Contract Status: Drivers 2015; Primary Sponsor: 2015 and leaves; Manufacturer: 2015;
Moffitt looking for another opportunity: NASCAR's Rookie of the Year trophy sits next to the television atop the mantle inside Brett Moffitt's North Carolina home. It's right there in sight each time the 23-year-old Grimes native watches Sprint Cup races and sees stock car racing's biggest stars through his picture screen rather than a windshield. In Moffitt's case, a career that seemed to be gaining speed last summer has stalled since his crowning achievement last fall. He hasn't been behind the wheel of a racecar since his November rookie coronation at Homestead Speedway. "Just watching the races right now kills me," he said. "Hopefully we get back there." Circumstances beyond his control are partially to blame for Moffitt's place on the Sprint Cup sidelines. He signed a contract two years ago with Michael Waltrip Racing after driving an under-funded car to a 22nd-place finish in his debut on NASCAR's top level. The deal was supposed to keep him in an MWR ride through the 2017 season. Then the organization folded last year. "I thought I had a future going," he said. "That was a big shock to me." Admittedly, though, Moffitt is in this position somewhat by his own volition. "There's been offers on the table, it's just not in the equipment we want to be in, so we're waiting for the right opportunity," he said. Agonizing as it is to sit on the couch and watch Cup races each Sunday, Moffitt also sees reason for optimism on the television. He sees young drivers thriving, like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, guys he raced alongside - and often beat - during their developmental years on the K&N circuit. It gives him hope that his career can still take off, too, if he can land the right ride.(Des Moines Register)(6-19-2016)
Crew member lawsuit against Michael Waltrip Racing will continue: A Mecklenburg County judge has ruled against Michael Waltrip Racing's motions to dismiss claims in a lawsuit by a former front tire changer. Brandon Hopkins sued the now-defunct Cornelius-based motorsports team last year. He claims he was fired after taking a leave for surgery from a shoulder injury he suffered when he was hit by a car during a NASCAR race. He contends team officials "blacklisted" him after his surgery by falsely accusing him of stealing a pit gun used to remove lug nuts. As a result, he lost an unpaid internship with another NASCAR Sprint Cup team and paid work with a NASCAR Truck Series team, Hopkins says in the lawsuit filed by Charlotte lawyer Joshua Van Kampen in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. Hopkins sued for damages, citing breach of contract, defamation, intentional interference with a contract and violating the N.C. blacklisting statute and federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act. The team's lawyers wanted a judge to dismiss claims Hopkins sought under the two federal acts, but Judge Louis Bledsoe allowed the case to proceed.(Charlotte Observer)(5-15-2016)
Michael Waltrip Racing shop now for sale: A real estate company has posted signs at Michael Waltrip Racing proclaiming that the shop is "Available." A sign on the building and one near MWR's signboard lists a phone number for inquiries with Lincoln Harris, a full-service real estate company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Cornelius, North Carolina, shop - located about 30 minutes from Charlotte Motor Speedway - features two buildings and sits on 11.479 acres. A sign proclaims the facility has more than 142,000 square foot. No price is listed. NBC Sports' calls to Lincoln Harris were not returned Friday. The Mecklenburg County Assessor's office lists the shop's value as $12,807,200 - based on an assessment in 2011. Public records show that the property had a tax bill last year of $137,909.73. That bill was due Sept. 1, 2015, but public records list it as delinquent and notes that interest began accruing Wednesday. Waltrip converted a former movie theatre into his race shop and officially opened the facility to the public in May 2007.(NBC Sports)(1-10-2016)
Ragan to Ride on Shriners Hospitals for Children Float in 2016 Rose Parade on New Year's Day: Shriners Hospitals for Children is scheduled to participate in the 127th Rose Parade for the sixth consecutive year. This year, NASCAR driver and Shriner David Ragan will be one of the 11 float riders to be part of the 2016 float Fezzy Races to Adventure. "I am honored to be a part of this tradition and hope to be able to spread the word about these two wonderful organizations, Shriners Hospitals and Shriners International," said Ragan. "Racing is such a big part of my life and I thought this was such an appropriate and fun theme to encourage kids to keep strong and enjoy the adventures that life will bring."(Breaking Limits)(12-31-2015)
David Ragan still looking for a ride: David Ragan issued a statement Friday on his current status, following the closing of Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season:
"I'm still looking for the best opportunity for me for 2016. I've had conversations with several teams - some went farther along that others - but haven't gotten anything locked down yet. I definitely fell like I have a lot to give to a team and, turning 30 later this month, have a lot of racing years left in me.
I'm opening to competing in any of the three national series in NASCAR, but, for me, it needs to be a competitive team. I don't want to put myself in a position where every week is a struggle on track, just so I can say I have a ride. I'm fortunate to have a lot of good relationships in the sport, both among competitors and sponsors, so we'll keep the conversations going and hopefully be able to put something together for next season.
I'm proud of the relationships I've built with the sponsors I've worked with in my career. I can definitely say I put my all into being a good ambassador for them in NASCAR, and I think any one of them would tell you that their partnerships with me were successful ones."(12-12-2015)
Pemberton leaving NASCAR UPDATES: NASCAR announced that Senior Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton will leave the organization at the end of 2015. With a racing career that has spanned five decades, Pemberton joined the sanctioning body in August of 2004. Since that time, he has overseen all areas of NASCAR competition and been credited as a key component in bridging the gap between the sanctioning body and the racing community.
"Robin has left an indelible mark on the sport while at NASCAR," said NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton. "He joined us at a critical time and very quickly gave our highly visible competition group the credibility and confidence it needed to be successful with the industry. He traded a successful career as a competitor to help lead the sport for 12 seasons. We're extremely grateful for his many contributions."
During Pemberton's tenure, NASCAR has seen a great number of technical and safety advancements. Against the backdrop of the massive NASCAR Research & Development Center, Pemberton's Competition teams overhauled the inspection and rules process and procedures for all vehicles racing in the national series. He oversaw the transitions of NASCAR to Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) and to race fuels with blended Sunoco E15. Among the largest undertakings under his purview was the launch of the acclaimed Generation 6 style car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2013. That style just completed its third season of on-track racing.
"I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish during my time at NASCAR," Pemberton said. "This sport has been my entire professional career and working with all the competitors and the auto manufacturers for the last 12 seasons has been a thrill. I feel good knowing that the work this team has done has had a positive impact on the sport. I look forward to the next challenge." Pemberton will help in the transition to a new competition lead for the balance of the year.(NASCAR)(12-1-2015)
UPDATE: The "Boys, have at it" era of NASCAR is over as Scott Miller replaces Robin Pemberton as senior vice president of competition, effective immediately. Miller, 58, spent the last four years as the Executive Vice President of Competition for Michael Waltrip Racing. In his first season with organization, he helped transform a mid-pack team to championship contenders, as both Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. transferred into the 2012 Chase. Five of the MWR's seven Cup wins were earned during Miller's tenure. Over the last two decades that Miller has developed solid relationships throughout the garage. He's earned the respect of his teammates and competitors alike for his personal yet pragmatic approach to racing. Miller also understands the challenges current racing organizations face with the multitude of changes and alterations directed from the sanctioning body.(Motorsport)(12-2-2015)
UPDATE 2: NASCAR announced that Scott Miller has joined the organization as Senior Vice President of Competition, responsible for managing all competition efforts related to technology, inspection, rule development and officiating across NASCAR's wide portfolio of racing. Miller will report directly to Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell, and work closely with Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development Gene Stefanyshyn. All three are based at NASCAR's Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. Miller most recently served as Executive Vice President of Competition at Michael Waltrip Racing. There he was responsible for managing all areas of competition. During his four-year tenure, MWR teams qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2012, 2013, and 2015.(NASCAR)(12-2-2015)
Congrat to David & Jacquelyn Ragan: David Ragan tweeted Thursday night, "@JacquelynRagan and I are having another girl. I better start saving double pretty quick!".(11-28-2015)
Last Race for Michael Waltrip Racing: Sunday's 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks Michael Waltrip Racing's final weekend of full-time competition. Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 champion, began the team in the mid-1990s at his house in Sherrill's Ford, N.C., competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. In 2007, MWR began fielding full-time Sprint Cup entries as the flagship team for Toyota Racing Development, USA. MWR is the only original Toyota team still in competition. MWR owns seven Sprint Cup victories and four Chase berths. Going into Homestead, MWR cars have made 780 starts, earned seven poles and posted 73 top-five finishes. MWR victories by driver: Clint Bowyer, 3, David Reutimann, 2, Martin Truex and Brian Vickers with one each. In the XFINITY Series, MWR won four times with Waltrip behind the wheel and once with David Reutimann. MWR also fielded entries in eight truck series races. Sunday also marks the end of a partnership with 5-hour ENERGY and MWR. The company has been a proud partner of the team and Bowyer since the driver joined the organization in 2012. Bowyer earned three wins, 27 top-five and 69 top-10 finishes with 5-hour ENERGY on board his Toyota. PEAK and AAA Mid-Atlantic also enjoyed a multi-year relationship with MWR and Bowyer. Peak also supports Bowyer's dirt late model teams. Maxwell House joined with the organization earlier this year and sponsored Bowyer in four Sprint Cup races (MWR)(11-22-2015)
Brian Pattie to replace Puccia as Biffle's crew chief: Brian Pattie will take over crew chief duties on the #16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with Greg Biffle in 2016. The 40-year-old Zephyrhills, Florida native has worked as a crew chief for Michael Waltrip Racing for the last four seasons. Pattie started his NASCAR career with fellow Floridian Joe Nemechek in 1994. He led a variety of NEMCO teams to seven Xfinity Series wins in four years. Although Pattie left NEMCO for a short stint with Hendrick Motorsports in 1996, he returned in 2003 to work as a team manager and crew chief with Randy LaJoie and Nemechek. He moved to Ganassi Racing in 2004 and won NXS races with Jamie McMurray and Reed Sorenson. In 2008, Pattie was reassigned to the #42 Target team midway through the season as the third crew chief to work with former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Together, Pattie and Montoya won one race, seven poles and posted 16 top fives and 39 top-10 finishes. Pattie also guided the team to the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup - Montoya's only appearance in the NASCAR post-season. Pattie declined comment on his plans for next season. In 2012, Pattie was recruited by Michael Waltrip Racing where he was assigned to Clint Bowyer. The pair won three Sprint Cup races their first season together and finished second in the Chase. However, after their third winless season together, Pattie was moved from the #15 team to the #55 Toyota with David Ragan after 16 races. Sources said Puccia will be reassigned within the company.(Motorsport)(10-26-2015)
Hornish Jr. and Ragan working on 2016 rides: With just seven races left in the 2015 Sprint Cup season, #9-Sam Hornish Jr. and #55-David Ragan find themselves in similar predicaments: Looking to secure rides for 2016. Hornish, who took over Richard Petty Motorsports' #9 Ford this season after spending the past three years in the XFINITY Series, needs additional sponsorship to be back in the car next year. Ragan, who has been in Michael Waltrip's #55 Toyota since mid-May, is without a ride because MWR is closing its doors at season's end. With few, if any, full-time Sprint Cup Series rides available for 2016, both Hornish and Ragan have limited options and, at least theoretically, limited time to get deals in place. Both, however, remain optimistic that they will be racing -- although maybe not in NASCAR's top series -- next season.
"Some teams have reached out to me. I've reached out to a few teams. Ultimately I don't have anything in the works or coming together right now," Ragan told FOXSports.com on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "I'm trying to be as patient as I can just to see what happens. A lot of times things change that are unexpected with some of these top teams in the last months of the season. We've had guys get fired after Homestead before. Drivers have issues, different things happen, so I'm patiently waiting for the right opportunity." Ragan said he would entertain running an XFINITY Series car for JGR next year if such an opportunity arose. Ragan, likewise, indicated he would be open to returning to Roush Fenway Racing -- the organization where he began his Sprint Cup career in 2007 and competed through 2011. Ragan wouldn't even be opposed to joining a Camping World Truck Series team, provided that team is a frontrunner. No matter where he ultimately ends up in 2016, Ragan would like to have a deal in place by the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "I'm not going to be impatient and just jump on the first thing that comes around, but I want to be in the most competitive ride that I can be in the Sprint Cup Series, and if I can't find that, where I'm happy and it's a good fit, I'll look at some options in the XFINITY Series and even in the Truck Series," he said. What Ragan does not want to do is compete for a Sprint Cup Series team that starts and parks. "I'm still young," the second-generation driver said. "I'll be 30 in December, and I want to race something to have fun. I don't want to be out here just making laps earning a paycheck. That's not what it's all about. ... I want to be in the Cup Series, but I want to be in something that I can race hard, and have a chance to win a race."
Hornish, meanwhile, admitted that the sponsorship uncertainty makes his future at Richard Petty Motorsports extremely tenuous. "From my understanding of all of it, they're still looking for money to make the 9 car happen," said Hornish, who has just three top 10s and no top fives in 29 starts for RPM. "We feel like at times if we ran a little bit better that might be a little bit easier, but all that being said, it's got to be the right fit for everybody, too. There's a ton of rumors going on about what's going to happen. There's probably a lot more rumors than there are truths." A former Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time IndyCar champion, Hornish competed full time in Sprint Cup for Team Penske from 2008-2010. He then drove two partial and two full XFINITY seasons before making a return to Sprint Cup this season. A father of three children under the age of eight, Hornish admittedly enjoyed having a few more breaks in the schedule the past three years despite wanting to get back to Cup. "I'm in a pretty good position with everything outside (of racing)," Hornish said. "I've got a wife and three kids. I'm in a great spot where I can choose to be a little bit picky about what I do, what I want to do, what I don't want to do, so that's obviously great. This year has been fun, I've done a lot of great things with the family, and I've missed some things, too. So all in all, I feel l'll be OK regardless." But make no mistake about it: Hornish wants to remain in NASCAR, preferably with a Sprint Cup Series team. "I want to be here and I want to be running these cars, whether it's on the Cup side or the XFINITY side," he said. "I want to be in something that's capable of running up front and should be able to do well, and that's all that really matters to me. Thank God that I've had enough opportunities for good things to happen that I don't have to go and get into something I don't feel comfortable with." Unlike Ragan, Hornish isn't concerned about having his plans lined up by the end of this season. "Ninety-nine percent of the things I've done in my lifetime were kind of last minute, so there's been a few times where it's been taken care of well in advance, but all in all whatever I happen to be racing next year I'd like to have a suit that matches the car, you know what I mean?" Hornish said. "I don't want it to be a last-minute thing, but I feel like there's obviously not a ton of great opportunities at this point in time for anybody that would be at this stage of the game."(FoxSports)(10-10-2015)
Michael Waltrip to run 2016 Daytona 500; Talladega in Oct? #98?: Michael Waltrip still plans to run the 2016 Daytona 500. He just needs to figure out how he'll do it.
