MWR Teams No Longer Darkhorses
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.- No doubt about it: Michael Waltrip Racing’s competitiveness is the surprise of the 2012 season.
Clint Bowyer’s Sonoma victory – the team’s third win since its founding in 2007 – was merely an exclamation mark, one that had been anticipated since the season opened in Daytona.
Prior to this year, MWR had struggled mightily. None of its drivers had qualified for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
That certainly will change in a couple of months when the Chase field is set at Richmond.
Bowyer’s victory solidified his seventh-place points ranking. It also gives him a fallback for “Wild Card” consideration.
Teammate Martin Truex, Jr., currently ninth in points, has been among the top 10 since the season’s second race in Phoenix. He finished second in Kansas. MWR’s third car, shared by Waltrip, Mark Martin and Brian Vickers, is 12th in owners championship points. Vickers was fourth at Sonoma; Martin was second earlier this month at Pocono.
“It didn’t happen overnight,” said Waltrip, who along with MWR partner Rob Kaufman and staff – working more closely with Toyota – dismantled the teams and changed direction. “We have a great partner in Toyota Racing Development and we didn’t exploit them as much as we should have up until the 2011 season, late in 2011.”
Bowyer’s arrival was serendipity – for the out-of-work driver and Waltrip’s group.
“Very nerve-racking times in the wintertime,” said Bowyer following his sixth career victory. “[I] walked into a new program with a lot of unknowns and I had a lot of confidence in what was going on. I still had confidence in myself.”