Team Preview: Michael Waltrip Racing
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on February 9, 2014 | 11:00 A.M. EST
Michael Waltrip Racing downsized from three to two full-time teams and will be lead by Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer. (Photo: Getty Images)
Asked to reflect on what became a scandal-plagued season, co-owner Michael Waltrip focused his eyes forward.
“Only a fool would trip over something that’s behind them,’’ he said.
As much as Waltrip would like to forget the penalties his team received last year for its antics at Richmond International Raceway, how MWR responds will be an early storyline.
A strong start by Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers will help the memory of last September fade.
“We are focused on the future and ready to win races,’’ Waltrip said.
The future is now for his team.
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
Drivers: Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota), Brian Vickers (No. 55 Toyota), Michael Waltrip (No. 66 Toyota) and Jeff Burton (No. 66 Toyota)
Crew Chiefs: Brian Pattie (Bowyer), Billy Scott (Vickers) and Chad Walter (Waltrip/Burton)
26 - Daytona 500 starts for Michael Waltrip.
83.3 - Percent of the 354 laps Clint Bowyer led last season that came at Martinsville, Richmond and Bristol.
2011 - Last time Brian Vickers ran the full Sprint Cup schedule.
MWR has downsized and reorganized some of its departments after NAPA left, forcing the organization to go from three full-time to two full-time teams. MWR cut back the number of employees by 15 percent but increased its engineering budget 15 percent. Team also added Jeff Burton to test and drive in select races.
What They’re Saying
Bowyer: “We had a great season in 2012, and I didn't perform to the level that I feel like I'm capable of and, more importantly, our team is capable of (last year), so really looking forward to getting that started over.’’
Vickers: “I’m really looking forward to being back in the car ... going to Daytona, which I haven’t been to in a long time, and also racing for a championship.’’
Waltrip: “(Jeff Burton’s) energy and knowledge of the sport and his desire to help Bowyer and Vickers go faster is motivating. I’m thankful we got him on board.’’
Keys To Season
Is leaner better? Team members note that a two-car organization won the championship two years ago with Brad Keselowski, so Michael Waltrip Racing doesn’t feel overmatched. The key is making sure MWR properly uses its resources and maximizes its effort to perform better this season. If not, then the answer to the question of if leaner is better could be no.
This organization needs to step up. Clint Bowyer had eight top-15 finishes in the last 10 races last year but it’s doubtful that is strong enough to advance far in the Chase. Bowyer has a great record at Homestead in recent years, but the key is getting him there. Vickers’ win last year at New Hampshire was among the sport’s best feel-good stories. Now can he win in back-to-back seasons for the first time in his Cup career?