Concord, NC – Going into the 2012 season, Michael Waltrip Racing was guardedly optimistic about doing well but as the season progressed, the team’s fortunes spiraled upward as it put newcomer Clint Bowyer and returnee Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase for the Sprint Cup crown.
And Bowyer was in contention for the championship until the end. If not enough, veteran Mark Martin grabbed four pole positions and had victory in his grasp on more than one occasion.
...to win the Daytona 500 would put me over the galaxy.
“We had a lot of hope and anticipation going into 2012,” team co-owner and part-time driver Michael Waltrip said during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour presented by the Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It was unarguable that we had the best driver line-up and we hoped that we could do more than we had ever done before, but I wasn’t bold enough to think that we could win more races and have more top-five’s and top-10’s than we did.”
Waltrip complimented his driver line-up of Bowyer, Truex, Martin and newcomer Brian Vickers. The Daytona 500 champion complimented Truex, who hung in there during the team’s formative stages and he described Martin as a breath of fresh air.
Said Truex, “I am very excited about our program during 2012. It was great for us both on and off the track. For a couple of years, we went to the track wondering what we could get out of it. What would it take to get to the next level? That’s hard to stay where we are but we will keep trying. And we will roll the dice at times and you have to confidence.”
Martin was his usual positive self. “I had an amazing year. MWR is a great atmosphere to work in,” he said. “For 2013, my expectations are to have fun while working with the team. We have kept our entire team together and that shows how the guys are enjoying their work and have a lot of fun. It was a blast.”
Bowyer’s name made worldwide headlines when he jousted with Jeff Gordon in the penultimate race at Phoenix, but Bowyer said his championship hopes weren’t derailed there, as they disappeared when caught up in a late-race crash while leading at Talladega. “I made a couple of bad moves, and I got wrecked,” he said. “Jimmie (Johnson) kind of got through it and Brad (Keselowski) got through it. That one big mishap and you are done. Had I inched through that thing, I might have been able to get through it.”
Regarding rivalries with Gordon or others, Bowyer stated, “I really don’t think I have a rivalry with Gordon or anyone. You guys (the media) made it a lot bigger deal than I thought it was. I have a lot of fun in this sport. Last year was a lot of fun except for one weekend. If I have one not-so-fun weekend, I am good with it.”
Regarding the new car, Martin said, “This is not a dramatic change from what we had. In most ways, it represents subtle improvements until it gets to the esthetics. That represents a huge improvement but operationally it is not that huge. As we get acquainted with the rules, there’s opportunity to gain an advantage.”
Martin continues to seek a victory and when done, it will send him into orbit. “Any race win would put me over the moon and to win the Daytona 500 would put me over the galaxy,” he said. “And the Brickyard (400) would be great. But I will take anything that’s on the schedule. All you can do is to try and at the end of the day, they either come or they don’t.”
Waltrip enjoys getting behind the wheel but realizes his days as a formidable contender are diminishing, although he’s not giving up. Had he raced to victory last fall at Talladega, he might have hung up the helmet. “Having a chance to win is what this sport is all about,” he said. “I love what I do, and I have a lot of determination and desire. As long as I can get in a car and think I can win, I want to continue doing it.”
With four top-notch drivers at the top of their game, MWR is looking to excel in 2013.