Michael Waltrip Racing press conference, part 1

Michael Waltrip Racing Press Conference Transcript July 7, 2009 THE MODERATOR: Welcome to a live SPEED special report at the Michael Waltrip Racing headquarters. We have a crowded house here today, the media is gathered here and every single...

Michael Waltrip Racing Press Conference Transcript
July 7, 2009

THE MODERATOR: Welcome to a live SPEED special report at the Michael Waltrip Racing headquarters. We have a crowded house here today, the media is gathered here and every single member of Michael Waltrip Racing is here from all three teams -- Michael Waltrip Racing and JTG-Daugherty Racing.

A unique perspective for the fans today. Michael Waltrip is all about the fans. There is a catwalk overlooking the shop here and hundreds of fans are on the catwalk here to overlook this press conference.

Hello everyone. We all know that Michael Waltrip is one of the most interesting characters in the history of our sport. Today we find out what the future holds for this four time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He is a two time Daytona victories, and he has done so much for our sponsors and so much for our sport.

He has competed in all three of the NASCAR series, the NASCAR Truck Series, the Sprint Cup Series, and the Nationwide Series as well. We mentioned that he is a two time Daytona 500 winner, with his best win coming in 2003 with two victories.

His brother is a three time champion as well, but Michael has beaten his brother Darrell as far as victories in Daytona. What holds for him as far as the future in the sport. We will find out. We will go to the podium.

DARRELL WALTRIP: Hello everyone, and welcome to this important press conference. I would like to welcome everyone here to MWR and certainly like to welcome the motorsports press, thank you for being here, all of our friends that are around the balcony up above, partners, sponsors and employees of Michael Waltrip Racing.

A very special thank to you, all of our friends at SPEED Channel and NAPA Online who are broadcasting our important event live today. I would like to take a moment to recognize a few very important people who are here with us today.

First of all from NAPA, Gaylord Spencer, vice president of marketing strategy. (Applause) Mike Rearden, director of events and sponsorships (applause) and a couple of guys that are important to the program, from Toyota, Lee White and Andy Graves. From NASCAR our friends Jill Gregory and Chad Seigler.

From Freightliner, we can't get up and down the road without those Freightliners, and we got some nice ones, and we would like to welcome Stacey Premo, and from Lowe's Food, because we do like to eat, we have Terry Harrison and Lisa Selip.

(Applause.) We have a couple of board members from Michael Waltrip Racing, Mike Malone and Phil Parsons, and our partners from JTG-Daugherty Racing, Tad and Jodi Geschickter.

And of course I wouldn't be here, and Michael wouldn't be here, if it wasn't for our mom, Margaret Jean Waltrip, and then we have Connie and Dave and Bobby and Renee and Carolyn and Lee Bob, the whole family is here. This is our brother and sisters and mom, and my wife Stevie, whom you all know, and today is Stevie's birthday, so I just want to wish her a happy birthday. (Applause.)

And a guy that would get the vote for watching from the furthest away, Rob Kauffman. I know you're in London today, Rob, and I just want to say "good day" to you and hope you are well where you are. (Applause.)

Today is a very special today. Michael Waltrip Racing is a young organization, as all of you folks know, and they are two seasons and 17 races old, and I can remember and it's not like it was yesterday, either -- I can remember when Michael told me about his plans, and I told him, I said, "Bro, I've been there, I've done that, and it's really, really hard."

And it has been. It's been very hard. To get this thing from where it was to where it is today. First of all, I just want to commend every guy and gal in this place, because when I walked in here two and a half years ago, three years ago, it was still a movie theater, and Michael said, "This is where I'm going to build my race shop," and I said, "That's nice. What season do you intend to compete in?" He said, "Next season."

It was in July then, July or August, so he had four months to get ready for the Daytona 500, and I shook my head and I said, "You know, that's a huge undertaking for anybody," and he said, "Oh, by the way, we're going to have three Cup cars."

And that's when I called my mom and I said, "Mom, we're going to have to have a talk with Michael, because I'm not sure he's as stable as we thought he was."

Anyway, he pulled it off, he was able to put a great organization together. He made it to Daytona, and I was so impressed. He shows up for the Daytona 500, and you know better than I, it looked like a team that had been in existence for a long time. He had three beautiful haulers, three beautiful cars, and he was off and running.