A two-time winner of the Daytona 500, Waltrip had announced in April that he would attempt to make his 29th start in the sport's biggest race with sponsorship from Maxwell House. But when Waltrip announced in August that Michael Waltrip Racing would shut down after this season, it created an obvious question of whether the deal would fall through. Waltrip, at an event Wednesday where Maxwell House gave away a free tank of gas and coffee to 250 people, said the deal is still on and he plans to put on the helmet to compete next February. He could field the car himself -- the process of shutting down MWR will take until April -- or bring the sponsorship to another team that fields Toyotas. "I'm going to Daytona in February with Maxwell House," said Waltrip, who retired from full-time racing after the 2009 season but still competes in select restrictor-plate events. "There will be some cars left over at MWR and I'm probably in line to get a good Toyota engine, being a partner with those guys from the beginning."(ESPN)
AND was sent an image of a #98 Maxwell House Toyota seen at Michael Waltrip Racing. Looks like Waltrip will team up with the #98 Premium Motorsports team to run at Talladega in October and/or the Daytona 500 in 2016. See an image of the car on the #98 Team Schemes page.(10-7-2015)
Special Aaron's scheme for Ragan at Chicago: David Ragan will drive a special #55 Aaron's Dream Machine this weekend at Chicagoland honoring Aaron's Partners of the Year-Beautyrest, Whirlpool, Samsung and HP. Ragan will join executives from those partners at a Chicago Fire soccer match Saturday night and they'll be his guests Sunday at the track (MWR), see image of the scheme on the #55 Team Schemes page.(9-18-2015)
Aaron's will not sponsor a team in 2016: Aaron's, which has been a long-time team sponsor of Michael Waltrip Racing, will not sponsor a NASCAR team next year, the company confirmed to THE DAILY. The Atlanta-based rent-to-own retailer's contract with MWR was up for renewal, but MWR is set to close shop following the '15 Sprint Cup Series season. Aaron's had been in talks in recent months with other teams about a possible new deal, according to sources, but the company wrote in a statement, "We have decided to take some time off from a team sponsorship for the 2016 season. The NASCAR fan base is an important audience for us and we have built substantial equity over the past 15 years. We are exploring creative ways to continue to participate in the sport in 2016 including media, brand relationships and track activation."(Sports Business Journal)(9-17-2015)
MWR Points for sale; RCR? Penske?: Before the fire sale begins at Michael Waltrip Racing, team owner Rob Kauffman has isolated a few assets that could bring a handsome price prior to the dissolution of the company at season's end. Among the coveted commodities remaining in the MWR inventory are the points from the #15 and #55 Toyotas. Two organizations that could be interested in obtaining those points are Richard Childress Racing for Ty Dillon and the Wood Brothers for Team Penske protege Ryan Blaney. Team owner Richard Childress said that the organization is still working on Dillon's schedule for next season but acknowledged,"Yeah, we're talking to some people about points in case we run him full-time next year. As of now, we're still in the making. We're still trying to find out the way to go."
Similarly, owner Roger Penske is contemplating Blaney's future. "We definitely want to work something out where we can run Blaney the whole season," Penske said. "Hopefully, a combination with the Woods or something here. We'll just have to see how the whole thing works out."(Motorsport)(9-11-2015)
Ragan racing with stitches this weekend: #55-David Ragan has a good excuse for leaving his left glove on this weekend - and no, it has nothing to do with emulating Michael Jackson. Ragan slashed his hand with a box cutter on Tuesday while trying to install a dryer vent at his house. "I left the glove on during practice yesterday because every time I took it off, the bandage came with it and irritated the cut," Ragan told motorsport.com on Saturday. "And it's not like we're sweating here or anything. As great as it is to have Darlington return to its original weekend date, I was fine with April." All kidding aside, Ragan required seven stitches to close the cut and added he was "glad my tetanus shots are up to date."(Motorsport)(9-6-2015)
Ragan not worrying about 2016: Like every race-car driver, David Ragan is working hard to place himself with a competitive team for next season. The problem is that the 29-year-old thought he had already done that when he decided to leave Ford and Front Row Motorsports after the Daytona 500 to substitute for the injured Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing -- and later replacing the ailing Brian Vickers at Michael Waltrip Racing. But yet again, Ragan isn't sure what he will be doing next season with the announcement that Waltrip will be closing his doors by the end of the season. "I think it makes my day a little busier," Ragan said of his job search. "But I don't think it adds stress and that's just how I am. I joke all the time that I wouldn't feel any stress at all if the world was coming to an end and I didn't have any balance left in my bank account. So yeah man, I'm focused on this year and I want to end it on a good note for Aaron's and (crew chief) Brian Pattie as well as Michael Waltrip and Rob Kaufmann. I'd love to win a race or sit on the pole and lead some laps -- end the season on a good note. But I'm also going to have to keep my ears open on what's available for next year." Ragan explained that he is in a bit of a holding pattern when it comes to making a decision just because he needs some other teams to announce their plans before seeing how it ultimately affects his options. "We've got to play out a few scenarios first because obviously the big teams are full and it takes a lot of resources in this garage to have a competitive car," Ragan said. "But that's my goal -- to be with a good program moving forward in any of the top three series so we can have fun and go for wins.(Autoweek)(9-6-2015)
MWR begins process of ceasing operations: More than 200 people will lose their jobs in Cornelius as Michael Waltrip Racing Management Co. winds down its operations. According to a letter sent to the N.C. Commerce Department, 217 employees will be laid off in stages between Nov. 1 and April 15. The company said it is liquidating its assets, which is expected to be completed by mid-April. Michael Waltrip Racing is ceasing operations at its facilities at 20310 Chartwell Center Drive and 19340 Liverpool Parkway, both in Cornelius, according to the letter. Companies that employ at least 100 workers are required to file a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) to the state's Commerce Department when they plan to lay off between 50-499 employees, if those workers make up at least one-third of their workforce. Charlotte businessman and race team owner Rob Kauffman said in August he was cutting his investment in Michael Waltrip Racing and closing the company amid poor results, both financially and on the racetrack. The organization hasn't won a race in more than two years. Heather Shaw, the company's director of human resources, could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts Wednesday.(Charlotte Observer)(9-3-2015)
Ragan would consider XFINITY or Truck ride for next season: #55-David Ragan said there are no regrets about leaving Front Row (where he won at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013) because he wasn't guaranteed sponsorship for a full season. "If it had been a full-time deal, then I would have signed up for that at the beginning of the year," he said. "I wouldn't have left. But at the time, I didn't know, and it allowed me to do something different." Ragan would like to remain in the Sprint Cup Series but said he would consider a competitive ride in the Xfinity or Camping World Truck series. "Where I'm at in my career, it's more about being competitive than just making a paycheck or being a Sprint Cup driver," said Ragan, who has two Cup wins and has driven full time in the series since 2007. "I don't want to be in a position where I'm 35th in qualifying, and you finish 30th every week. That's no fun. It's a way to make a living and stay involved, and it's better than the alternative of nothing, but I don't want to be in that position. "So I'll try really hard to try to find something competitive in one of the top three series where I feel like I can go out and win some races and race for a championship."(NBC Sports)(8-26-2015)
NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell addresses MWR situation: The landscape in NASCAR shifted last week when Michael Waltrip Racing announced that it would end full-time competition in the Sprint Cup Series following the 2015 season. MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman, the former investment banker who gave MWR an influx of finanical support in 2007, was at the forefront of the decision. On Monday, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell addressed the moves made by Kauffman and MWR that included Clint Bowyer being freed to pursue other deals for 2016 and Kauffman buying into Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in late July. "I think in Rob's case we're pleased that he believes in the sport and is willing to make a continued investment in NASCAR, which is a great time for us," O'Donnell said during his weekly interview with NASCAR.com. "As well as Clint Bowyer who is certainly a talented driver who will find a home with a top team. You never like to see anything happen with a race team like this in this case, but again we'll see some things we believe through the manufacturer's support where some other teams may become stronger through all this as well. So a lot still to play out. We're working closely with all our race teams right now to do everything we can to put everyone in an even better position as we head into the 2016 season."(NASCAR.com)(8-24-2015)
Kauffman says MWR will cease operations after 2015 season: Rob Kauffman, an amateur racer who is a highly successful businessman, said Friday he had enough of pouring his own money into Michael Waltrip Racing without seeing results and announced that MWR would cease operations after this season. Kauffman, who saved MWR from closing in 2007 by purchasing half the team from Waltrip, announced Wednesday that the team would not field Sprint Cup cars in 2016. "Michael Waltrip Racing wouldn't have existed through today without substantial and continued financial support from me," Kauffman said Friday before Sprint Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway. "From a business standpoint, that didn't make sense any longer. You can't have a top-10 budget and top-10 resources and not be in the top 10 for a sustained period of time. It's a performance-related business. It's all about performance. It's a great sport but a very difficult business model. From a business decision, it just made sense to not go forward with that organization, which is not commercially viable." MWR expanded from two cars to three in 2012 when it added Bowyer, but that lasted only two years after Bowyer and MWR were embroiled in a race-manipulation scandal at Richmond in the final regular-season 2013 race. "Certainly that was a pretty heavy body blow to our organization," Kauffman said. "It caused a big restructuring; 2014 was at some level a large reset year for everybody, also [on the] financial [side]. As we got into the late spring in 2015, from a performance standpoint, the company wasn't where it needed to be, and that kind of forced some decisions and thought processes over the summer." Kauffman wouldn't say whether a three-car organization would have produced better results. "My crystal ball, unfortunately, is not clear," Kauffman said. "In a parallel universe, I'm not sure what would have happened."(ESPN)(8-21-2015)
Statement from Toyota on Michael Waltrip Racing Announcement: "We want to thank everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing for a great partnership and for being part of our 'freshman class'- one of the race teams that helped us enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series nine years ago. Clint Bowyer has been a valuable member of the Toyota Racing family for the past four years, and we will continue to support him, and the rest of the MWR team through the end of the 2015 season. We wish everyone associated with the team the best of luck in the future and we look forward to closing out the season focused on competing for a championship." ~Ed Laukes, Vice President marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A.(Toyota Racing)(8-20-2015)
Statement from Toyota on Michael Waltrip Racing Announcement: "We want to thank everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing for a great partnership and for being part of our 'freshman class'- one of the race teams that helped us enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series nine years ago. Clint Bowyer has been a valuable member of the Toyota Racing family for the past four years, and we will continue to support him, and the rest of the MWR team through the end of the 2015 season. We wish everyone associated with the team the best of luck in the future and we look forward to closing out the season focused on competing for a championship." ~Ed Laukes, Vice President marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A.(Toyota Racing)(8-20-2015)
Ragan comments on MWR announcement: #55-David Ragan Statement on Michael Waltrip Racing Announcement to Not Field Full-Time Team in 2016. "I am grateful for the opportunity that Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota have provided me this year. I have worked hard to be a good teammate and spokesperson for all of our sponsors, and as a team we have collectively improved our performance from the beginning of the season. I look forward to staying focused and trying to win a race this season for Aaron's and everyone at MWR. Going forward I will be working hard to secure a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series. At 29 years old, I feel my best years are in front of me."(Breaking Limits)(8-20-2015)
Ragan to run throwback scheme at Darlington that honors his Dad: David Ragan's Aaron's Dream Machine will carry a familiar paint scheme when it races in the Southern 500 at Darlington. The #55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota will sport a paint scheme similar to cars driven by David's father Ken Ragan when he drove in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "My Dad and guys like my Dad put a lot of heart and soul in this sport back in the 1970s and 80s and this is my way of honoring the guys that built what all of us enjoy today," said Ragan. "I want to thank Aaron's for allowing us to recognize my Dad and all the racers from that era at Darlington this year." Ken Ragan, 64, raced in 50 Sprint Cup races from 1983-90 driving mostly for his brother Marvin. His career included five starts at Darlington Raceway. His son's car will carry the red and white paint scheme similar to the scheme Ken drove in 1987. "I was too young to really ever remember watching Dad race on the track," said 29-year-old David. "But he's been a big part of my career and I know he has a lot of friends in the garage who will remember seeing him in this car." A few years ago, David built a replica race car and presented it to Ken as a present. That car is on display in 2015 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, GA. The Ragans, along with the show car David presented to Ken, will visit the Aaron's store, 111 Pamplico Hwy, in Florence at 4 p.m. on Saturday Sept. 5 then join in the Southern 500 parade in Darlington that night.(MWR), see an image of the car on the #55 Team Schemes page.(8-20-2015)
Aaron's comments on MWR announcement: Aaron's, a long-time sponsor of Michael Waltrip Racing, issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon in reaction of the news earlier in the day that MWR will not field a Sprint Cup team in 2016. "We've had a great partnership with Michael Waltrip Racing for the past 15 years and they are like family to us. We want to thank the MWR family for their hard work, passion and competitive spirit. They have played an important role in helping us build the Aaron's brand over the years. NASCAR will be an important part of our future and we are evaluating options for 2016 and beyond. However, our first priority is on making the rest of the season a great one!"(NBC Sports)(8-20-2015)
Michael Waltrip Addresses MWR News: On FOX Sports 1's NASCAR Ccamping World Truck Series practice telecast Wednesday morning, Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) co-owner Michael Waltrip addressed the morning's news that MWR and #15-Clint Bowyer have mutually agreed to separate at the conclusion of the 2015 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES season and that the organization no longer will field full-time cars in 2016. Waltrip, on the air Wednesday in his role as a FOX NASCAR analyst, shared his thoughts with play-by-play announcer Adam Alexander and analyst Phil Parsons. Below is a transcript from the exchange:
Alexander: What more can you tell us as this news is just breaking this morning?
Waltrip: "Well, it's a sad day for MWR obviously. I love the culture we've built there. Our sponsors - they're not sponsors; they're partners. And our employees are our teammates. We just have the perfect workplace, and unfortunately in 2016, we're not going to be racing there. My hope is somebody wants to have a really nice shop full of really cool people that work together well and want to have a race team and we can provide that for them. Rob is going to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing going forward. Rob and I are best buddies. He's done an amazing job of stabilizing MWR in the beginning and then we raced for a championship -- finished second in 2012. So, my heart goes out to all the employees, all the people that worked at MWR. Hopefully, somebody wants to have a team and they can have it right there at our place."
Parsons: A lot of people may say MWR started in 2007. MWR really started behind your house in the garage back in the '90s. How hard is that for you after being in this as an owner for around 20 years now?
Waltrip: "Our first race was here (Bristol Motor Speedway) in 1994 with Jeff Green. We towed in here with Rodney Silver, a flatbed trailer, unloaded our car and ran third that day. And won Nationwide/XFINITY races behind our house and competed in the Cup Series. We made the Daytona 500 with Kenny Wallace in a car we built in Sherrills Ford (N.C.) behind my house. That grew to Michael Waltrip Racing and we raced for a championship, like I said, Chase berths, race wins. I'm thankful. I'm happy. It's a great run that we've had. We'll just see what's next."(FOX)(8-19-2015)
MWR/Bowyer to split at end of 2015; no full-time cars in 2016: Michael Waltrip Racing and Clint Bowyer have mutually agreed to separate at the conclusion of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Bowyer, currently 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase standings, will be free to pursue other career options in 2016 and beyond. MWR will continue to field the #15 and #55 Toyotas for the remainder of the 2015 season. Team co-owner Rob Kauffman said MWR will not field a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup entry in 2016.
ROB KAUFFMAN: "MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season. This decision was made after weighing several different options and scenarios. I felt it was important to make an announcement as soon as we had clarity, so that is what we are doing today. I want to thank all of our staff, partners, sponsors and fans for all their effort and support over the years. Clint Bowyer has done a lot for MWR since joining us in 2012 and we appreciate the energy and effort he has given the organization. After many discussions, Clint and I agreed we would go our separate ways at the end of the season and I wish him well in whatever direction he pursues."
CLINT BOWYER: "I want to thank Michael, Rob and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing that made these past four years special. After extensive discussions with Rob and MWR, we came to the point that we mutually agreed our paths in the future just didn't align but I think we all agreed on the next steps in a very professional manner. I am looking forward to what future opportunities may come but for now we have a championship to pursue in 2015 and we owe it to every one of our sponsors, partners, employees and fans to deliver on and off the track."
