Chase Milestone for MWR

Michael Waltrip Racing

Michael Waltrip: "I’m obviously really happy with having two cars in the Chase. My inspiration for having a team from the beginning was Dale Earnhardt."

Michael Waltrip has reached many milestones as a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  He won the Daytona 500 twice and has competed in over 750 Cup races.

Waltrip's four Sprint Cup Series wins came behind the wheel of cars fielded by Dale Earnhardt, Inc., a team founded by his good friend, the late Dale Earnhardt - which gave Waltrip a vision that ultimately led to his latest NASCAR career achievement.

Sunday's GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway is the first race of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and marks the first time Waltrip is participating in the post-season title run as a team owner - with drivers Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.

"I’m obviously happy with two cars in the Chase," Waltrip said.  "From the beginning, my inspiration for having a team was Dale Earnhardt.  I always wanted to have a team like Dale had so any time something goes well, I always think about what he meant to me.  We’re thankful.”

Michael Waltrip RacingAlthough his name is on the team, Waltrip has co-owned the now-three-car operation with Rob Kauffman since late 2007.

"When we started this team, I made it all the way to March until I figured out I was broke," Waltrip said.  “I met Rob in April.  He bought half of the team in October.

"Since then, we've been making steady progress."

Waltrip credits the addition of veteran Mark Martin, who drives the No. 55 on a limited schedule, as part of the team's success this season.

"Rob said, 'It's like E.F. Hutton.  When Mark Martin speaks, people listen,' " Waltrip said.  "He's done it all, he's a legend, made us a better race team."

MWR has experienced its share of growing pains since joining the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2007.

"Somebody famous and smarter than me is quoted as saying, 'Those that have invested the most appreciate success the most,' " Waltrip said.  "I remember coming here and missing races in '07.  Five years later, we're sitting in Victory Lane (with) two cars in the Chase.  Scott Miller is our competition director.  Toyota - those guys have helped us so much.

"I'm pretty damn happy right now.  That's what it's all about, being happy."

In his first season driving the No. 15 Toyota for MWR, Bowyer leads the team's Chase effort as the sixth seed in the 12-man field.

"I'm proud of everybody at MWR, my teammates and Brian Pattie (crew chief)," Bowyer said following this past weekend's victory at Richmond International Raceway.  "This is a brand new race team and this is awesome to be in Victory Lane.”

After a tough outing at Atlanta Motor Speedway eight days ago, snapping a streak of four consecutive top 10s, Bowyer was able to win his second race of the season.

"Anything bad that could happen did happen (at Atlanta)," Bowyer said.  "To be able to bounce back from that and get a win, get that momentum, heading into this Chase is exactly what we needed."

Truex, a member of the team since 2010, begins the Chase as the 10th seed.

"Man, I feel good," Truex said despite a 21st-place finish in Richmond.  He had clinched his spot in the Chase the week before in Atlanta.  "I know we’re kind of an underdog and not a lot of people expect us to do much.  It’s a good position to be in.  We need to be smart, make good decisions and our cars are strong enough to do this.  I'm looking forward to going out and having some fun.  Hopefully, we’ll put together 10 good races and be in the hunt.”

Although he's yet to visit Victory Lane with MWR, Truex has been behind the wheel of some fast cars as of late, combining to lead 103 laps over the last four races.

"We haven’t been to Victory Lane yet this year, but we’ve been close," Truex said.  "The way our cars are running and as fast as we’ve been the last six or seven weeks, we’re dangerous."

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