Whether he is in the broadcast booth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway commentating on Friday’s truck series race or preparing for Monday’s second round of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in Los Angeles, two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip is quick to point out his priority is making Michael Waltrip Racing a championship contender.
MWR—in its eighth season of fielding fulltime NASCAR Sprint Cup teams— is focused on using this season’s final nine races to get back in victory lane then returning to the Chase in 2015. MWR’s two fulltime Sprint Cup cars piloted by Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers own seven top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 2014. Waltrip says continued improvement and working with Toyota will be key in reaching the 2015 goals.
MWR FOUNDER & CO-OWNER MICHAEL WALTRIP: “I look at our race teams and see a lot of progress over the summer. We did not start the season off in a Chase way. We didn’t get our arms around the new rules as quickly as we’d like to and we just didn’t perform early in the season. Over the summer, we really improved our cars and we really improved our setups to the point where (Clint) Bowyer had a real shot at winning in Richmond. We’ve had a couple strong runs. If we were in the Chase, I don’t think you’d be talking about us being champions, and that’s what the Chase is all about, being a champion. So, we would have tiptoed into the Chase, but we know that over these next weeks, if we continue to improve our cars and continue to improve the engines, we can build momentum and be ready to be championship contenders in 2015. The racing team is the most important thing in the world to me. All my eggs are totally in that basket. I go dancing and I go do TV to try to make that world more important for not only our team, but NASCAR in general. Mentally, I’m in a great place because I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in our cars, our people and I believe in Toyota. We’ll get all this better. Maybe we can be a lot like Brad (Keselowski) and miss the Chase this year and race for a championship next year.”
TOYOTA: “We have a wonderful relationship with the folks from Toyota. There wouldn’t be a Michael Waltrip Racing if it weren’t for Toyota. Back in 2005, they came to me and said, ‘We want you to start a NASCAR Sprint Cup team, we’re going to go Sprint Cup racing.’ And, we’ve been partners ever since. They realize that the engines have been a little bit off in the power department. They don’t need me preaching to them. They know a lot more about building an engine than I do. They also understand the significance of having enough power under the hood to compete with Hendrick and Penske. We’ve had some very constructive conversations. Our drivers have provided them with amazing feedback. I’m so proud of Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer for their constructive help towards what the engines feel like at specific points on the race track. This one has more power, well it doesn’t feel good at this RPM, it feels better at that. We’re total partners and I wouldn’t be racing without them and we know we’re with the right manufacturer. We believe they will have the best engines in 2015 and beyond and we’re going to help them by providing feedback so they can get there.”