Well, he was off! The running didn't go so good. The first year or so was disastrous, as most of you know, and I think Michael, when I think about his race shop that he had out behind his house where he fielded Busch cars, the Nationwide cars today, out behind his house, reminded me of Junior Johnson.

I didn't tell him that then, I'll tell him that now, because Junior Johnson was pretty successful. But that was his vision, he wanted to be a team owner, and he wanted to do it right. And I have so much respect for what he accomplished, because I tried it, a bunch of us, Buddy, Kerry, a bunch of us tried it, and we couldn't make it work.

Unlike so many others, Michael had the fortitude to hang in there, he paid a heavy price, and here he is today sitting here with all of you employees, a beautiful shop, got a World 600 trophy a Coca Cola 600 trophy -- excuse me, in the cabinet, along with a couple of Daytona 500 trophies, and his dream is coming true.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Thank you very much.

DARRELL WALTRIP: Alright, brother, I'll turn it over to you. There is a lot more there, but I know you need time yourself. Have at it.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Okay. I got a story to tell, too. First of all, thank you all very much. This is my family, as Darrell mentioned, and they helped shape me into who I am, so thank you, I think.

Obviously, as Darrell said, it's been a heck of a road. When I was born, my brother was 16 years old, and all I've ever known my whole life is running up and down the road going to races. From a very young age I knew exactly what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a race car driver, just like my big brother.

And I wanted to be a team owner at some point, just like my big brother, so I've got a lot of my inspiration and a lot of the direction and things I've done in my life come from Darrell. And the thing that I'm most proud about is he never let me down.

He was a role model that was there for me, and I'm certainly thankful for him in more ways than you can imagine, especially in this world where sometimes your heroes let you down, my brother never did, so thank you, big brother.

I started racing because I wanted to drive a car. And today, you know, that's exactly where I am. I just love driving race cars. Having a team was a part of my dream.

I'm here today to tell y'all that there has been a time or two when I thought maybe it was going to say "for sale" or "for lease" out front instead of "Michael Waltrip Racing," but we pushed through, and we've made this place a formidable competition to the rest.

Winning the Coca Cola was one of the best days of my career, and I can't tell you how wonderful having that trophy is. I didn't think about winning a race, I just thought about racing. I've won $47 million, I read the other day, and FYI, my half in this team cost about $48, so (laughter) I'm not up by any stretch of the imagination.

But it's been fun to be "all in" and invest in the sport like I've been able to do. There are so many people that have helped me get here, and I've gained a tremendous amount of respect for and some that I wish were here now, including my dad, LeRoy, Mr. France gave me direction and suggestions on how to act at a time or two, told me not to act like my brother, which that was kinda hard, Dick Bahre, Chuck Rider and Dale Earnhardt, who helped me to find my career.

There have been great sponsors, Pennzoil, Aaron's, Kraft, Citizens, Best Western, Freightliner, and those folks have helped me get to where we are today. But there has been one sponsor that has defined my career, and we've been together for nine seasons, and that's NAPA AUTO PARTS. I'm the only driver that has ever driven the car full time for NAPA, and we have one of the longest driver-sponsor relationships in the sport.

I'm certainly proud of our relationship and all we've been able to accomplish over the last nine years and especially proud of how much their support has meant to me. They started running ad campaigns that let me goof off and be me, and I think it helped make NAPA and me synonymous with one another.

It certainly was a joy for me to be a part of. I told them about my dream in 2005 about owning a Sprint Cup team, and they said they wanted to live my dream with me and we started on this road in the middle of '05 toward racing for the first time in '07.

There was a time or two in '07 when we all thought maybe the dream wasn't that good of an idea, but when I got down, they were there saying, "You're our owner, you're our driver, we'll get through this. This isn't how the dream ends. The dream ends with the NAPA car being in victory lane."

And that's what kept me going. As an owner I knew there would come a time when I wouldn't be a full time driver anymore, and that time is now. In 2010, I'm going to run a limited schedule, a few races here and there, not really sure how many or where they will be.

I do know that for the 52nd running of my favorite race and the biggest race in the world, the 52nd run of the Daytona 500, thanks to NAPA AUTO PARTS I will be racing in the 500 in my NAPA car, No. 55.

There is a young man that is going to take my seat, and you'll meet him in just a minute, but before I turn it over, I would like to turn it over to Bob Susor, who is the president of NAPA and a dear friend of mine for a few words. Thank you. (Applause.)

BOB SUSOR: Thanks, Michael. You know, over the past nine years NAPA and Michael Waltrip have forged a bond that's helped us sell a lot of auto parts, and Michael's already sort of spilled the beans, but we are proud to announce that Michael will drive the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota for his 24th Daytona 500 next season, and our sincere hope is that we will be able to meet him in victory lane for the third time.

Over our time together, Michael has evolved into our NAPA AUTO PARTS spokesman. NAPA has always wanted to be more than just an advertiser in NASCAR. Our sense is that NASCAR fans really very quickly perceive whether a sponsor gets the whole NASCAR thing or if they're just there to advertise.

When Michael approached us with his Michael Waltrip Racing idea, we felt that was a real opportunity for us and NAPA to do something special for the sport. After a somewhat rough start, we find ourselves here today. Moving forward, NAPA's proud of what Michael Waltrip, Rob Kauffman and their entire organization have been able to accomplish in such a short period of time.

NAPA believes in Michael Waltrip, and we believe in his vision for Michael Waltrip Racing. We are, therefore, pleased to announce that we've extended our contract with Michael Waltrip Racing, and he's going to have a little bit of stability here going forward, so, Michael, they said to keep it brief, and I'm trying to do my part. Thank you.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Thank you very much, really appreciate it. (Applause.)

That's all the business. Let's get down to some fun, and I want to introduce you to the new driver of the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota, Martin Truex, Junior. (Applause.)

Welcome aboard, brother.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Can you hear me?

MICHAEL WALTRIP: I hear ya. As driver of the NAPA car you're going to have to wear a lot of hats. Not only do you get to race that beautiful car, which I thought looked great, I'm proud that you get to carry your family number with you as well, but you also get to make commercials and be a part of helping us sell more auto parts. Just quickly, the N96045, what's that?

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Fuel filter for Toyota Camry.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: I think he's going to be fine! I've been driving around for nine years with this on the roof of my car, and I want to proudly turn it over to you. People will see you coming now.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: I appreciate it. Thank you. It's cool! Thank you. First of all, I'm really excited to be here. NAPA AUTO PARTS and Michael Waltrip Racing have been synonymous with each other, and NAPA's been a great supporter of Michael Waltrip I'm going to be a proud driver of that car next year. I'm so thankful for the opportunity that Michael and NAPA and Bob have given me to do this next year.

I'm just looking forward to going on to do really good things. The sky's the limit, and they've built a good operation here, and just looking forward to it and excited for next year.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Thanks, Martin.

TY NORRIS: We're going to open it up for questions in just a second, but Martin, tell them about the significance of the car number change.

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: The car number 56 has been has been in my family for a long time. My dad raced it some back in the 80s. I've raced it until I moved down to North Carolina, the Busch series had the No. 56 on it, so it's a number I've had a lot of success with, it's one I used from the time I raced my first go kart all the way up through the ranks.

It's always been my number and it's special, you know, that everybody here let me use my number, and the folks at NAPA were kind enough to help us make it happen. So it's really significant for me and it's really cool.

TY NORRIS: This has been a long process. What's it like? We've been talking about July 7th for two months now, Michael, here we sit.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: I'm proud and happy. I'm turning my car over to a guy that I think can go win the championship in it, and I've always said I've been racing these cars for a long time, as we all well know. If I thought I wasn't the best man for the job, I wouldn't have had a ride for this long. If I wasn't the guy to go race it on Sunday, somebody else would take my place.

And I believe at this time in my career that Martin is the right guy to take over my car and go win races in it. I'm sitting here happy about the fact that Martin is taking over my car. I didn't have to quit, I didn't need to quit, I just wanted to do this for to me it's always been about the sponsors, and NAPA has been the greatest sponsor I could ever have, and I thought this was an opportunity to put them in victory lane on a regular basis, and that's why we're sitting here today. I couldn't be happier or prouder. I'm really thankful.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Michael Waltrip , Phil Parsons , Junior Johnson , Bob Lee
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing