2011 Team Preview: Michael Waltrip Racing

Michael Waltrip Racing

David Reutimann and Michael Truex Jr. are back for another season with MWR. (Photo: Getty Images)

From its modest two-race debut in 2002, Michael Waltrip Racing is now preparing to launch its 10th season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a three-car lineup entered for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500.

The trio of drivers is made up of David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr. and owner-driver Waltrip himself – who returns to Daytona International Speedway as a two-time winner of “The Great American Race.”

Michael Waltrip will drive a special paint scheme in the Daytona 500. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)It’ll be an emotional trip back to the World Center of Racing for Waltrip, whose “500” victory 10 years ago was overshadowed by the death of car owner Dale Earnhardt.

“February 18th, 2001, is a day NASCAR fans will never forget,” Waltrip said.  “What looked to be a storybook ending turned to tragedy seconds later. To mark the 10th anniversary of that race and my 25th consecutive ‘500’ will be quite emotional for me and fans, alike.”

While Waltrip – now a full-time owner and part-time driver – plans to run only a few superspeedway races this season, Reutimann and Truex will both campaign MWR Toyotas for the entire 36-race slate. Reutimann, who celebrates his 41st birthday next month, finished 18th in Sprint Cup Series points last year. He drove the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota to victory at Chicagoland Speedway (his second career win) and posted eight other top-10 finishes in 36 starts, banking more than $5 million in prize money.

Reutimann missed the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup by 191 points. His mid-summer win at Chicagoland lifted him into 15th place in the standings, less than 100 points outside the top 12. But Reutimann finished no higher than 16th in his next four starts, forcing him to play catch-up the rest of the season.

Reutimann will once again be working with crew chief Rodney Childers and a familiar roster of mechanics servicing his Aaron’s Camry.

“We’re going to Daytona with the same group of guys we ended last year with,” Reutimann said.  “When you have a business that doesn‘t have a lot of turnover … people wanting to stay and be a part of things … that tells you we’ve got something pretty special.”

NASCAR has tweaked its qualifying format for this year’s post-season Chase, with 10 drivers advancing on points and the two others getting in based on the number of race wins.

“If it helps me get in, I’m all for it,” Reutimann joked. “A little more emphasis on winning is OK by me. The new system seems to reward both consistency and wins. That’s a good thing.”

Like Reutimann, Truex is looking for a breakthrough season in 2011 that would put him in the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time in his career. Truex closed the 2010 campaign with a pair of Top-15 finishes in his No. 56 NAPA Toyota, en route to 22nd place in the final standings.

Truex’s best finish in 36 starts was fifth in March at Martinsville Speedway. The 30-year-old native of Mayetta, N.J. is entering his second season at MWR and also his second year working with crew chief Pat Tryson. Truex is expected to make his 200th career Cup Series start in mid-May at Dover International Speedway...the site of his lone win in 2007.

In addition to its Sprint Cup Series program in 2011, MWR will be involved in the Nationwide Series and the K&N Pro Series/East – one of NASCAR’s top developmental tours.

Pastrana-Waltrip Racing will run a seven-race schedule for Travis Pastrana in the Nationwide Series. The action sports champion is transitioning to stock cars, driving the No. 99 Toyota under the direction of crew chief Jerry Baxter. Sponsorship will come from Boost Mobile. Pastrana’s first race is expected to come in July at Indianapolis.

Brett Moffitt will drive the No. 00 Toyota in the K&N Pro Series/East as the organization attempts to win its third straight championship. Ryan Truex, Martin’s younger brother, won titles in 2009 and 2010, and has moved up to the Nationwide Series. He plans to share the seat in the No. 99 with Pastrana, running a minimum of 10 events.

Tune in tomorrow when MotorRacingNetwork.com previews Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.

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