLINT BOWYER. #15 TOYOTA. CREW CHIEF: BRIAN PATTIE.
During the 2011 season, it was announced that Clint Bowyer was leaving Richard Childress Racing to drive for MWR. The ink was barely dry on the press release when NASCAR observers began to question the move and openly wondered if Bowyer had made a mistake.
Bowyer, of course, proved the naysayers wrong in 2012. If there ever was such a thing as a Cinderella season, this team clearly had one. Bowyer made quick work of getting on the same page with crew chief Brian Pattie and that chemistry helped the team turn into major championship players last year. They finished second in the championship standings based on three wins, ten top five finishes, 23 top tens and a very healthy average finish ratio of 11. All of last year’s familiar faces are returning for 2013 and there’s every reason to expect that Bowyer and company could once again be title contenders.
However, there is one gray area connected to this team and that’s involves the fact that it’s not fully sponsored for 2013. Primary sponsor 5 Hour Energy Drink is set to return but it’s not exactly clear regarding how many races they will sponsor. The last report indicated that it was at least 20. New sponsor Peak Motor Oil has signed with the team for three races and Aarons will be the sponsor at Talladega. You can bet that the MWR marketing staff is working overtime to correct this situation.
MARK MARTIN-MICHAEL WALTRIP-BRIAN VICKERS. #55 TOYOTA. CREW CHIEF: RODNEY CHILDERS.
Mark Martin will be driving MWR’s #55 for 24 races plus the Shootout and All Star races. Martin will be a driver to monitor this year. He recently said that he does not expect to be in this ride in 2014 but would not say he’s retiring. He did, however, make it clear that it’s way too early in the season to be discussing his future. Martin also said he plans to do everything he can to help place his crew chief, Rodney Childers, and his team in position to win the 2014 championship after he’s departed.
Team owner Michael Waltrip will be driving the #55 in the July race at Daytona and both events at Talladega. That makes a lot of sense. Waltrip excels in restrictor plate racing.
Brian Vickers will be driving this car for the remaining nine races on the schedule. Vickers is going to have a very busy year in 2013. He will also be driving a Toyota full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s widely believed that Vickers will be the driver to take over MWR’s #55 in 2014 if Mark Martin does indeed vacate the ride.
Once again, sponsorship might be an area of concern here. Aarons will be back as the primary sponsor for a reported 26 races. That leaves approximately ten races that will have to be covered as early as possible.
MARTIN TRUEX Jr. #56 TOYOTA. CREW CHIEF: CHAD JOHNSON
Truex finished the 2012 season as part of the Chase for the Championship line up where he finished 11th in the final standings. Along the way he recorded seven top five finishes, 19 top tens with an average finish ratio of 12. The one thing missing here is the lack of wins. There were pivotal moments last year when Truex was in position for the win, but somewhere on track circumstances prevented him from closing the deal. Wins will be the high priority for Truex and crew chief Chad Johnson. That want that win less streak gone.
On the positive the sponsorship program appears to be strong for the #56 team. NAPA with their auto parts, filters and brakes divisions will be returning to cover the sponsor needs this year.