Michael Waltrip Racing press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 TY NORRIS: We'll open it up to questions. Q: Congratulations, Martin and Michael. Michael, a lot of drivers struggle with this. It's not an easy decision to scale back. Can you talk us through that? It had to be ...

Continued from part 1

TY NORRIS: We'll open it up to questions.

Q: Congratulations, Martin and Michael. Michael, a lot of drivers struggle with this. It's not an easy decision to scale back. Can you talk us through that? It had to be emotional for you. Were you always certain that this was the right thing to do and now?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Totally. And I started out in February by saying to you guys at preseason, before the 500, that I had to go out and perform at the same level or better than David and Marcos, and that's putting a lot of pressure on a driver, and I don't mind I didn't mind doing that, because it was multipurpose.

I knew that's what I was going to have to do in order to be able to justify racing in 2010 and beyond. But I also wanted to make sure people like Martin and drivers of his caliber knew there was going to be a good seat available in 2010 if things didn't go like I wanted them to.

So making those statements in Florida was a precursor to what we're doing here today; it was just a chance for me to say, you know, I'm proud of what I've accomplished, I was genuinely more happy when David won that race in Charlotte than I've been in a long time in my career.

So that was confirmation that I made the right decision, that I can get joy out of helping mold and shape MWR and helping to make all of these wonderful men and women that work here understand that their owner is in there with them, in the trenches, fighting, working, trying to help them do whatever we need to help them have success. So I'm totally at ease with where I'm at. I think my legacy as a driver has been shaped up by now.

I probably don't have Hall of Fame numbers, there is one time I lost 462 races in a row, I remember that pretty good. When people talk about giving up, that's not who I am. That's not a part of me, and you don't race 462 times in a row I woke up on the morning of that Daytona 500 and I knew I was going to win it; I knew I could win it.

That's the same way I look at this team.  I feel like we're in a battle and
we're going to win it.  So it makes me    I'm happy.

Q: Martin, a lot of times first of all congratulations to all of you gentlemen. A lot of times when these announcements are made mid season or before the season is over you wonder are you going to be in your current ride for the rest of that season? How confident are you that you will be there the rest of the year or come here prior to season's end.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I'm 100% committed to the EGR team for driving the No. 1 car. We haven't had any discussions further than that, but that's the plan. We're all on the same page with Chip over there, that I'm 100% committed to them and trying to get back to victory lane.

Q: I have one for Martin and Michael. Martin, they talked earlier about the struggles they went through early in ownership here. I'm wondering what your perception was back then of MWR and how that changed over time?

Michael, I'm wondering if you're thinking that you could carve a legacy in ownership that will possibly surpass what you did as a driver?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: I'll answer first, and Martin doesn't have to answer the question about what he thought about us at first.

Q: Please, do.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: I'm okay if he sits on that one. That was certainly the goal. Darrell knows a little bit about the history of this plan, it dates pack to early '03 when I heard Toyota was going to come truck racing. I raced a Chevy, I just won the Daytona 500 in my Chevy, and I called Darrell up and I said, "I can't have a truck team but I think you would be a darn good truck owner."

He got David Reutimann to drive for him, which was the best driver that DW could have possibly gotten. He got him, and they raced for a championship, and that's the relationship between Toyota and the Waltrips and got us where we are today.

The plan is to win many races, and I do admit that was the plan with my driving career, too, though. So it's easier to sit up here and talk about it than it is to do it but, darn, look around. We've got a good foundation built to race forward for many years to come.

And we have great ownership from Mr. Kauffman, who joined our team in the middle of '07 -- solid support. So I think Martin is in a great position, and I'm proud for him and happy for him. He's got a wonderful family, Martin Senior, who owns a paint company.

I used to get they were talking about talking to Martin, and they kept saying they were going to have to see what Martin, Senior said, and I thought, what's a paint company got to do with this? But it was his dad.

It was funnier when I told them earlier. But I think Martin is in a great position to win races, and I'm very proud. If you remember the question, go ahead.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: You don't want me to, do you? I can't remember I can't recall what I thought then, but in three years, they've come a long way, there is no doubt about that.