MICHAEL WALTRIP: "Rob joined MWR in 2007 and has helped give us the resources to build a competitive race team, and in 2012, Clint Bowyer took us to the doorstep of a championship. From where MWR started behind my house in Sherrill's Ford to winning Sprint Cup races, poles and earning Chase berths, I am proud of what we accomplished. My family has been a part of NASCAR for almost five decades and I plan on being a part of it for years to come. I would not have had the opportunity to start this journey without so many great partners, sponsors and employees and I want to thank each of them for making Michael Waltrip Racing a reality."(MWR)(8-19-2015)
Sabates says no deal with Kaufman yet: When Rob Kauffman announced at the beginning of August he had purchased an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, many in the NASCAR community wondered what it meant for the future. Kauffman is also a co-owner in Michael Waltrip Racing, but it was made clear the two organizations would operate separately throughout the rest of the year. A source close to the situation indicated this weekend at Michigan International Speedway the deal between Kauffman and the Ganassi organization is far from done, something Felix Sabates confirmed to FOXSports.com Sunday morning. "Basically we're talking. We don't have anything concrete," said Sabates. "We'd like to do something with (Kauffman), because I think he can add a lot to our team. We don't have anything signed." With MWR running Toyotas and Ganassi running Chevrolets, Kauffman has a unique predicament on his hands. The source indicated MWR has already been cut off by Toyota in all areas, with the exception of providing motors. Sabates could not speak to how Kauffman will handle the manufacturer situation, but said believes Kauffman eventually will have a decision to make. "I don't think it will work for him to have both (Chevrolet and Toyota teams), but you never know," he said. Sabates said expanding to a three-car organization has no bearing on the on-going discussions with Kauffman, but the overall goal is to expand the team. "Our goal is to expand either next year or the following year," he said.(Fox Sports)(8-17-2015)
Ragan wants to return to MWR, but will keep options open: The past week has been a tumultuous one for Michael Waltrip Racing, as news broke the team's co-owner Rob Kauffman purchased an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. There are more unknowns than anything surrounding the deal, one that continues to unfold behind the scenes between team owners, sponsors and manufacturers. Yet for the team's drivers, crew members and employees, the saga surrounding the future of MWR hits very close to home. David Ragan, driver of the #55 Aaron's Toyota for MWR, called the news of Kauffman's buy-in at Ganassi "a small distraction" for the team during last weekend's event at Pocono Raceway. This is not the first time Ragan has gone through the rigors of 'Silly Season' and he says it is something "you get accustomed to" in NASCAR.
With Felix Sabates saying in a statement in which he called their organization "a three-car team," there is speculation at least one of the MWR cars could move over to Ganassi. If that is the case, Ragan believes it will be difficult for MWR to continue in a competitive form as a single-car organization. "I don't think any team can survive as a single-car operation today," he said. "You can't consider Furniture Row a single-car operation. That just isn't real. Wood Brothers Racing isn't a single-car operation. Any single-car team they have some affiliation. You can certainly be a single-car team and hang in there in this sport and just maintain mediocrity. If you're going to be a winner or going to be a Chase contending team you're going to have to have some affiliating with a larger team, you've got to have some manufacturer support and you've got to have an owner that's going to bankroll $20 to $30 million a year in order to go race. ... Whatever goes forward with Rob and Michael, we'll have to be associated with a larger team."
With so many unknowns facing MWR, Ragan understands that when it comes down to it, he has to do what is best for his career and future in the sport. "One thing I learned a long time ago is that it's never too early to talk about other opportunities in the garage," he said. "I think there are some guys that show up for the Daytona 500 one year that are already trying to figure out what they're going to do for the next. In a sport where we don't have any long-term guaranteed contracts and any unions that guarantee where you're going to be at five years down the road, you're always looking at options moving forward." However, for the time being Ragan feels at home at MWR and believes the team is making strides and beginning to improve their overall performance. "I like the guys at MWR," he said. "I've enjoyed working with Aaron's and I think Brian Pattie is one of the smartest crew chiefs that I've worked with. We've gotten our race cars better over the last couple of months. We've still got a long way to go, but I'd love to be back with these guys next year in whatever capacity or whatever race shop these cars are raced out of, but that's not all my decision. I just try to fit in as best I can and do the best job that I can and hopefully they keep me in the loop -- whether it's good or bad information."(Fox Sports)(8-7-2015)
Kaufmann talks to the press: A brief statement by Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman raised more questions than it provided answers about the future of MWR. Earlier in the week, a statement released by MWR indicated Kaufmann was buying into Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, fueling speculation that driver Clint Bowyer and sponsor 5-Hour Energy would move to Ganassi. Standing behind the hauler of the #55 MWR Toyota driven by David Ragan, however, Kauffman gave the impression that co-owner Michael Waltrip was somehow involved in the process and that there might be synergy between the two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organizations. "First and foremost, the thing that's important to realize is that Michael Waltrip and I co-own Michael Waltrip Racing together," Kauffman said. "We're business partners and great personal friends, so any idea that I'm leaving or taking anything is actually misplaced. What we're actually doing is integrating the businesses, trying to get the most competitive product on track, do the best for all of our partners-that's really our focus. It's a competitive business, as everybody knows. It's competitive on track as well as off track." Kauffman indicated there are many details still to be determined. "In terms of our plans, whether we have three cars, four cars, two roofs, one roof-that's all yet to be determined, and how we do in the 2015 season will help determine whether that happens," Kauffman said. "If we do a great job, that'll be one outcome. If we do a less great job, probably another." Kauffman stepped into the hauler without taking questions from the throng of reporters clustered outside.(NASCAR Wire Service)(8-2-2015)
Clint Bowyer Statement: #15-Clint Bowyer made a statement Friday at Pocono and answered a question about MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman purchasing part of Chip Ganassi Racing:
Bowyer Statement: "This isn't what any of you guys want. You need to bear with us. There's obviously some change on the horizon. I got the same release you guys did. We've got a new sponsor on the car this weekend. It's a big deal for us. We've been working on this a long time. Got a lot of momentum going into this - we're 20 points out of the Chase and we've got to finish this year strong. Like I said, there's a lot of work to be done in the future and we're all working on it and when I have something to tell you guys you all know me and I'll tell you."
Q) Did you find about the news from a statement?
Bowyer: "No, I said you read the statement that I did. There's obviously change on the horizon and we're going to have to work on the future and see what that looks like, but for right now we're focused on 2015, getting Maxwell House in victory lane this weekend and getting in this Chase. We're close and this can happen and these guys got to stay focused, I've got to stay focused and if we do our jobs we can get in this Chase and compete for a championship."(Toyota Racing)(7-31-2015)
Statements from MWR, CGR, Sabates, Waltrip & Toyota:
Statement from Michael Waltrip Racing: "Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, has agreed to buy an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The companies will continue to operate separately and compete against each other for the remainder of the 2015 season. They are also currently evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible to provide an excellent platform for their partners and employees for the 2016 season and beyond. More details will follow in due course".(MWR)
Statement from Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates "We confirm that Rob Kauffman has agreed to acquire an interest in the team. Further discussions regarding the 2016 season and beyond are underway."(CGR)
Felix Sabates Statement to SXM NASCAR "I'm not going anywhere. This is about making our team stronger, a three car team is stronger than a two car. But the rumors that Rob is buying me out are not true, my last race will be five years from September 9th. I will be 75 years old then and will be done."(SXM NASCAR)
Statement from Michael Waltrip: "My focus is on 2015 and fulfilling the commitment we have made to our partners and Toyota which is placing our teams in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. There are a lot of details yet to be sorted regarding 2016. I will work closely with Rob Kauffman and our sponsors to formulate the best way forward."(MWR)(7-30-2015)
Statement from Toyota on Rob Kauffman Announcement: "We've spoken with Rob Kauffman and understand he has agreed to buy an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Rob has not disclosed the plans for Michael Waltrip Racing past the 2015 racing season. Toyota and TRD remain focused on winning races and championships with our team partners this year." ~Ed Laukes, Vice President marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS)(7-31-2015)
Ragan unsure of future at MWR: David Ragan, 10 starts into his role as driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing #55 Aaron's Toyota, said he's yet to speak with MWR officials, or anyone else, about his future role with the organization. "I haven't talked about next year with anybody for anything," Ragan said before the start of an open test on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "In regards to some of the rumors that are out there, I've read just like everybody else has online, but all I can do is the best I can do week in and week out and hopefully everything will take care of themselves." Aaron's, a long-time MWR sponsor and currently the primary sponsor for the #55 entry, has yet to announce its plans beyond the 2015 season. Ragan said he would like to remain at MWR going forward if that is an option. "I like everyone at MWR and the Aaron's folks have been great to work with," he said. "We've got a good thing going ... hopefully we can keep it going. That'd be fun."(NASCAR.com)(7-30-2015)
MWR to Chevy? Ragan to return? What about Vickers? UPDATE 3 denied?: What in the world will Toyota Racing's Sprint Cup program look like next year? One persistent, hot rumor features a manufacturer swap of sorts, with Rob Kauffman, currently the principal owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, taking his racing interests and partnering with a Chevy team. Furniture Row Racing is currently eyeing the Toyota camp with an ardor that has progressed well beyond flirtation.
Two potential partnerships mentioned for Kauffman are Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Childress Racing. Ganassi absorbed Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Martin Truex Jr. into the fold back in 2009. RCR expressed interest in acquiring a minority partner after Chartwell Investments expressed a desire to sell its stake in the company in 2012. Kauffman did not offer a definitive reply when asked about a possible realignment.
Furniture Row's Barney Visser has been more forthcoming. The Denver, Colorado-based team owner hopes to make a manufacturer decision in the next few weeks to accommodate a possible restructuring with Toyota for next year.
Although FRR currently receives no financial support from Chevrolet, the team's move could open the door for Kauffman to enter into a technical alliance with RCR, with whom the #78 currently shares data. However, sources told Motorsport.com that Ganassi appears to be the frontrunner for Kauffman's capital at this time.
Michael Waltrip Racing's driver lineup likely hinges on Aaron's continued support with the #55 team. Both Kauffman and Clint Bowyer, who is in the first year of a three-year contract, are high on driver David Ragan. Aaron's has been a sponsor of Michael Waltrip's since 2000 but has yet to renew with MWR. A decision on the company's involvement could come in the next six to eight weeks.
Last week Brian Vickers expressed interest in returning to racing. Given the unpredictability of Vickers situation, Kauffman isn't sure whether they could accommodate the driver. "...The most important thing right now is his health. I haven't really had a conversation with him regarding coming back to racing and the like. It's a big medical issue that I haven't been involved with up until now.," Kauffman said. "He loves racing, so I'm sure he does (want to return), but I think it would be a challenge to try and figure something out--but I would never say never."(Motorsport)(7-23-2015)
UPDATE: David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Tuesday that the manufacturer has its sights set on more teams making the 2015 Chase while also looking ahead to its 2016 lineup. Michael Waltrip Racing with Clint Bowyer's #15 team and David Ragan's #55 are the manufacturer's two highest-ranked drivers without wins, sitting 15th and 24th respectively in the standings. Based on points, the #15 driver is currently in the provisional Chase Grid, but if Busch makes the top 30, Bowyer will be bounced without a win. As the manufacturer attempts to add those MWR teams to this year's Chase, Wilson wasn't certain about the organization's future with Toyota.
"We are talking to a number of organizations about the future, and certainly in the near-term, we're not sure what Michael Waltrip Racing is going to do," Wilson said. "They've yet to announce their plans. Certainly we have had a rich history in the sport together. We got our butts kicked together in 2007, our first year, and you forge very close and personal relationships when you have those trials together. Whatever they decide to do, we certainly wish nothing but the best for them."
Wilson has acknowledged discussions with #78 Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser about the Denver-based team's potential manufacturer move from Chevrolet to Toyota. But the TRD president suggested that Furniture Row, like Toyota itself, was focused on its 2015 Chase efforts. "Regarding Furniture Row Racing, again they haven't announced their plans for next year certainly," Wilson said. "I imagine they're focusing on getting Martin Truex well-positioned in the Chase as well and competitive."(NASCAR.com)(7-29-2015)
UPDATE 2: Michael Waltrip Racing principal Owner Rob Kauffman is close to purchasing Felix Sabates' stake in Chip Ganassi Racing, according to multiple industry sources, which would cause Kauffman to drop his affiliation with MWR if the sale is completed. Kauffman, who has been with MWR for eight years, would take on Sabates' minority stake in the team, while CGR principal Owner Chip Ganassi would continue to retain majority control, according to sources. It is unclear if Sabates will hold onto a small stake to retain his affiliation with the team or if he will be dropping the affiliation entirely.
Sources said that Kauffman would take one of the two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entries at MWR - the #15 Toyota driven by Clint Bowyer - with him to CGR. Because MWR's sponsors, including 5-Hour Energy, Aaron's, Peak, AAA and Maxwell House, have yet to determine their next move, it is unclear whether the operation, which also has the #55 currently driven by David Ragan, would form an alliance or merge with another team, or pursue some other option. CGR execs had no comment; MWR did not respond to e-mails by presstime.
Ganassi Racing currently has two Sprint Cup entries - the #1 McDonald's / Cessna Chevy driven by Jamie McMurray and the #42 Target Chevy driven by Kyle Larson. The combined three-car entity will remain with Chevrolet, which is the current supplier to CGR in the Sprint Cup Series. Kauffman also is chair of the Race Team Alliance, which was founded last year. Whether his role with the RTA will be affected is unclear.(Sports Business Daily)(7-29-2015)
UPDATE 3: Felix Sabates, part owner in Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR operation, disputed a published report Wednesday by Sports Business Daily claiming Rob Kauffman was close to purchasing Sabates' stake in the team. "I am not going anywhere," Sabates said. "I am having too much fun. Plus, I have unfinished business. I need to sit at the head table in Las Vegas."(Motorsport)(7-30-2015)
#55 crewman and Cassill to run in Ironman race in Canada: #55 Michael Waltrip crewman and gym strength trainer Blake Haugland heads to Quebec Canada to compete in another Ironman Competition on his off week from his rear tire carrier position on the #55 Toyota. This is the first race of 2015 Haugland will be racing with Smile Train's Team Empower. The IRONMAN Mont Tremblant 70.3 will be held June 21st in Mont Tremblant Canada. Smile Train is an international children's charity with a sustainable approach to a single, solvable problem: cleft lip and palate. Haugland has a goal to raise $10,000 as a team and $2.500 individually by race day with a 2nd goal in mind of raising enough money to provide surgery for 70 children to match the 70 mile race.
AND Landon Cassill, driver of the #40 Chevy in Sprint Cup Series, will also run the IRONMAN Mont Tremblant 70.3.(6-20-2015)
Ragan hopes for full-time ride in 2016: #55-David Ragan is with his third team ... this season. Injury and illness to other drivers have taken Ragan from Front Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing. On Wednesday, Ragan and his MWR team were among those at Richmond International Raceway for a tire test. Ragan was gracious enough to hold a news conference after his morning practice session. "I know where you're going," he said. "It's been a busy year. It's so nice when you can get with one team and one group and build a little chemistry and get to understand everything. I'm glad it unfolded like that. I'm very happy at Michael Waltrip Racing." Ragan, no doubt, would be happy anywhere as long as it involved a ride on the Sprint Cup circuit. Such employment is difficult to find. Ragan has been fortunate this season to be with two well-funded teams in JGR and MWR. His future, however, is far from certain. He's the replacement driver for Brian Vickers, who is out because of issues with blood clots. Vickers wants to return. His doctors, and NASCAR, will decide if that's possible and even advisable. As other spots become available, Ragan must compete with drivers on the rise whose potential seems impressive. Ragan has driven for more teams this season than he did in his previous eight full seasons in NASCAR. He began his career with #6-Roush Fenway Racing in 2007 and moved to #34-Furniture Row in 2012-14. Now he's a Sprint Cup vagabond, a young man in demand as a replacement driver who wants a full-time ride to call his own. "When you're consistently with the same team, same manufacturer, same group, you get to know one another easily," Ragan said. "You spend time on and off the racetrack together. Some things are second nature. When you're with a new group of guys, it forces me to go into detail a little more about the race car. It makes my job a little more difficult because you try to be more precise in describing the car, and even race strategy, things you take for granted once you've worked with someone for several months or years. I think I'm a better driver because of it. I've had to study and work hard and devote more time to my racing program. It's been good. I've enjoyed it. I feel like I'm a smarter driver today than I was six months ago." Whether that means Ragan will be in a more stable situation six months from now is another question.(Roanoke Times)(6-19-2015)
Michael Waltrip Racing swaps crew chiefs: Michael Waltrip Racing announced personnel changes to its two-car NASCAR Sprint Cup operation, which include the reassignment of its crew chiefs. Effective immediately, Brian Pattie will become the crew chief for the #55 Toyota Camry driven by David Ragan. Billy Scott will become the crew chief for the #15 Toyota Camry driven by Clint Bowyer. Pattie has been the crew chief for the #15 with Bowyer since the team was established in 2012. He has scored three wins with the team, and finished second in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup and seventh in 2013. Scott has been the crew chief of the #55 since August 2013, and previously served under Rodney Childers as that team's lead engineer. Additional changes include a reorganization of lead, secondary and support engineers for each team. Car chiefs, road mechanics and pit crews will remain with their originally assigned teams. "Our goal is to best position the 15 and 55 teams for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup," said co-owner Rob Kauffman. "MWR has an enormous amount of bright, motivated and quality people working to solve the endless challenges inherent to racing. We have won poles and races, we have made the Chase and competed for a championship with this core group of personnel. We just felt it was time to shake things up a bit to try and spark fresh ideas and more consistent results. There are 12 races left before the 2015 Chase field is set and we plan to be a part of it."(Michael Waltrip Racing)(6-9-2015)
Michael Waltrip Racing to hold Fan Fest on May 20th: Michael Waltrip Racing will hold its annual Fan Fest at its Cornelius, N.C. race shop on Wed. May 20, 11:00 am - 3:00 pm. Fans may tour the shop, get autographs from MWR drivers, shop in the team store, watch live pit practice, enjoy sponsor displays and check out muscle cars provided by RK Motors. MWR will provide food and music for all the race fans. Admission is free and kids are welcome. "We have had Fan Fest every year since this shop opened and the race fans love it," said Waltrip. "I enjoy meeting all of our race fans and talking racing. We'll give you access to a NASCAR Sprint Cup race shop that few folks ever get to enjoy." Fans will be allowed access to the shop floor Wednesday for an up-close view of the team's Toyotas as it prepares for the racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Legendary gas man Danny "Chocolate" Myers and veteran broadcaster Jim Noble will bring their Sirius-XM Radio show "Tradin Paint" to the open house broadcasting from MWR. MWR is at 20310 Chartwell Center Drive off exit 28 on I-77 in Cornelius, N.C. about 15 miles north of Charlotte, N.C. The race shop is open to the public throughout the year. Driver Autograph Times:
Michael Waltrip - 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
David Ragan - 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Clint Bowyer - 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.(MWR)(5-12-2015)
Nickelodeon announces driver lineup for SpongeBob SquarePants 400 weekend: Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants will take over Kansas Speedway, for the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 weekend, May 8-9. The world's most famous sponge and his Bikini Bottom friends will take an adventurous ride on the cars of four NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, all vying to win the coveted SpongeBob SquarePants 400 trophy. The SpongeBob SquarePants 400 will feature an all-star NASCAR Sprint Cup lineup including:
Greg Biffle, driving the #16 Cheez-It/ Patrick Star Ford Fusion
Michael McDowell, driving the #95 WRL/Larry the Lobster Ford Fusion
Casey Mears, driving the #13 Squidward Tentacles Chevrolet SS
David Ragan, driving the #55 Aarons/SpongeBob SquarePants Toyota Camry
NASCAR driver Ben Kennedy will join in on the fun when he takes out his #11 Local Motors/ SpongeBob SquarePants Toyota Tundra for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway on Friday, May 8. Additionally, NASCAR XFINITY Series star Bubba Wallace will pilot the #6 SpongeBob SquarePants Ford Mustang for the Winn-Dixie XFINITY Series race on Saturday, May 2. His Ford machine will feature SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends Patrick, SquidWard, Mr. Krabs and Sandy Cheeks.
"It's really fun to be part of the Nickelodeon lineup for the Kansas race and get to feature Patrick Star and Cheez-It on our No. 16 Ford," said Biffle, who boasts a pair of victories on the 1.5-mile oval at Kansas. "Nickelodeon does a lot to bring sports to kids, which is something that is important and I'm glad to be a part of it. Kansas is a good track for us and Saturday night races are always exciting. Hopefully we can get another Kansas win."
Also at the speedway, attendees will be able to enjoy some pre-Mother's Day fun in the Nickelodeon Kids Zone, which will be located in the Kansas Speedway Fan Zone. The area will feature appearances from the SpongeBob SquarePants costumed characters, a SpongeBob SquarePants photo station and more.
On Wednesday, May 13, Nickelodeon will air episodes of Hammer Down, a docu-series produced by NASCAR Productions, in a special racing-themed night during the NickSportsprogramming block on Nicktoons. Hammer Down is an original, four-episode series featuring four of NASCAR's rising stars--Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Kenzie Ruston-that give fans an all-access pass into the young athletes' lives as they aspire to become elite NASCAR drivers, while also enjoying time with friends and coming of age as young adults. The NickSports programming block airs every Wednesday, from 9:00-11:00 pm (ET/PT).(Nickelodeon/VMG)(5-1-2015)
Moffitt returns to the #34 at Kansas: NASCAR's latest round of musical chairs left Brett Moffitt without a ride after the engines shut down Sunday in Richmond. But the Grimes [Iowa] native is prepared to get back in the game next weekend when they're fired up again in Kansas. Moffitt confirmed Tuesday in a text message that he'll be behind the wheel of the Front Row Motorsports #34 Ford for the May 9 Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. It'll be his second stint this season in the ride that was originally supposed to belong to David Ragan, who will take over the #55 next week after piloting the #18 Joe Gibbs Toyota for nine races in place of injured Kyle Busch. The latest flurry of changes came after Joe Gibbs Racing opted to put 18-year-old Erik Jones in the #18 for his first Cup start at Kansas. It's unclear who will drive the #34 after next weekend's race. Front Row Motorsports has not announced its driver lineup beyond this weekend's race at Talladega.(Des Moines Register)(4-29-2015)
Ragan in the #55 rest of the year, starting at Kansas: Michael Waltrip Racing announced that David Ragan will drive the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine for the remainder of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, beginning May 9 at Kansas Speedway. Brian Vickers had planned to race the Toyota fulltime in 2015, but heart surgery in December forced the Thomasville, N.C., native to miss the first two races of the season. Vickers returned at Las Vegas on March 7, but was sidelined two weeks later by recurring blood clots in his lungs. No timetable has been set for his return.
"Life has thrown a lot at MWR the first part of this racing season, but our team has stood tall and worked through it," said Michael Waltrip. "Our original plans for the #55 team have been challenged since December and we felt it was important for our employees and our sponsors to solidify the remainder of the 2015 season. The opportunity to bring David Ragan into the team is incredible for a number of reasons. He will bring experience, consistency and a lot of confidence based on how he has been running with our Toyota teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. He also puts the #55 team and Aaron's right back into the Chase for the Sprint Cup contention, which is a very positive turn of events for that team. There is absolutely no question about Brian Vickers' ability, but there remains a question of his availability. We are going to remain very close with Brian while he works on his plan to return. We have told him that MWR is here when he has a clear picture about what the future holds, but we don't need to add any timeline pressures. He is working with a lot of medical advisors and once he has established his plan, we will sit down and discuss next steps. I'm really proud of the incredible job Brett Moffitt has done for us in the 55. He has been a big part of this organization for the last couple of years and he will continue in that role. With the limited number of starts Brett has in this industry, he has proven that he has the talent to be a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and we are still committed to helping him get that opportunity."(MWR)
Front Row Statement: "We are grateful to David Ragan for his contributions to the growth of Front Row Motorsports and his commitment to our partners over the past three years. He led us on our first trip to Victory Lane, and that's a moment we'll never forget. We wish him the best with his new team. As previously announced, Chris Buescher will be the driver of the #34 at Talladega this weekend. We are working on finalizing the driver line-up for races to follow and will announce those plans soon."(Front Row Motorsports)(4-28-2015)
Michael Waltrip in the #55 at Talladega; then Ragan UPDATES: Two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip will drive the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3. Waltrip, founder and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, replaces 22-year-old Brett Moffitt who has driven MWR's #55 since the March 22nd race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. "Talladega is a place where I know we will be very competitive," said Waltrip who owns four restrictor plate victories including a Talladega win in the fall of 2003. "This will be my 58th Sprint Cup start at Talladega so believe me when I tell you Talladega is some of the best racing in the world and I'm glad I'll get to be part of it again in the Aaron's Dream Machine." The May 3 and Oct. 25 Talladega races are the only remaining races Waltrip is scheduled to drive this season.(Michael Waltrip Racing)(4-23-2015)
UPDATE: The team is believed to be trying to sign David Ragan to drive the #55 beginning next month at Kansas. Ragan is currently the replacement driver for Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing, but JGR is leaning toward putting 18-year-old development driver Erik Jones in the car until Busch returns. That would free Ragan, who has subbed for Busch since the second week of the season. Waltrip wasn't prepared Thursday to discuss anything beyond next week at Talladega. "We're making plans now and we wanted a more long-term solution for the situation by this point, but we just haven't been able to put all the pieces together yet," he said. He also said it's unclear when - or if - Vickers will be back. "I can't answer that," Waltrip said of Vickers, who is in a contract year with the team. "He certainly wants to be back, but he's on thinners. Until he comes up with a long-term solution to that, that challenges us in answering if he'll be back."(Associated Press)(4-24-2015)
UPDATE 2: David Ragan, who entered the season planning to run with Front Row Motorsports, is expected to move to Michael Waltrip Racing's #55 Toyota beginning with the May 9 race at Kansas Speedway, multiple sources confirmed to the Observer on Friday. He would replace rookie Brett Moffitt in the #55, who has been filling in most of the team's races since the team's regular driver, Brian Vickers, was sidelined once again with blood clots. Ragan would remain with the team for the rest of the 2015 season, sources said. Saturday's race is expected to be the last for Moffitt with MWR in the Cup series, but the organization remains committed to obtaining sponsorship in order to run him in a third team and he remains under contract with MWR. An official announcement is expected sometime next week, sources said. Ragan's move will require another fill-in driver for JGR in the #18 as Busch is not yet set to return to competition. Sources said JGR will move Xfinity and Truck series driver Erik Jones into the #18 beginning with the Kansas race. An official with Joe Gibbs Racing said "nothing has been confirmed" thus far about any changes to their driver lineup. With Ragan moving to the #55 for the remainder of the season, Front Row Motorsports will need to find a more permanent replacement for Ragan in its #34 Ford. Roush Fenway Racing has been loaning Xfinity driver Chris Buescher to the team when the schedule doesn't disrupt his run for Xfinity Series championship. That arrangement could well continue, with other drivers used when Buscher's schedule doesn't allow double-duty, sources said. A FRM spokesman said at this time, the organization was still expecting Ragan to return to the team whenever his tenure at JGR is completed.(Charlotte Observer)(4-24-2015)
UPDATE 3: If the deal is finalized, Vickers, who announced in March that he would have to miss at least three months while he takes blood thinners to treat blood clots that had developed in his lungs, would be left to find another ride if he is able to return this season, [a] source said. That could include the possibility of MWR fielding a third car, pending sponsorship, after Vickers is ready to return.(ESPN.com)
AND Asked about reports that he would be moving to MWR: "I know I'm going to be in the 18 car for a little while," Ragan said. "This week and Talladega are obviously two very important weeks we're looking forward to. I'm focused on that and I just don't really have any comment.")USA Today)(4-25-2015)
Gibbs says Jones is "ready to go" to Cup; MWR an option?: With Kyle Busch's return date still undetermined from a broken right leg and broken left foot suffered in a crash in February, Joe Gibbs has talked about putting Erik Jones in Busch's Cup car when he feels it's the right time. Jones' performance in outlasting Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the victory Friday no doubt is encouraging Gibbs to make "the right time" sooner than later, as Jones won in just his ninth Xfinity start. "There's no question that at some point very quick he's going to be in a Cup car some," Gibbs said. "We kind of have a little bit of a strategy there that we've talked about. He's ready to go at any time." Jones is driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports full time in the Camping World Truck Series while also driving as many Xfinity races as possible for JGR that don't conflict with his trucks schedule. Gibbs doesn't have any room to expand his Cup program, as he has the current maximum of four teams and all his drivers are signed through at least 2016. He can run a fifth car for up to seven races for a development driver or loan him to another Cup team. "We know that Erik is on the fast track," Gibbs said. "It's just a matter of when."(ESPN.com)(4-12-2015)
AND If Joe Gibbs Racing cannot find a Sprint Cup ride for Erik Jones, fellow Toyota team owner Rob Kauffman says Michael Waltrip Racing might have a Camry for the 18-year-old phenom. "There are a lot of moving parts, but we would love to figure something out," Kauffman told Motorsports.com prior to Saturday's Duck Commander 500. Kauffman acknowledged he went to Victory Lane last night during Jones' celebration to congratulate Coach Gibbs and Dave Wilson, President and General Manager, Toyota Racing Development. "We have some open seats, potentially. We'd love to expand when it makes sense." Currently MWR runs two teams - the #15 with veteran Clint Bowyer, who is in the first year of the three-year contract and the #55 with Moffitt, who is filling in for Brian Vickers while he recovers from blood clots. "I think Brian's doing better," Kauffman added. "I haven't talked to him in a bit...but right now the important thing is his health."(Motorsport)(4-12-2015)
Moffitt back in the #55 at Texas: Brett Moffitt will drive the #55 Aaron's Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing at Texas Motor Speedway on April 11th (MWR Facebook). Moffitt has subbed for Brian Vickers in the last two races (Auto Club and Martinsville) in the #55 Toyota as Vickers sits out due to recurring blood clots. MWR has not named a driver past the Texas race. Moffitt is also running for the Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.(4-2-2015)
Vickers on blood thinners for 3 months: Brian Vickers said Sunday that he'll be on blood-thinning medicine at least three months after small blood clots were found in both lungs this week. Vickers cannot race while on blood thinners. Vickers said he first experienced chest pain when taking deep breaths on a flight to Los Angeles on Thursday and went to a hospital later that day. This is the third time since 2010 that blood clots have forced Vickers out of the car. Asked Sunday if this could be the end of his career, Vickers said: "Am I worried? Yes. Have I given up hope? No. Whatever happens, I couldn't have been more happier to have been in that (#55 Michael Waltrip Racing) car the past two weeks. By no means have I given up. I don't know what's next. I know I'm going to be on blood thinners for three months and after that I'm going to do all I can to get back in the race car."(NBC Sports)(3-22-2015)
Chris Buescher to replace Moffitt in the #34: Front Row Motorsports announced that Chris Buescher will replace Brett Moffit in the #34 Ford this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Buescher drives full time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for Roush Fenway Racing.(3-20-2015)
Moffitt replacing Vickers in the #55 at Auto Club Speedway: Brett Moffitt will drive Michael Waltrip Racing's #55 Toyota in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The team's regular driver Brian Vickers informed MWR he has experienced a reoccurrence of blood clots, which will require the 31-year-old driver to begin taking blood-thinning medication and he is not able to race while on the medicine. "First and foremost our thoughts are with Brian and his family," said MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip. "He isn't just our race car driver, he is our friend and we know the NASCAR community will continue to rally around Brian. We are fortunate to have Brett Moffitt in our system and marveled at his great drive in Atlanta three weeks ago, so we know he can get the job done in the #55 this weekend. As this news is very fresh and the situation is very fluid, we can only plan for this weekend at this point." Vickers missed the season's first two races recovering from December heart surgery. He finished 15th at Las Vegas and 41st at Phoenix. "Thankfully, because I recognized the signs and symptoms, the doctors caught this early and I'm going to be ok. I had finished my treatment for the clot I had in my leg back in 2013 and I haven't needed to be on a blood thinner for a clot in my leg or lung since," said Vickers. "Now I won't be able to race because I'll need to be back on a blood thinner. I'm going to follow doctor's orders and do everything I need to do to get well." "Believe it or not, it's Blood Clot Awareness Month and I was supposed to be at the track this weekend doing some work with my partners at Janssen focused on getting the word out. I'm disappointed I can't be there but if there is a silver lining in all of this, hopefully what's happened to me will help to raise awareness on this important health issue," said Vickers.(MWR)(3-20-2015)
Janssen sponsoring Vickers in California: Racing has been Brian Vickers' passion of choice since a young age when he climbed behind the wheel of his family's race cars. It led to fame and fortune as trophies filled the trophy case. But battles with life threatening illness in adulthood made the young racer turn his passion towards health. After overcoming health obstacles himself, he has continued to share his journey to help and inspire others. This weekend Vickers combines his passion for health and racing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. where he'll drive the #55 Janssen Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing. Since last year Vickers has partnered with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a company that works to solve some of the most important unmet medical needs of our time in oncology, immunology, neuroscience, infectious diseases and vaccines, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In addition to its relationship with Vickers and MWR, Janssen will sponsor Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY race at Auto Club Speedway. In 2013 Janssen also sponsored races at Auto Club and Chicago Speedways.(MWR), see an image of the car on the #55 team paint schemes page.(3-19-2015)
Moffitt to Drive #34 FRM Ford for three races: Twenty-two-year-old up-and-coming driver Brett Moffitt will pilot Front Row Motorsports' #34 Ford Fusion for the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. The young driver, who finished eighth in Sunday's race at Atlanta, will drive the #34 Shaw's Southern Belle Seafood Ford this week at Las Vegas. He will also be behind the wheel of the #34 at Phoenix on March 15 and Auto Club Speedway on March 22. Moffitt fills the seat temporarily vacated by Front Row Motorsports veteran David Ragan, who is subbing for the injured Kyle Busch in the #18 car. Moffitt turned heads in Sunday's 500-mile race in Atlanta, earning a top-10 finish in just his eighth Sprint Cup Series start. The young driver is a nine-time winner in K&N Pro Series East competition and currently serves as a test driver for Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and Michael Waltrip Racing. He made starts in the NASCAR XFINITY (2012) and Camping World Truck (2013) series before making his Sprint Cup Series debut last June at Dover. Sunday's Kobalt 400 will be Moffitt's ninth Sprint Cup Series start and his second of 2015.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to run some races for Front Row," Moffitt said. "After last weekend, I'm obviously eager to get back into a car and keep racing. I'm grateful to Bob Jenkins and his team for giving me the chance to do that. I'll do my best to get some good finishes for them. I'm also thankful that Michael Waltrip Racing is allowing me to pursue this opportunity. I think it's going to benefit everyone in the end."
Team owner Bob Jenkins believes Moffitt brings valuable experience -- plus an eagerness to continue learning -- to the #34 team. "We know Brett doesn't have a ton of Sprint Cup experience, but he's got a lot of hours behind the wheel in testing time, and he was certainly impressive Sunday in Atlanta," Jenkins said. "For only his eighth start, he showed a lot of poise, patience and maturity that you don't often see in drivers that age."
Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman is supportive of the arrangement. "As we anticipated, there has been heightened interest for Brett Moffitt's services after his solid performance last weekend in Atlanta," Kauffman said. "While he is committed to MWR, we are happy for him to gain further valuable experience and help Bob Jenkins, Jerry Freeze and the team at Front Row Motorsports over the next few races. Bob and Front Row were very gracious with our Toyota teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing after Kyle Busch's unfortunate injuries by allowing David Ragan to vacate the #34 to drive the #18. We will continue to work on future opportunities for Brett."
Shaw's Southern Belle Seafood joins Moffitt as a first-time partner with Front Row Motorsports for the Las Vegas event. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based, "Made in the USA" premium seafood company makes award-winning crab cakes and stuffed crabs, sold in fine supermarkets across the country. The Shaw family has owned and operated the business, using recipes from original Southern Belle "Mama Shaw," since 1934.(FRM)(3-34-2015)
Brian Vickers returns to the seat of the #55: Excuse Brian Vickers if taking the green flag to start Sunday's Las Vegas race seems as rewarding as a trip to victory lane. Vickers missed the 2015 season's first two races as he recovered from Dec. 13 heart surgery. Three months later, he'll strap himself into the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine and prepare for battle at 200 mph. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver has no doubts about his health. "The doctors say I will be as strong if not better than before," said the 31-year-old Thomasville, N.C. native. "The surgery was a lot higher risk, but they feel really good about how everything has progressed. My sternum is stronger than before. It's wired together making loops like a coat hanger." Vickers latest health battle began on Dec. 11 after he arrived in Charlotte and prepared to drive to Mooresville, N.C. to an Aaron's photo shoot. He knew something was wrong. "At the hospital they discovered my body was rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in my heart. The procedure was painful but it went great and they feel better about my heart than before." He wouldn't be human if he didn't have his doubts in December. "Your first question is 'Am I going to live,'" he recalled. "Once I knew that then I had to decide about racing. Maybe, if I had already won a championship and done everything I wanted to do in racing I would have given serious thought to walking away, but I really want to win races and a championship. There's more to do and I didn't want to someday look back and regret not coming back. And, I'm not going to lie, I enjoy going 200 mph. Overcoming problems like this is just what you have to do in life. There's a lot of people battling things tougher than what I have battled." Inserting the original heart patch in 2010 and blood clots in 2013 forced Vickers to miss races. Add in the December surgery and few people have a better appreciation of life than Vickers. "You just have this notion that tomorrow is going to be there and when you go through something that jeopardizes all that, you understand how important living for today is."
Aaron's will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a special paint scheme on the #55 this weekend (MWR), see an image of the scheme on the #55 Team Schemes page.(3-4-2015)
Statement from MWR Co-Owner Rob Kauffman about Brent Moffitt: "We are proud of how the entire #55 Aaron's Dream Machine team has performed while Brian Vickers was recovering from his December surgery. The race in Atlanta showcased the progress of the entire organization, as well as a promising young driver in Brett Moffitt. Brett has been in the MWR system the past couple of years and we're enthusiastic about his potential. Brett is under a multi-year agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing. MWR would love to get back to a three-car team and grow with him into the future. Before this past weekend we stated that we felt his name should be mentioned among the impressive crop of young drivers coming into the sport, and the Atlanta result validated that claim. While we work towards a fully supported in-house program, it is MWR's desire that Brett get more quality opportunities in either of NASCAR's top divisions and we will work diligently to make that happen."(MWR)(3-3-2015)
Special scheme on the #55 at Atlanta, Moffitt gets the call: Brett Moffitt will drive Michael Waltrip Racing's #55 Aaron's 60th Anniversary Dream Machine Toyota replacing Brian Vickers who'll make his 2015 debut next weekend in Las Vegas after recovering from heart surgery. Michael Waltrip finished 26th at Daytona last weekend driving the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine. Atlanta-based Aaron's will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a special paint scheme on the #55 this weekend. Aaron's joined MWR in 2000 serving as a primary sponsor in Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races. With more than 2,100 stores across the country, Aaron's helps customers own the life they want. Though Moffitt owns a few Sprint Cup starts, he's never had a chance to demonstrate his talent with a full-time team, crew and car that's competing for wins and a championship. Moffitt sees this weekend's race as a chance to show the world he belongs with the sport's young stars. In five years of fulltime NASCAR Pro Series East competition (2009-13), Moffitt won nine of the 61 races he entered. In 2014, Moffitt made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Dover International Speedway, where he started 18th and finished 22nd. He has since competed in six additional Sprint Cup events.(MWR), see images of the car on the #55 Team Schemes page.(2-24-2015)
Driver, Marketing Executive Form New Sports Agency - White-Gaulding Partners: NASCAR driver Jason White and marketing veteran Dwayne Gaulding announced the formation of White-Gaulding Partners ("WGP"), a new specialist sports marketing agency. WGP will service all sports marketing opportunities, but will initially focus on motorsports, emerging young drivers and corporate sponsorship procurement. NASCAR team owner Rob Kauffman is an early investor in the new enterprise. "There is so much young driving talent around the country and we want to focus on these underserved but potentially high growth opportunities," said WGP co-founder Jason White. "We want to work with the stars and corporate leaders of tomorrow."
"I have been able to spend some time with Jason the past couple of years and I know he is a tireless networker," said Kauffman. "When he and Dwayne shared their vision with me a few months ago, I was happy to step up and support them, there is a niche in the market for WGP and I will be happy to assist them in any way I can to help WGP be successful."
"There are so many companies looking for avenues into sports marketing," said WGP co-founder Dwayne Gaulding. "I'm excited about using our resources and athletes to help these companies find their way into a perfect fit."(PR)(2-20-2015)
Vickers discusses how he feeling and plans: #55-Brian Vickers met with members of the media at Media Day at Daytona International Speedway, Vickers was asked how he felt after corrective heart surgery a few months ago. Vickers will miss the first two races of the season (Waltrip in at Daytona, Moffitt in at Atlanta). The transcript in part:
Q) How are you feeling after surgery in December?
VICKERS: "I'm feeling good considering everything. It's amazing with everything that's happened and how fast the recovery has been and how well I feel now relative to how I felt a month ago or two months ago much less."
Q) How are your chest and the wiring healing?
VICKERS: "It feels great. I had rehab, training - I've been kind of training quite a bit actually - and really just kind of pushing the boundaries every day of what I can do and kind of getting the chest healed and better and strengthened. I feel like I could be back in a car now, but they're still going to make me wait a few weeks."
Q) Is it difficult to get back into racing shape?
VICKERS: "I think there's a lot that people don't realize - what you have to go through and the physical aspect of racing. I've been training a lot and as much as I can - as much as the doctors will let me - trying to get ready for the season. It matters. It does make a difference and it won't stop once the season starts. I'll keep going."
Q) Will you have an opportunity to get familiar with your Camry before the Las Vegas race?
VICKERS: "Vegas practice will be my first time in a car. Having done it now several times - been out for a while unfortunately and then had to jump back in the car cold - the last two times I was able to test before I raced, but just based on the testing I felt pretty up to speed real quick. I'll only be a couple races behind this year on the rest of the field, so hopefully it won't be too much."
Q) Do you still need any medical clearance before Las Vegas?
VICKERS: "No. I'm good to go. There's no more doctors' visits. They said, 'Come March 5, go to the race track and have fun."
Q) What's your role with the team during your recovery?
VICKERS: "Support the Aaron's Dream Machine team really. That's my job. I would love to be in that car and because I can't be in that car - to be honest, I would rather not have to watch it because it's tough. You want to be in the race car. At the same time, I feel so blessed to have an amazing team, an amazing group of guys that support me through so much and I want to be there for them. Am I going to contribute in any meaningful way? Probably not - they're very good at what they do. They don't need me on the pit box bugging them and obviously Michael Waltrip (team co-owner) is going to be in the car. He is a phenomenal speedway racer. I think maybe I'll be able to help a little more in Atlanta with Brett (Moffitt, fill-in driver for Atlanta Motor Speedway). He's a great driver with a good head on his shoulders, but less experience, so maybe I'll be able to contribute a little more than there than here. Regardless, I want to be there for the team both weekends and support them the best I can."
Q) What has the reaction been like to your Xarelto commercial?
VICKERS: "It's been incredible. That whole opportunity to partner with Jannsen (Pharmaceutical Companies) and raise awareness has been huge. For me, it's a personal story for me, right? Not going to see a doctor - that's kind of what a lot of it is about is if you think something is wrong, go see a doctor. That's something I almost didn't do and it almost cost me a lot. That's not a mistake I've made twice. I only made that mistake once. It's been fun and that commercial just runs all the time. It's all over the place. I hear something about it all the time, but it turned out well."(Toyota Racing)(2-13-2015)
Moffitt in the #55 at Atlanta: Brett_Moffitt will be driving the #55 Aarons Dream Machine at Atlanta Motor Speedway.(MWR Twitter), doctors have medically cleared regular #55 driver Brian Vickers to return to full-time Sprint Cup racing in early March, three months after corrective heart surgery and Vickers will return at Las Vegas. Team Owner Michael Waltrip will drive the #55 in the Daytona 500.(1-27-2015)
Vickers medically cleared to race in early March: Doctors have medically cleared Brian Vickers to return to full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup racing in early March, three months after corrective heart surgery. Vickers will make his season debut in the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 8. MWR co-founder and two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip will drive the #55 in the 57th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 22. MWR will name a substitute driver for the March 1 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway later. "The doctors gave me a clean bill of health and said I will be better than before," said Vickers, the 31-year-old Thomasville, N.C. native whose health issues interrupted his racing seasons in 2010 and again in 2013. "The advancements in modern medicine and surgical procedures are amazing and I have to thank my doctors at the Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and Carolinas Medical Center for their extraordinary care. I have literally put my life in their hands twice and I cannot begin to express my level of gratitude. I was not feeling well in December, so I went to see Dr. William Downey in Charlotte. He discovered my body was rejecting a patch that was surgically placed over a hole in my heart a few years ago. He and Dr. R. Mark Stiegel immediately went to work on correcting the problem. I also want to thank the great counsel along the way by Dr. Jerry Petty, Dr. Robert Heyer and my hematologist Dr. Stephan Moll from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine who is the founder of www.clotconnect.org. "Now all of my focus is getting ready so when I return we are prepared to win races and the championship in my Aaron's Dream Machine."(MWR)(1-21-2015)
How much will the testing ban save teams? From Larry McReynold's most recent article at FoxSports: "It doesn't matter what rules NASCAR hands down -- be them about testing, the type of cars, etc. -- the cream is still always going to rise to the top. Now it's true that some rule changes affect some teams more than others. I think we saw that last year with the rule changes for the 2014 season. Last year there probably wasn't a single week that at least one of the teams from the powerhouse organizations wasn't testing someplace while the smaller teams sat at home unable to afford to go test. So if anything, this rule closes the gap a little bit between the smaller teams and the bigger organizations. The biggest thing this no-testing rule does is save the owners money. In talking with car owner Michael Waltrip, he told me it's going to save his organization anywhere from $1.25 million to $1.5 million in 2015. Any way you slice it, that is significant savings for anyone.(FoxSports)(1-8-2015)
Toyoda Machinery partners with MWR: Toyoda Machinery USA announced its partnership agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing in early December. "Partnering with a top NASCAR team is something we've wanted to do for quite some time," said Tim Leoni, Toyoda's vice president of sales, "Because of our company's automotive background, it makes sense that we team up with one of Toyota Racing Development's top NASCAR outfits. This synergy is something the engineers will immediately recognize in the shop, the crew will feel in the pits, and the fans will see on the track." With this partnership, Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) has added four Toyoda vertical machining centers to its shop floor. MWR selected Toyoda's FV1165 and FV1565 machines for their 8,000 RPM, geared head spindles and robust construction. Steel parts, such as the spring buckets, center links, and idler arms, are all machined on the boxway series. "Our tools have to have a long reach to be able to machine around different suspension components," explained Dale Brown, machine shop supervisor at MWR, "We needed a couple of really good, rigid machines to do some of the heavy machining." The timing of the Toyoda installation couldn't come at a better time for MWR. The end of the racing season is when the shop begins putting in long hours building cars for next year. Brown said the shop is looking forward to improved quality and productivity with the Toyoda machines. "Everything fits together really tight. It seems to be a really good, quality machine."(MWR)(1-2-2015)
Vickers to miss start of season: Michael Waltrip Racing driver Brian Vickers will not be available to race during the early part of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season due to health issues. In 58 races driving MWR's #55 Aaron's Toyota, Vickers scored eight top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. He won the July race at New Hampshire in 2013 and captured the pole at Talladega in October 2014. The 2003 Nationwide champion owns three victories and 12 poles in 316 career Sprint Cup starts. "Brian has been a part of the MWR family since 2012 and our thoughts today are with Brian, his wife Sarah and the Vickers family," said MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman. "As a race team, MWR has plenty to consider and we will confer with our partners, including Aaron's and Toyota. As this is fresh news, we will adjust our future plans as more information becomes available."
VICKERS STATEMENT: "First, I want to thank everyone for their sincere support. I have faced obstacles before and it has made victory that much sweeter and I know that will be the case again. My previous experiences have given me a very keen understanding of my body. Late last week I knew something wasn't right, so I went to the hospital to be checked out. Following several tests, it was discovered that my body was rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in my heart. Saturday, I had to have corrective surgery to repair the hole and now I am beginning the recovery process. I will need plenty of time, rest and rehab but this temporary setback will not stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion."(MWR)(12-15-2014)
Congrats...twice for #55 crewman: Rear tire carrier on the MWR #55 Toyota Blake Haugland started his honeymoon with wife Melissa in Cozumel Mexico by competing in the Cozumel Ironman, Sunday November 30th. Blake finished the ironman in 12:07:42 by Swimming 2.4Miles in 1:12:41, Biking 112.5 Miles in 6:24:46 and Running 26.2 Miles in 4:19:03.Finishing 74th in his division, 432 overall out of a field of 2292 athletes.(12-4-2014)
Ariz. State To Honor Former Tight End Now #55 Jackman: Wes Evans, a former tight end on Arizona State's 2008 football team will be honored on the Sun Devil Stadium video board Saturday night when his alma mater takes on highly ranked Notre Dame. Less than 24 hours later he'll serve as jackman on Brian Vickers' #55 Aaron's Dream Machine pit crew in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at nearby Phoenix International Raceway. "It seems like it was just yesterday when I was playing at ASU," laughed the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder who made four starts and played in all 12 games for ASU in 2008. That year he won the team's iron man award for exemplary work ethic in the weight room, on the field and in the community. Evans became interested in NASCAR after meeting pit crew members who visited the ASU campus for a workout in 2007. That contact led Evans to a life as a NASCAR pit crew member and his ASU degree led him to a job in the Michael Waltrip Racing marketing office. Each week Evans hosts the "Wednesday's With Wes- Ask MWR" video feature on the team website answering viewer questions about NASCAR racing.(MWR)(11-7-2014)
Waltrip eliminated from "Dancing with the Stars": Michael Waltrip's ballroom dancing career has come to a close on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" as he was eliminated from the show Monday night. Week eight's theme was "Dynamic Duos" and Waltrip and partner Emma Slater performed a foxtrot as Tarzan and Jane to "You'll Be in My Heart" by Phil Collins. Waltrip and Slater received a score of 25 out of 40.(scores and more at NASCAR.com and ABC News)(11-4-2014)
Vickers tests 2015 Camry at Auto Club: Brian Vickers and the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine team at Michael Waltrip Racing got a jump on the 2015 season testing the newly unveiled 2015 Toyota Camry this week at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Vickers on testing the 2015 Camry: "It was good to get some time behind the wheel of the 2015 Camry (on Tuesday.) We brought a lot of engineers from MWR and Toyota Racing Development to Fontana to work on the car. I don't know if you have ever been to a test, but it isn't very exciting for a race car driver. I drive for a couple of laps, tell them what I feel, then the engineers will pour over the data, make some changes and back I go out on the track. We just repeat that throughout the day. It might not be as fun as racing but testing is where we learn what the Goodyear tires, our car and engine like and don't like. I enjoy the science behind testing. The more you learn in testing the better you will be in the race. With the reduction in testing planned for next season, days like this are very valuable. So far I love what I see with the new Camry. It looks good, and drives good."(MWR)(10-30-2014)
Kahne and Vickers disagree on actions of one another: In the case of #5-Kasey Kahne vs. #55-Brian Vickers, it's he said, he said. Kahne claims innocence, while Vickers didn't hesitate in his accusations. The two drivers were involved in a Lap-161 incident that left Vickers without a hood on his car and looking for payback. Kahne, feeling pressure from leader Jeff Gordon, caught Vickers in the left-rear corner panel of his car in Turn 4, sending the #55 around and into the inside wall. The Hendrick Motorsports driver said he had no intention of spinning Vickers, but that Vickers was using every lane that he could, coming close to hitting Kahne earlier in the lap in Turn 2. "I was passing him and he ran me into the Turn 2 wall or he was going to, so I lifted. Then he blocked into 3, so I turned to go low and then he comes low and spun himself out," Kahne said after being released from the infield care center for an unrelated incident on Lap 438. Vickers disagreed. "He definitely wrecked us on purpose the first time, I mean look at the video," Vickers said. "He just hooked us in the bumper and just wrecked us, I don't know why."
Vickers showed his displeasure 61 laps later. Going into Turn 1 and with Kahne on his outside, Vickers veered his car to the right and into Kahne's #5 Chevy. Kahne spun and hit the outside wall and would go to the garage for repairs until Lap 253. It only took 25 laps for Kahne to find Vickers again, turning him around in Turn 2 with 222 laps to go. Vickers was heard on the radio saying "we could do this all day." However, any further retaliation was squashed by a warning issued by NASCAR.(Sporting News)(10-27-2014)
Toyota teams have limited time to test new Camry: Toyota unveiled its 2015 Sprint Cup Camry on Saturday with five weeks left in the 2014 season. That means the teams have five weeks to test. With a testing ban going into effect after Nov. 16's 2014 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing will experiment with the car. The 2015 car conforms with NASCAR's new lower horsepower, less downforce rules package. "We'll be at Nashville and things like that," MWR driver Clint Bowyer said. "We have (Goodyear test at) Auto Club Speedway, we have a Phoenix test coming up. We've got opportunities to get in this race car. I really see the new rule package that NASCAR has implemented being a bigger change feel-wise for a driver than this new car. If you're going to unveil a new car, this is a perfect time to do that because it's basically start over from scratch across the board for everybody."
The 2015 car includes changes to the hood, nose, tail and quarter windows. Both Ford and Chevy racing engineers were present at wind tunnel tests conducted by NASCAR to approve the Toyota design. "We hope it races better," said Dave Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development. "But realistically, practically speaking, it's not outside the box. It's still working with the same set of rules that we've had. We've got until the Sunday of Homestead. We'll test our guts out. We'll have this car on the race track a couple of times." While his drivers will want to test, JGR owner Joe Gibbs said the team must focus on 2014. All three of his drivers remain in the hunt for the title. "It'll be hard" to test, Gibbs said. "Our whole focus is on right now with where we are with the Chase and everything. I can't see us being able to do much."(Sporting News)(10-12-2014)
Waltrip makes it past third in Dancing with the Stars: Michael Waltrip and his partner Emma Slater made it past the third round of the multi-award-winning series Dancing with the Stars Monday night. Waltrip and Slater danced a waltz on Monday's show, earning a score of 28 from the judges (MWR)(10-2-2014)
Waltrip survives first round of Dancing with the Stars: Michael Waltrip and his partner Emma Slater made it past the first round of the multi-award-winning series Dancing with the Stars Tuesday night. Waltrip and Slater danced the Cha-Cha on Monday's show. The pair earned a score of 25 from the judges. That paired with votes from fans was enough to advance the duo to the next round which airs Monday, Sept. 22 at 8:00pm/et on ABC. One couple will be eliminated on a live results show, Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 8:00pm/et on ABC.(MWR)(9-17-2014)
Tires stolen from Chicago garage: One week it's a fan on the fence, the next week tires are stolen in the garage. Just who is policing the paddock? On Saturday night tires were lifted from the #55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota and the #83 BK Racing Toyota teams prior to Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway. The tires from Brian Vickers car were later discovered dumped in another area in the garage, the team told Motorsport.com. However, the scuff and rim from Ryan Truex's car was never recovered according to team owner Ron Devine. Tires cost roughly $500 each.(Motorsport)(9-15-2014)
Special scheme for Vickers: #55 Aaron's Dream Machine driver Brian Vickers has a lot to race for in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season's final 10 races. Although, the Michael Waltrip Racing team won't be in the Chase, the #55 crew has its sights set on a return trip to victory lane and preparation for its second season together in 2015. The #55 will carry a special paint scheme this weekend honoring Samsung as Aaron's vendor partner of the year. In addition to the paint scheme, Aaron's will host Samsung executives at-track in appreciation of their long standing partnership.(Michael Waltrip Racing)(9-12-2014)
Michael Waltrip to Dance with the Stars UPDATE: NASCAR will have representation on the ABC hit show "Dancing with the Stars". The New York Daily News reports that Michael Waltrip will the season 19 cast is announced. Waltrip is a two-time Daytona 500 champion and currently part owner of Michael Waltrip Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. His older brother Darrell Waltrip is a three-time NASCAR champion who now works as a NASCAR analyst for Fox Sports. The 51-year-old Owensboro Kentucky native still races occasionally as well as provides color TV commentary for NASCAR races and programming. Waltrip has made three NASCAR Sprint Cup starts this season, two at Daytona International Speedway and one at Talladega Superspeedway; his best finish was 19th at the Daytona race in July.(Examiner)(9-3-2014)
UPDATE: This season's cast of celebrity dancers includes a fashion icon, a YouTube sensation, a NASCAR legend, and a movie star, to name a few. The stars will grace the ballroom floor for the first time on live national television with their professional partners during the two-hour season premiere of "Dancing with the Stars," which airs Monday, September 15 (8:00-10:01pm/et) on the ABC Television Network. The thirteen professional dancers teaching the celebrity cast how to bring heat to the dance floor are Mark Ballas, Cheryl Burke, Sharna Burgess, Witney Carson, Artem Chigvintsev, Valentin Chmerkovskiy, Tony Dovolani, Allison Holker, Derek Hough, Keo Motsepe, Peta Murgatroyd, Emma Slater and Karina Smirnoff. Two-time Mirrorball champion and movie star Julianne Hough joins Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba at the judges' desk. As announced this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America" by "Dancing with the Stars" hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews, the 13 celebrities with their professional partners heading to the dance floor this season (in alphabetical order) are: Jonathan Bennett, Tommy Chong, Randy Couture, Betsey Johnson, Lolo Jones, Bethany Mota, Janel Parrish, Alfonso Ribeiro, Sadie Robertson, Antonio Sabato Jr., Tavis Smiley, Lea Thompson,
AND Michael Waltrip is a winning professional racecar driver, founder and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, a widely recognized network racing commentator and author of a best-selling biography. Waltrip is a two-time winner of NASCAR's crown jewel event, the Daytona 500, and is one of only two drivers in history to hold victories in NASCAR's three top tier divisions over four consecutive decades. Waltrip still competes on a limited basis, posting two top 10 finishes in just four events in 2013. In recent years, Waltrip has driven in international events, competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona, as well as events in Spa, Belgium, Sebring and Dubai. The Kentucky native founded Michael Waltrip Racing and his organization brought Toyota Motor Corporation into NASCAR Sprint Cup racing in 2007, where his teams have won seven times and finished runner-up in the championship standings in 2012. As an expert commentator on Fox Sports 1 for the Camping World Truck series and an analyst for NASCAR on FOX during NASCAR Sprint Cup races, Waltrip has established himself as one of the industry's most respected voices and biggest personalities. In 2011, Michael published his best-selling book In the Blink of an Eye, celebrating the 10th anniversary of his historic 2001 Daytona 500 victory on the same day his mentor, boss, friend and owner, Dale Earnhardt, perished on the final lap. His story spent 11 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. Away from the track, Waltrip has competed in four marathons, including the Boston Marathon and his own marathon event, which raised more than $1,000,000 for charity. His humorous demeanor launched a multi-stop Comedy Tour in 2010. Waltrip will partner with Emma Slater.
More info on the contestants, voting and the show at ABC.com.(ABC)(9-4-2014)
Waltrip says dropping third team not cause for MWR's struggles: MWR team co-owner Michael Waltrip won't blame the cut from three teams to two as a reason for his team's struggles. The aerodynamic rules for 2014 are different and it appears the Toyotas are behind Hendrick in horsepower. "I don't think the cut to two teams hurt us at all," Waltrip said earlier this week at an appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We were prepared for that. There were just a lot that went on during the offseason with the no ride-height rule. That was a really difficult engineering process to get your arms around." Waltrip said he would give his team a grade of "B" on the season. The team has started producing some new cars that should help. "Our counterparts over at JGR haven't had a tremendous amount of success, either," Waltrip said. "We understand that we're just lacking for a little bit of speed. When that's the case, you work on everything you can and you have more sense of urgency. That's where both organizations are right now, building the best cars they can and proving them the best they can and looking forward to the next race and seeing if we can get more speed."(Sporting News)(8-9-2014)
300th start for Vickers: #55 Aaron's Dream Machine driver Brian Vickers visits one of racing's most historic venues this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday's 400-mile race. The 30-year-old Vickers will make history no matter how his Michael Waltrip Racing team performs on the famed 2.5-mile oval. Sunday's race marks Vickers' 300th Sprint Cup Series start in a career that began with a 33rd-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 11, 2003. Only 11 drivers from the 43-car field in that race still have fulltime rides in 2014. Vickers also has history on his side on Sunday. Five drivers have won in their 300th Sprint Cup start including a driver in each of the last three seasons.(Michael Waltrip Racing)(7-23-2014)
Pit coaching change at MWR: This past week a pit crew coaching change was made at Michael Waltrip Racing. Long time coach Walt Smith has taken over after being out of the sport for a few months. Smith is a veteran to pit road and has spent over 20 years as a pit crew member and coach. For the last few years Smith was at Hendrick Motorsports with the #5 and #24 teams and will now take over the #55 and #15.(Pit Talks)(7-9-2014)
Sprint Cup teams form Race Team Alliance UPDATE2: A group of nine multi-car teams participating in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) announced today they have formed a collaborative business association called the Race Team Alliance (RTA). The purpose of the organization is to create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote, and grow the sport of stock car racing. The organization intends to open up its membership to all full time NSCS teams in the very near future. In providing a vehicle for the teams to work together, the organization creates for the first time a single entity to engage with stakeholders on creative ways to market and experience the power of the sport's teams and drivers. As part of its focus, the RTA also plans to explore innovative ways to harness the combined purchasing power and scale of the teams' operations to drive efficiencies in costs. Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, has been elected the first chair of the RTA.
"With the encouragement of NASCAR and the manufacturers, the teams have met in various forms and forums over the years to explore areas of common interest. This simply formalizes what was an informal group." said Kauffman. "The key word is 'Collaboration'. We all have vested interests in the success and popularity of stock car racing. By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved with the sport. Whether it be looking for industry-wide travel partners or collaborating on technical issues - the idea is to work together to increase revenue, spend more efficiently, and deliver more value to our partners."
The following teams are the executive members of the RTA: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motor Sports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motor Sports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.(RTA)(7-7-2014)
UPDATE: Statement from NASCAR: "We are aware of the alliance concept the team owners have announced, but have very few specifics on its structure or purpose. It is apparently still in development and we're still learning about the details so it would be inappropriate to comment right now. NASCAR's mission, as it has always been, is to create a fair playing field where anyone can come and compete. Our job is to support and strengthen all of the teams, large and small, across all of our series and we'll continue to do that. NASCAR is a unique community with hundreds of stakeholders. They all have a voice and always will."(NASCAR)(7-7-2014)
UPDATE 2: #55-Brian Vickers doesn't know much about the newly formed Race Team Alliance, but he knows plenty about the man who's running it. The RTA, whose creation was announced Monday, is a business alliance of nine Sprint Cup teams that is being chaired by Rob Kauffman, who is the co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing. Vickers, who drives the #55 Toyota for MWR in NASCAR's premier series, said he had "heard little things here and there" about the RTA but not much despite his proximity to Kauffman. "I just get in the car every Friday and just drive as fast as I can," he said Tuesday during a conference call with the news media. "I don't know enough, to be honest with you, about (the RTA) to have any opinion. I think any of those questions are better addressed to Rob or the ownership group. But in general, you know, I have a lot of respect for the owners in this industry. If they feel there's a need, then there's probably a need for it, so I wish them all the best."(USA Today)(7-9-2014)
MWR & Aaron's to honor Florida State at Daytona: Brian Vickers' #55 Toyota will carry a special paint scheme Saturday night honoring Florida State University's 2013 BCS National Championship football team. The garnet and gold paint scheme on the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota will include the FSU BCS National Championship logo on the hood. Vickers will also wear a special FSU driver uniform for the race. Fans at FSU's April 12 Spring Game saw the car unveiling and watched a special message from Vickers on the video board. Vickers drove a special paint scheme honoring the University of Louisville's national championship basketball team at Kentucky Speedway last year. Aaron's and MWR have honored Alabama and Auburn national football championships at Talladega Superspeedway four times since 2009.(Michael Waltrip Racing), see an image of the car on the #55 team paint schemes page.(7-2-2014)
MWR, RCR to test at New Hampshire: Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing will be looking for the inside track on the Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 13 when they visit New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a test and tune session on July 1 and 2. Defending July NHMS race winner #55-Brian Vickers, two-time NHMS winner #15-Clint Bowyer and four-time NHMS winner #66-Jeff Burton will all be logging laps for MWR on the 1.058-mile oval. The two-day session also marks the first time the famed #3 will race around the Magic Mile, as rookie RCR driver Austin Dillon will join teammates #27-Paul Menard and three-time NHMS winner #31-Ryan Newman at the testing. The grandstands will be open and free of charge to the public from 9:00am-5:00pm both days.(NHMS)(6-26-2014)
#55 Crewman competes in Touch Alcatraz 'n' Go: Michael Waltrip Racing #55 rear tire carrier, Blake Haugland, swam in the world swim challenge, Touch Alcatraz 'n' Go, on Saturday, June 21st. The event consists of swimming from San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island and back. On Sunday, Haugland goes back to his rear tire carrier,duties for Brian Vickers. More info at waterworldswim.com or Blake Haugland Facebook.(6-22-2014)
Vickers crashes in Kentucky test, is OK: #55-Brian Vickers crashed at Kentucky Speedway Wednesday during a Goodyear Tire test. The #55 Aaron's Toyota crashed in turn 3, supposedly a right front wheel came apart. Vickers reports he is sore but OK and has already logged 10 laps in other car.(Brian Vickers Twitter / Michael Waltrip Racing Twitter)(5-21-2014)
MWR & Aaron's to honor Florida State at Daytona in July: Florida State University's trophy case holds lots of hardware, but none for motorsports. Aaron's and Brian Vickers plan to change that. Vickers' #55 Aaron's Toyota will carry a special paint scheme honoring FSU's 2013 BCS National Championship football team when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona International Speedway on July 5. The garnet and gold paint scheme on the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota will include the FSU BCS National Championship logo on the hood. Vickers will also wear a special FSU driver uniform for the race.
"Everyone in America knows about Florida State's tradition of success especially in athletics," said Vickers. "Aaron's and I really want to continue that tradition at Daytona in July and give Seminole fans a chance to see their car and colors celebrate in victory lane. I'm excited to be representing my home state on the car for Daytona. We're hoping it will give us a 'home field' advantage we need."
Fans at FSU's April 12 Spring Game will see the car unveiling and watch a special video message from Vickers on the videoboard. FSU will collect hoods from the race car for display at block parties, road trips and The Jimbo Fisher Call-In Show throughout the 2014 football season.
Aaron's said it was natural to honor Florida State at the Daytona race. "Aaron's is proud to feature the Florida State football championship paint scheme on the #55 Dream Machine at Daytona International Speedway," said Rich Lamprey, Aaron's Director of Sports and Event Marketing. We have a history of showcasing collegiate championships on our racecars to highlight our brand's involvement in collegiate sports. We hope that NASCAR fans and college sports fans alike will appreciate the FSU paint scheme, and we look forward to Brian bringing the Seminoles to the checkered flag in Daytona." Vickers drove a special paint scheme honoring the University of Louisville's national championship basketball team at Kentucky Speedway last year. Aaron's and MWR have honored Alabama and Auburn national football championships at Talladega Superspeedway four times since 2009.(MWR), see an image of the scheme on the #55 Team Schemes page.(4-9-2014)
Under Armour enters NASCAR with Hendrick & MWR: The sporting goods company, Under Armour, has signed multiyear sponsorships with Hendrick Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing. It becomes the official apparel provider for both teams, outfitting everyone from the pit crew to the front office in Under Armour-branded apparel. The deals don't include the teams' drivers, and financial terms weren't available. Last year, Under Armour signed a one-year, trial sponsorship with Hendrick Motorsports and outfitted the team's pit crews. It opted to expand that deal this year with a three-year extension that will see it outfit not only the pit crews but the rest of Hendrick's 500 employees. It provides everything from footwear and hats to polos and pullovers. It also has branding on Hendrick pit crew members' fire suits (Under Armour does not produce fire suits) and on the team's pit wall banners, haulers, pit box and pit toolbox. The deal doesn't include Hendrick's drivers - #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., #24-Jeff Gordon, #48-Jimmie Johnson or #5-Kasey Kahne - but Under Armour does have rights to use their likeness as well as the likeness of their car and number, which it could use on apparel.
Under Armour signed with Michael Waltrip Racing because it saw similarities between its identity as an upstart brand that's challenged established apparel companies and the team's identity as a relatively new, gritty team that's pushing its way into the upper echelon of NASCAR. Terms of the two-year sponsorship are similar to the deal with Hendrick. Under Armour will supply pit crew apparel and team and executive apparel and receive the same mix of pit assets it is getting from Hendrick. It also will become the presenting sponsor of a new athletic facility and gym that MWR built at its headquarters in Cornelius, N.C., which has been branded as the MWR Performance Center Presented by Under Armour. The deal is the first apparel sponsorship for MWR. The team previously bought its apparel from Oakley.(SportsBusiness Journal)(4-1-2014)
The decal ran by Michael Waltrip Racing cars (#15, #55) at Martinsville
on March 30th to honor Bobby Waltrip, Darrell and Micheal's brother
MWR cars paying tribute to Bobby Waltrip: Bobby Waltrip, the middle brother of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip and NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner and FOX announcer Michael Waltrip, died of natural causes last Sunday. The middle Waltrip formerly managed Darrell's race team and was best known as a promoter and announcer of go-kart races in both the American Karting Association and the World Karting Association. To memorialize Bobby, the two Michael Waltrip Racing Toyotas of #15-Clint Bowyer and #55-Brian Vickers are carrying the name "Bobby Waltrip" over their respective driver's doors, as well as decals honoring his memory this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.(FoxSports)(3-29-2014)
Teams complete tires test at Sonoma Five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams completed a rain-dampened two-day Goodyear tire test at Sonoma Raceway on Wednesday. Intermittent rain fell at the raceway both Tuesday and Wednesday, but #9-Marcos Ambrose, #18-Kyle Busch, #24-Jeff Gordon, #14-Tony Stewart and #55-Brian Vickers were able to log approximately nine hours of track time over the two days. "Goodyear had a pretty stout tire here last year, and they want to improve on it if they can. They came here with some different compounds to try, and a good mix of teams and drivers to get feedback," said Ambrose, who started from the pole in Sonoma in 2012. "We also get a chance to set up the car up with the new technical regulations, which is helpful for the team. Ninety-five percent of the time was getting tires dialed in for Goodyear, and then the rest of the time was for us to see what we'll need when we come back." The two-day test marked the first Goodyear Sprint Cup Series tire test of the year, and is currently the only scheduled road-course test. Goodyear worked closely with the teams and drivers to develop a durable race package while giving teams the appropriate amount of grip.(Sonoma)(3-27-2014)
Vickers bringing awareness to blot clots with special scheme: Brian Vickers has overcome blood clots twice in his life. He's taking steps to make sure others are just as fortunate. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver will pilot the #55 TREATMYCLOT.com Aaron's Toyota in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway. He'll also kickoff Blood Clot Awareness Month with Janssen to enhance the public's understanding about the problem that twice sidelined his racing career. Vickers missed most of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season recovering from blood clots in his legs and around his lungs. He returned to competition in 2011 and earned his third career victory driving the Aaron's Dream Machine in July 2013. In October, the discovery of a blood clot in his right calf, after wearing a walking boot, sidelined him for the final four races. He's returned full-time in 2014 on a mission to win races and help race fans know the warning signs and treatment for blood clots. Brian Vickers: "I want people to be mindful of what the signs and symptoms are. Visit www.TREATMYCLOT.COM to learn about the warning signs and if you experience any of the signs or symptoms talk to your doctor. That's the best thing to do. I'm always mindful and take precautions. When you're taking long flights, you stand up and you walk around. That's not just for me, everyone should do that. Obviously I keep an eye out for signs and symptoms, but my last incident was a provoked incident. I had to wear an ankle brace for a month, which is known to create clots. In those situations in the future, I will be more mindful and probably more careful and maybe try to get ahead of it. Other than that I just live my life and go racing."(Michael Waltrip Racing), see an image of the car on the #55 team paint schemes page.(3-19-2014)
Drivers say qualifying format creates dangers: NASCAR's new knockout qualifying format has been universally hailed as more exciting and interesting than the old single-car system. But for the second week in a row, drivers also said it's extremely dangerous. Since the only legal way for teams to cool their cars is to drive slowly around the track, there's a dramatic speed difference between drivers making qualifying runs and those driving as if they're in a construction zone.
"Riding around the bottom - we've got to do it, it's the only way to keep the engine cool - but that has got to be the most dangerous thing I've ever done in racing," #55-Brian Vickers said after Friday's session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "(#36-Reed Sorenson) went by me at 170 mph faster than I was going. Had he slipped or hit me, I'd be done. It would be so bad."
Teams need to cool their engines between attempts at fast laps in order to keep their cars from overheating. Teams are not allowed to cool their cars on pit road in between runs because it would require opening the hood to attach a cooling box. NASCAR does not want teams to make adjustments on pit road during the knockout sessions and since policing every open hood would be difficult, it is not permitted. As a result, the disparity in speed created some dicey situations - several of which occurred again Friday.
#15-Clint Bowyer, who qualified third, said he nearly collided with #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. during one run and called for a change due to the "dangerous" difference in speed. "We've got to stop that," he said. "...I about smoked him. That's not the guy you want to hit at a 140 mph deficit. (A collision is) going to hurt me and it might hurt Dale Jr., and that would be bad for business."
#1-Jamie McMurray, who was among the drivers to raise the safety issue at Phoenix, said he texted NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton a few days ago and was told, "Let's give it a couple weeks and just see what plays out." [NASCAR spokesman Kerry] Tharp echoed that sentiment in a statement to USA TODAY Sports on Friday. "We're only two race weekends in with the new qualifying format," he said. "It's something new and it's something that will take time to get used to. We will continue to look at it."(USA Today)(3-8-2014)
Owners Points Updates: NASCAR announced that it has approved points for three new ownership groups. The points from the #32 car owned by Frank Stoddard last season will go to Go Fas Racing. That features the new partnership between Stoddard's Fas Lane Racing and Archie St. Hilarie's Go Green Racing.
The points from the #55 Michael Waltrip car last season will go to the #66 car of Robinson Racing Team. That car is being shared by MWR and Jay Robinson Racing.
That doesn't mean the #55 car at MWR driven by Brian Vickers this year will be without points. The team is moving the points earned from the #56 car with Martin Truex Jr. last year to the car Vickers will drive this year.
Also, the #87 car formerly known as NEMCO Motorsports will be known as Identity Ventures Racing, which is a partnership of Jay Robinson, Joe Nemechek, Troy Stafford, James Hamilton and John Burns. It will use the points (40th) earned from Nemechek's #87 car last year.(MRN)(2-13-2014)
Brian Vickers Cleared by Doctors, awaits NASCAR ok: #55-Brian Vickers has been cleared to drive after missing the final five races of last season because of a blood clot - the second time since 2010 a blood clot forced him out the car. Vickers missed much of the 2010 season after blood clots were discovered in both lungs and his left leg in May. He was placed on blood thinning medication and didn't race again that year. He also had heart surgery in July 2010 to repair a small hole. Vickers' latest blood clot came after he suffered a mid-foot sprain in a crash at Bristol in August - about a month after he won at New Hampshire. He wore a boot to help the sprain but that caused the blood clot by constricting his right calf. He was put on blood thinning medication, ending his season.
Vickers said doctors have told him that there's a "low percentage'' that he'll get another blood clot if it is "unprovoked.'' Vickers noted that his most recent blood clot was the result of the boot he wore. Had it not been for that, he likely wouldn't have suffered a blood clot last year.
Now that he's cleared, Vickers will test for Michael Waltrip Racing at New Smyrna Speedway next week. This year marks his first full NASCAR Sprint Cup season since 2011. That's also the last time he ran in the Daytona 500. "To get back down there is going to be special,'' Vickers said Thursday during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour. "I'm curious to see if it's going to feel the same this year, that excitement, that energy and that love, as it did the first time I went to Daytona. I have a feeling it will. I think being gone for so long and going through so much since the last time I was there, it's going to have a similar feel to me. That's a great feeling.'' It's not just Daytona that excites the 30-year-old Vickers, who had run a partial schedule the past two seasons. "It's not often that you hear a racecar driver excited about testing,'' he said. "I'm really looking forward to testing next week. I'm really looking forward to getting out there and getting in a car and making laps. That's something I haven't done in three months.''(Motor Racing Network)(1-30-2014)
NASCAR reinstates Ty Norris: NASCAR announced Thursday that it has reinstated Ty Norris, an executive with Michael Waltrip Racing. Norris had been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR last Sept. 9 as part of the penalties assessed to MWR following the sanctioning body's review of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sept. 7 at Richmond International Raceway. Norris remains on indefinite NASCAR probation.(NASCAR)
AND Statement from Ty Norris, Executive Vice President at Michael Waltrip Racing: "I appreciate NASCAR's action today and respect their position. I am focused forward and dedicated to the success of Michael Waltrip Racing and the continued growth of a sport that has been my home for the past 24 years."(1-23-2014)
New crew chief named for #55 team: Michael Waltrip Racing announced Billy Scott will serve as Brian Vickers' crew chief on the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. "Billy was the unanimous selection by everyone here at MWR including the crew, drivers, and ownership," said Waltrip. "We feel like engineering is one of our strongest assets and with that type of talent in house it was easy to promote from within. Billy has earned this opportunity because he has helped develop and refine the engineering tools that we use every day to make our cars faster."
Scott, 36, began racing motorcycles as a 5-year-old and stock cars when he turned 15. He worked in the truck series as a mechanic before he returned to college to obtain an engineering degree. After graduating in 2005 Scott worked at Robert Yates Racing and began as an engineer at MWR in 2008. He has served exclusively as the No. 55 team's lead engineer the last two seasons. "I'm honored, but I also know this is a big responsibility," said Scott on the announcement. "We have very high expectations for the Aaron's Dream Machine in 2014. Brian has been incredible to work with and is a winner, so we can't wait to get 2014 started."
Scott Miller, MWR's Executive Vice President of Competition, performed crew chief duties on the #55 since Rodney Childers departure in August. Miller will return to overseeing all of MWR's competition effort, which includes the #55, Clint Bowyer's #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota and the #66 [was #56] Toyota shared by Waltrip and Jeff Burton. Vickers raced the #55 on a part-time basis for MWR in 2012 and 2013. He posted his third career victory at New Hampshire on July 14.
"I've been around Billy the last two seasons and he's demonstrated a strong knowledge of what makes these cars go fast," said Vickers. "I have a lot of faith in Billy. This is one of the strongest teams I've had and that's a great feeling heading into a new season." In August, Aaron's announced a multi-year agreement to sponsor Vickers in the #55 beginning at the Feb. 23 Daytona 500. Aaron's will sponsor each race during the length [2 years] of the agreement.(MWR)(12-19-2013)
Brian Vickers talks about deep vein thrombosis: #55-Brian Vickers has a condition known as deep vein thrombosis and has suffered from two blood clots in his leg. Vickers and Jack Ansell, MD with New York University School of Medicine joined the FOX43 morning team, to talk about the connection between the winter months and the increase in blood clots. See the video at FOX43.(12-19-2013)
MWR to run three cars in 2014: Despite NAPA's decision not to return to MWR in 2014, and driver Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Chad Johnston opting to move on, team owner Rob Kauffman told FOXSports.com that three teams will operate out of the shop next year. "We'll have two full-time cars and a third car that will run part-time," Kauffman said. "It's really kind of as simple as that. It's not going to run for the championship - so it will have the flexibility to try stuff - but the same as everybody else has to pass tech each week and make sure everything's correct. But it is a third car. It will help us keep the core of the team a little bit more substantial by keeping the engineering staff full, the pit crews are still able to keep in practice and keep going through the motions, so if in '15 we can scale back up to a third car, the infrastructure would still be in place. "It's kind of a little bit of a diet, then maybe you can get back to a playing weight by '15." When asked who the driver would be for the third car, Kauffman said coyly, "There is one." Pressed whether that driver was Jeff Burton, he replied, "There is a list."(FoxSports)(11-10-2013)
Female crew member leaves MWR: Christmas Abbott, who in February became the only woman employed in NASCAR as a full-time pit crew member, has left her Michael Waltrip Racing team without ever changing a tire in a race. Abbott's departure was confirmed on Tuesday night by a MWR spokesman. The team declined to release any other details regarding her departure. In February, Abbott, an elite-level fitness athlete whose journey to become a full-time pit crew member has been well-chronicled, was named to MWR's Sprint Cup organization's traveling pit support team. Abbott, however, never made it into a race with the MWR organization and in recent months wasn't seen at the track on race day.(Charlotte Observer)(10-30-2013)
Brian Vickers says he will return in 2014: #55-Brian Vickers met with the media Sunday morning at Martinsville Speedway:
How are you feeling?
Vickers: "I feel like I could drive a race car, I just can't. I feel great. Still training, still exercising. I can't complain. I've got a great life and family and friends. I'm frustrated and I've been bummed since obviously all this happened again. I'm just kind of looking forward. Things happen in life -- that's part of it. You just keep fighting and have faith. That's all you can really do. I'm going to be out for three months and back in time for Daytona to race for a championship."
Have doctors explained why this happened and how long you will have to deal with it?
Vickers: "The answer is yes.. After the crash at Bristol, I had a mid-foot sprain and I was wearing a boot to kind of immobilize my right ankle to help with that foot sprain and that boot is what caused the clot. Pretty much right where the boot kind of constricted my calf. We know what caused it. I think the good news for me in both situations -- the first one and this one is that there were specific events -- kind of the perfect storm so to speak that created the clots. Because of that, I've never spontaneously produced a clot at random. That creates a completely different situation than someone who is just throwing clots all the time randomly. Going forward, pretty much every doctor I've met with has pretty much had the exact same conclusion, which is three months of anti-coagulation and then you're off. Whether I race or not, whether I decide to go racing or not is kind of irrelevant, the decision would still be the same.
What keeps you out of the car?
Vickers "It's not the clot and it's not that I can't race on blood thinners it's just that I can't crash. As long as I can promise my doctors that I will not crash then they're fine with me racing. Unfortunately, there's a lot of moving parts in a car that I can't control and 42 competitors that I can't control. I can't firmly commit to that so he would rather me not race. The risk is not even so much external injury like a cut or something, it's really more of an internal injury. They wouldn't be able to stop the bleeding."
(Toyota Racing PR)(10-28-2013)
MWR unveils new plan UPDATE2: Michael Waltrip Racing majority owner Rob Kauffman told FOXSports.com on Sunday he hopes to unveil the company's reorganizational plan "relatively soon." The moves will come following MWR's penalties for attempts to manipulate the outcome of the Richmond International Raceway race on Sept. 7 and the subsequent announcement from NAPA to pull its sponsorship from the #56 Toyota team. "We're working on an announcement," Kauffman said. "I think it's been a week since we last spoke, so we're trying to get it all together. But we have a couple of good options. I think rather than use the word 'release,' I'd prefer to say allow guys to explore all their options - just as we're exploring all of our options. Is that exactly negative? I think it's the right thing to allow people to investigate all their options. A lot of these contracts have provisions that say 'you can't speak to anyone.' So, technically, it's a release, but it's really more correct saying, 'Look, there's a challenge here. We want you to investigate all your options. Of course, we're one and let's stay in close communication.' I don't think there's anything negative around it at all. It's just letting people figure it out."(FoxSports)(10-8-2013)
UPDATE: The Associated Press has learned that Michael Waltrip Racing will run only two full-time cars next season because of the loss of sponsor NAPA. Team owners Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman on Monday began telling employees of their decision. Those affected were told they are free to begin looking for a new job immediately. Two employees spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because MWR had not publicly announced its decision. The car that #56-Martin Truex Jr. currently drives will run a partial schedule in 2014. NAPA decided to leave MWR at the end of the year - fallout from the team's attempt to manipulate the finish at Richmond to get Truex into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.(Associated Press)(10-14-2013)
UPDATE2: Michael Waltrip Racing announced today its reorganization for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, highlighted by two full-time championship contending teams, a third entry which will run a limited schedule and a strengthened research and development group. MWR will field the #55 Aaron's Toyota and the #15 5-hour ENERGY/PEAK Toyota in its pursuit of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. To enhance performance for its two full-time teams, MWR has bolstered its R&D effort and will run a third car in select races, including Michael Waltrip in the 2014 Daytona 500. Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota and his crew chief, Chad Johnston, each have been notified they are free to negotiate with other teams. Scott Miller, the team's executive vice president of competition, will continue his role as crew chief of the #55 team into the 2014 season.
"Our goals for the reorganization were twofold, firstly to improve the competitiveness of our race teams and, secondly maintain a stable organizational structure," said co-owner Rob Kauffman. "The team's focus has been to find that last one percent needed to move from Chase participant to Cup champion. This realignment will get us closer to that last one percent."
The reorganization enabled MWR to retain more than 85% of its current workforce. Those whose positions were affected by the moves were notified Monday morning. "Today was about doing what we had to do not what we wanted to do," Kauffman added. "It was important to let those whose jobs were affected know as early as possible, and a majority of those will remain with MWR through the end of the season."
"We have very strong support from Toyota, Toyota Racing Development, 5-hour ENERGY, PEAK, Aaron's, AAA Mid-Atlantic and other partners who enable us to compete at the highest level," said MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip. "We are confident that with two teams and a very active test team, our competiveness will take a step forward. We will also continue to do a great job for our partners off the track, which has always been a cultural staple for our organization. Rob and I deeply appreciate everyone who has helped build MWR into a race winning team and we are dedicated to continuing our pursuit of excellence on and off the track."(MWR)(10-14-2013)
Brian Vickers to miss the rest of the 2013 season: Michael Waltrip Racing learned today that Brian Vickers is not available to race for the remainder of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season due to health issues. Vickers said Dr. William Downey has placed him on blood thinning medication after a Monday morning examination on his right leg discovered a small blood clot in his calf region. The medications will keep Vickers out of the #55 Aaron's Toyota the remainder of the season, effective immediately. Vickers said his physicians are confident he will be able to resume activity before the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season begins. "If there's anything to be positive about with today's news it's that this is only a temporary setback," said Vickers. "The timing for this is never good, but I'm glad we'll get it out of the way now and be ready to run for a championship with the Aaron's Dream Machine in 2014."
"We were just informed this morning and our concern is for Brian's health," said MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman. "Anything else will be worked out in due course." As previously announced, two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip will drive the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. A replacement driver for the remaining events will be named later. In 22 races with MWR in 2012 and 2013, Vickers owns five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes including a victory on July 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.(MWR)(10-14-2013)
Crew chief change at MWR UPDATE: Scott Miller, MWR executive vice president of competition, is expected to act as interim crew chief on the #55 Aaron's Toyota team and for Brian Vickers until a replacement can be found. Rodney Childers informed MWR last week that he would not be returning to the team next year, opting to join Stewart-Haas Racing as (#4) Kevin Harvick's crew chief. "I'm at my last supper," Childers confirmed by text Monday, "with my guys." Miller served a similar role at MWR for Martin Truex Jr., when Chad Johnston was suspended at the end of 2011.(FoxSports)(8-26-2013)
UPDATE: Michael Waltrip Racing announced that Scott Miller, its vice-president of competition, will oversee the crew chief duties on #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota for the remainder of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Miller will take the lead role on the #55 Toyota team working with driver Brian Vickers. Miller replaces Rodney Childers who remains under contract with MWR through December 31. Billy Scott, a race engineer with MWR since 2008 and exclusive to the #55 the past two seasons, will take an elevated role in car set up and race weekend preparations. Vickers will drive the #55 in the remaining 2013 races except at Talladega when two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip climbs behind the wheel. Vickers won the July 14 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the #55. The team is 19th in the car owner standings. Miller is a 20-year motorsports veteran who joined MWR before the 2012 season and played a major role in bringing the team its first two Chase berths last year. He has served as crew chief for several teams during his career (MWR)(8-26-2013)
MWR to announce Vickers as 2014 driver of #55 UPDATE 2: Michael Waltrip Racing has scheduled a "major media announcement" for Tuesday morning at the Hall of Fame. The release has the Aaron's logo and a picture of Brian Vickers on it. Vickers has split the #55 with Mark Martin the last couple years and is widely expected to be the full time driver next season.(8-12-2013)
UPDATE: Brian Vickers on Tuesday will be named the full-time driver of the #55 Michael Waltrip Racing Sprint Cup car for 2014, sources close to the situation told ESPN.com. Team officials were not available for comment, but team owner Michael Waltrip has made it clear for several months that Vickers was his choice to take over the 55 car after this season.(ESPN)(8-12-2013)
UPDATE 2: Aaron's announced it has reached a multi-year agreement [2 year deal] to sponsor Brian Vickers in Michael Waltrip Racing's (MWR) #55 Toyota Camry in every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. "We at Aaron's are thrilled about this partnership. We're building a championship organization - and we know that Brian Vickers and the No. 55 team, under Michael Waltrip's tradition of winning, are focused on building a championship caliber team," said Ronald W. Allen, Aaron's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "So many of our customers are enthusiastic and loyal NASCAR fans and we are proud to be a part of a sport they are passionate about. We are looking forward to continued success with Brian Vickers both on and off the track." Vickers has raced the #55 on a part-time basis the last two seasons for MWR posting several impressive performances including his third career victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14. Beginning in 2014, he'll pilot the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine with a fresh new paint scheme, unveiled today at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. in every race.
"I can't put into words how this makes me feel," said 29-year-old Vickers. "I've really found my home at MWR over the past few years, and I've enjoyed getting to know the Aaron's associates and customers. I am honored that Aaron's is welcoming me into their family full-time. Knowing that I have a top-notch team and a dedicated sponsor for a full season is a really great feeling every driver dreams about, and like everyone else, I want to win races and win a championship. Michael and co-owner Rob Kauffman are really building something special at MWR and are giving me the tools to accomplish those goals."
"Aaron's is a cornerstone to MWR's success. This is a big announcement today because it shows a tremendous vote of confidence in the sport of NASCAR and the entire Michael Waltrip Racing organization," said Michael Waltrip, founder and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing. "The relationship with Aaron's is very personal to me because they helped place Michael Waltrip Racing on the map in 2000 when I was running a half dozen Nationwide Series races from a small garage in my backyard. Now they are enabling MWR to continue its growth as we will have three drivers racing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2014 and beyond. So much of this confidence comes from the NASCAR fans who continue to support the sponsors of our teams. I want to sincerely thank the NASCAR fans who are Aaron's customers because you make this all happen," said Waltrip.(MWR)(8-13-2013)
Last time a race winner skipped the next race? With Brian Vickers not running the Sprint Cup Series race at Indy this week, yet winning the last Cup race run at New Hampshire on July 14th, who was the last race winner NOT to attempts the following event?
That would be Brad Keselowski, who won at Talladega in April 2009 running the #09 Chevy for Phoenix Racing and did not run the following race at Richmond in May 2009. Before that it was Jamie McMurray, who won at Charlotte in October 2002 in his 2nd career Cup start and didn't race the following week at Martinsville.(7-25-2013)
Vickers wins New Hampshire: #55-Brian Vickers won the Camping World RV Sales 301 Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for his 1st win of 2013 and 3rd career win.
#18-Busch finished 2nd followed by #31-Burton, #2-Keselowski, #43-Almirola, #48-Johnson, #29-Harvick, #99-Edwards, #20-Kenseth, and #24-Gordon.
The race ended under a green-white-checker finish after a late caution. #14-Stewart restart second but ran out of gas and finished 26th.
#78-Busch led the most laps with 102 of 302 laps, but spun midway through the race and finished 31st.
There were 10 lead changes among 6 drivers and 12 cautions for 58 yellow flag laps.
The average speed was 98.735mph. NASCAR no longer announces the track attendance.
See race results, awards, money won, laps led, cautions and more on the Unofficial New Hampshire Race Results page (pdf) and check out the New Hampshire Penalty Report (pdf).
See drivers championship points standings on the Unofficial Drivers Points Standings (pdf) and the owner points standings on the Unofficial Owners Points Standings page (pdf).(7-14-2013)
MWR teams to honor Boston Marathon victims: The events of this week's attack on the Boston Marathon hit especially close to Michael Waltrip Racing founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip. As the only NASCAR Sprint Cup driver or car owner to have run the Boston Marathon, Waltrip will honor the victims of the marathon tragedy by running special door numbers on his three NASCAR Sprint Cup entries this weekend at Kansas Speedway.
The door numbers on the #15, 55 and 56 MWR Toyota Camrys will replicate the 2013 Boston Marathon runner "bib" numbers, which are pinned on each of the nearly 30,000 runners. Waltrip posted a time of 4 hours, 33 minutes in the 2000 event.
"The news coming out of Boston this week was very personal to me," said Waltrip. "When I ran the Boston Marathon in 2000, I remember thinking about what a privilege it was to be able to participate and all the hard work it took to be there. When you can see those international flags flying in Copley Square, you know you are about to complete your journey. I know the joy those runners were feeling at that moment when their worlds changed. It was a great moment of pride when they pinned the Boston Marathon bib on me, so I thought it would be great to pin bib numbers on our race cars this week in Kansas. I want to thank our sponsors, NAPA AUTO PARTS, 5-Hour ENERGY and Aaron's, as well as NASCAR, for giving us permission to show our support. We just want the victims of the attack, the brave men and women who helped after the explosions and the city of Boston to know that we are thinking of them and we will support them anyway we can."(MWR)(4-18-2013)
MWR Names Tom German as Chief Technical Officer: Michael Waltrip Racing announced it has hired Tom German as Chief Technical Officer for the NASCAR Sprint Cup organization. German has spent nearly 15 years with Penske Racing most recently serving as technical director for Penske's NASCAR teams. German will begin his duties after the Feb. 24 Daytona 500. The highest-ranking technical position at MWR became available when long-time MWR Technical Director Nick Hughes informed MWR he would return to his native Australia some time in 2013. Hughes joined MWR in 2008 creating and managing one of the best engineering staffs in NASCAR.
"This is such a bitter-sweet announcement for MWR," said MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip. "It is so rare that a person of Tom German's experience and education comes along, period. It is even more remarkable that he became available at the perfect time. Nick has done such an amazing job and has become one of the most respected behind-the-scenes guys in NASCAR. The depth in our engineering department, the leadership that (Executive Vice President of Competition) Scott Miller has brought to us and now the addition of Tom German gives me so much confidence in the technical future of MWR. Every day is a new challenge and I am so proud of the team we have assembled to make those challenges opportunities."
German received his Master's degree in business administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management and his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Akron. "The first thing that attracted me to MWR was the culture of its employees. It is truly striking at first," said German. "After the first conversation it was obvious the ownership has committed to engineering excellence and that was the deciding factor. I can't wait to contribute to MWR's pursuit of a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship." Hughes will remain in the United States through this summer and will maintain a close relationship with MWR as a consultant over the medium term.(MWR)(2-13-2013)
Chad Walter joins MWR: Chad Walter has joined Michael Waltrip Racing as director of race engineering. Walter most recently led the #22 Penske Racing team and Sam Hornish in the Nationwide Series. He won races with both Hornish and Justin Allgaier and coached both drivers to fourth-place finishes in the NNS point standings. The 41-year-old Albion, N.Y. native was replaced by Greg Erwin at the end of last season. Walter, who attended Cornell University, replaces Steve Boyer at Michael Waltrip Racing. Boyer joined MWR two seasons ago but has returned to the private sector.(Fox Sports)(2-4-2013)
Happy Hour Practice:
Friday, September 2, 2016, 3:30pm/et
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