I know what it's like switching teams or changing teams around or changing the way you do things or moving shops and moving buildings, little things like that, how they can change and disrupt and make it harder to race, you know. So for them starting three teams three years ago all at once and to be where they are now, I think they've made great leaps and bounds, and I'm excited to be part of it.

Q: Congratulations, Martin. What was the one thing that pushed you over the top in making the decision to come? I wonder if the stability of Toyota perhaps had something to do with that? How long is the NAPA deal for? Martin, congratulations, again.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Thank you. NAPA is a multi year deal. There were a lot of things that went into my decision, it wasn't just one thing. It was me talking with Ty and Michael and their passion and how bad they wanted me, and how much appreciation they showed me that I was thinking about coming here, talking to them, and then it was their on track performance.

David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose have been running really, really good. There was just a lot of things. I like the way they do business. My little brother has been racing here all year and going out there and doing a great job. I got a glimpse and got to see how they run their business and the way they do things in their shop, and the people they have working here, and everybody I talk to, you know, tells me about how much they love it here.

Just everything. There was a lot of things. It wasn't just one little thing that made the decisions for me. It was a lot of things. I have been able to see they have got a great thing here, a great company, and we're just starting to see what they can do, and that's something I wanted to be a part of it, and from here on out I think it will keep getting better.

Certainly that's how I hope it to be, and I hope I can make an impact and come in here and help them do even better. For me it's a great situation over all.

Q: (No microphone.)

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It doesn't hurt that they have great backing from Toyota, and that's definitely a positive with what's going on today, so that definitely has a lot to do with it.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: I would like to add one thing. The thing I'm most proud of this organization is what Martin touched on, people, people truly like working here. I've raced out of buildings where there was seemingly constant turmoil and you walk around here and folks are happy.

They feel appreciated, they feel involved on what's going on. So thank you to all you guys and girls wearing the NAPA blue! (Applause.)

It's always been a passion of mine for everybody to feel like they own the team and they know as much about what's going on as I do. You know, we have great people here I think, Martin, you're right, people do enjoy it here and we're real proud that you're here with us.

Q: How well did you all know each other when Martin was first racing, maybe his first year at DEI? Is there anything of what you knew about each other back then or that drove you to make this decision?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: We didn't know each other that good. I remember just being impressed. Because we've all seen kids come and kids go in this sport. You know, I've lived through the next coming of Richard Petty probably 10 or 12 different times; that didn't ever materialize. But when Martin showed up was your first race Rockingham?

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Richmond.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: He qualified, ran up front, that was awesome, that was the day after my birthday, wasn't it?

TY NORRIS: Yeah.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: That's a funny story, remind me to tell you that. We had my 40th birthday a couple days before that race, and I know a funny story about it that I won't share right now.

But I was impressed when we went to Rockingham, Richmond -- places he showed up and started racing. He got it. He was up there in the front. That's all I needed to know, that DEI got them a guy, Dale, Junior's buddy could drive a race car. That's all it meant to me.

And Dale's been talking to him and happy for us and happy for Martin, and I think it's important because, I mean, I don't guess all of this wouldn't have happened for you so quickly if it weren't for Dale, Junior.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Absolutely. We didn't know each other all that well, and probably the last few years we've known each other better than we did when we raced together, which is strange.

Q: Michael, couple things. As you scale back and move toward the ownership role, what more might you be able to do as an owner now, once you scale back? Also, as you look back upon your career, other than the wins, what do you look upon as your legacy? What are the things that stand out about your career?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: From the career side, perseverance and passion. I hear people talk about using the word "racer" that's supposed to be that's a term of endearment, it's something special to be that.

When I think about all the sacrifices I made over the last 25 years and all the hits I took from not winning races and struggling along the way and waking up every day still believing that I was going to go win the race, and to be able to show up at Daytona in 2001 with Dale and a new team and have the conviction and the determination that I was going to win that race I would like for people to get I learned a life lesson out of that: Don't give up, don't quit, be passionate and confident, and you can make things happen.

And as far as the ownership side, my job is to continue to be a part of the men and women you see on the floor, listen to them, understand what they like, what they see, what we can do better. I love that part.

I like being able to race a car on Sunday and sit in a competition meeting on Monday and talk about what our cars are doing, what David is dealing with, what Marcos is dealing with, what Martin will be dealing with. I love that part of it. Then the relationship with the sponsors, my friendship with Bob and what NAPA and I have been able to build together, we'll just continue to try to make that more than it's ever been, and with Aaron's as well, Ken, Robin and all the folks there are dear to me.

It's not unlike me to pick up the phone and call one of them up and say, "What do you think about this idea?" Or "What do you think we can do to sell more NAPA parts?" And same with Aaron's, and I want to do that, be the voice for NAPA and our team about how we can do things better.

Q: Michael, in each of the last three seasons you made definite and steady improvement or in each of the last two. What do you need to do as an organization to get you to a championship level or a contending for a championship level next year?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, we're 50 something points away from it right now with David's car. He could race his way into this Chase, and he's very competitive everywhere. So I think we're not that far off.

I hope everybody is taking notice to what we've accomplished with that rookie from Australia (Marcos Ambrose), with Tad and Jodi's team. He is impressive. I wouldn't be surprised if Marcos doesn't race his way into position to race for the championship in 2010 as well.

Then you got Martin, who has Chase experience and, like I said, when he walked up in 2004, he's been solid ever since, or 2003, whenever it was.

I think we're positioning ourselves nicely to contend.  Our goal when we
started this year was to infiltrate    make our way into the top four or
five teams, and we've been able to accomplish that.  Now we just need to try
to make that    bring the other cars along with it.

Q: Bob, NAPA kind of gets the best of both world's here. You get a new driver in Martin, and you still get to keep Michael as the team owner and a spokesman. How do you guys feel about that? How do you plan to use your dual pitch?

BOB SUSOR: We do plan to use both of them, and that obviously was part of the decision for us to extend the contract with Michael Waltrip Racing.

You know, while there is a you would like to think it's a personal relationship, it's a commercial relationship at the end of the day, and I can tell you that even when we were having a rough time, Michael scored extremely well in all the research that we looked at in terms of being a great brand ambassador for us and maintaining a high level of popularity, despite the performance issues that they were having at the time.

So we've never lost any faith in Michael in terms of his ability to help promote our brand. He always said all along as soon as he could find somebody he felt could make the car go as fast or faster than he could, he would get out of car.

It's a little bit of a bittersweet moment for all of us, because we believed in Michael, we still think he has a lot of talent as a driver, but at the same time he's making a decision that's good for Michael Waltrip Racing and ultimately will be good for NAPA AUTO PARTS.

Q: Michael, what do you anticipate the 56 team structure will look like? Will your current team become his team, from a crew chief engineer perspective?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: We haven't formulated exactly what that will look like. I do know that I'm going to run four or five races, maybe as many as 10 or 12, so we not only will have to have a team for Martin to race with, we will have to have one for me to race with as well.

I love my NAPA boys, I've got a great, great team. I anticipate adding more people to take care of the fact that there will be two NAPA cars in the Daytona 500, and then I'll drive a car in some other races as well.

Q: Do the number of races you run depend on sponsorship? Are you looking for sponsorship for yourself, and are you entertaining any thoughts of putting another person in that car for the races you don't run?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Translation? NAPA is going to sponsor me in the Daytona 500. We do need sponsorship for the other races I will run, and we're planning on it being a limited schedule for me in that car, and we'll stick with the three teams, and then the one part time team. That's the plan as of now.

We also have a technical alliance and are helping Prism Racing with Phil Parson's team, so there might be an opportunity for me to run my races with that team as well. So who knows how it will all look, but we support Phil's team as well as ours, and if I drive for that team, that might make sense, too.

I just know I get to race in the Daytona 500, which makes me smile now. I love going to Daytona in February; it's a special feeling. I used to get up in the car with mom and dad and drive 14 hours from Kentucky to be there on Thursday morning to watch the qualifying races, and it's just part of me.

I will always be that guy. I love Daytona.

THE MODERATOR: The press conference is winding down. Thank you for joining us here.

-credit: mwr/nascar

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Richard Petty , Marcos Ambrose , David Reutimann
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing