Monday, March 26, 2007

The State of Michael Waltrip Racing

After five races, Michael Waltrip Racing is in trouble. Combined, the team has only a total of 9 starts (5 for Dale Jarrett, 3 for David Reutimann, and 1 for Michael Waltrip himself.) The team has struggled at qualifying, and when they actually do make a race, they haven't performed well.

David Reutimann, who was my early pick for Rookie of the Year honors, has two wrecks and one sub-par finish to date. He was wrecked hard at California by Greg Biffle, and caused a 4-car pileup at Atlanta. I think that maybe a full season in the Busch Series would have done some good for this young talent, and overall I think the jury is still out on whether or not he will have success at NASCAR's highest level.

Dale Jarrett has made all the races in 2007, but only once by getting in on speed. He is allotted 6 past champion provisionals to use this year, and he's already used up 4. He finished 42nd at Bristol, moving him down to 39th in owner points, which NASCAR uses to determine who gets a guaranteed spot in the race based on the top-35 rule. He has 2 champion provisionals left. He needs to qualify on speed at Martinsville this weekend, and at a place like Martinsville, a short flat track that requires alot of driving ability to master, this is a good shot to get his season back on track. He needs to save his provisionals for a place like Talladega coming up at the end of April. Why? Because that car was way off on speed at Daytona. I think you will see Dale Jarrett miss a race this year, and I hate to say that, but unless something drastic happens at MWR and I mean soon, he will miss a, or several races this year once the champions provisionals are used up.

And as for Michael Waltrip, I don't even know what to say. He went from a good-quality ride in the #15 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet a few years ago to being at the bottom of the new Toyota contingent. He has only made 1 race in 2007, and I don't see him making very many more. I predict NAPA, his long-time primary sponsor, will decide to leave that team this year, or next year, and then Waltrip will be in real trouble. I hate it for him because he is a veteran, and I would say a current, or maybe former, fan favorite. I think that overall he lacks the ability to manage a full-time Nextel Cup effort, to say nothing about managing three. With the loss of his crew chief after the disaster at Daytona with the cheating scandal has left the 55 Toyota in a hole that he will not be able to climb out of this year. Looking at the situation, I think Waltrip will make maybe 10 races this year. Toyota definetly needs to step in and give more factory support to get this team to be even close on qualifying day. Waltrip currently sits 54th in driver points, still at -27, and 50th in owner points, 307 behind 35th and a guaranteed starting spot.

Again, without some drastic actions, Michael Waltrip Racing will never become a top-tiered Nextel Cup Series team. Honestly, I wouldn't even count them as a mid-range Busch Series team.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Thoughts after Two Weeks...

The Nextel Cup Series takes its first off week of the season this weekend (the reasons as which I’m not really sure seeing as how they have a 16-week stretch of racing later in the season), and here are some thoughts after the first two races.
1) Mark Martin needs to run the full season.
After two races, he is leading the point standings. Mark will be the first to tell you that he is not a very good restrictor plate driver, but after losing the Daytona 500 by .02 seconds to Kevin Harvick, that trend might be changing. Ginn Racing has obviously stepped its program up this year, and he has competitive equipment. I think that he needs to stay in that car as long as he can, which should be all 36 races. If he has a good run at Las Vegas next week, he will decide to run the full schedule. For Mark’s sake, I hope he does decide that he has a shot at a championship, which has eluded him his entire career and will go for it all.

2) Dale Earnhardt Jr. will not win a race in 2007
In 2005, the 8 car struggled. But they got their act together in 2006 and ran in the top 5 in points for most of the year and has looked strong. But that team is back to its old ways from 2005 and is not looking very good at this point. It wasn’t his fault that he got wrecked in the Daytona 500, but it was the teams fault for not working on the new unleaded fuel package starting at California, and he will not run well at Vegas. I predict no wins for this team this season. If they do win, I’ll be surprised. If they make the chase, I’ll quit trying to fool people into thinking that I know what I’m talking about.

3) FOX needs to go
I’ve noticed that the FOX television coverage has gone downhill this year. If you need proof, think back to the California race when they were showing what everybody was eating for lunch that day. It’s true that the race was pretty boring at that point, but they could have gone and interviewed a crew chief or one of the drivers that were out of the race at that point. I hope that ESPN’s return will show FOX that you can just show the race and not all the flare that goes with it that NASCAR now thinks that we need.

4) Richard Childress Racing is Back
If last year’s results weren’t obvious, then I’ll tell you that Richard Childress Racing has returned to being a dominant team that has a chance to win every week. Kevin Harvick swept Daytona, and probably would have won at California if it weren’t for a flat tire late in the going. The 29 will make the chase, the 31 (with driver Jeff Burton) will make the chase, and the 07 (Clint Bowyer) has a good shot at making the chase. I think that anything less than a championship for RCR this year at the Nextel Cup level will deem 2007 as a disappointment.

5) The Car of Tomorrow is Today
Testing took place at the Bristol Motor Speedway this week for the debut of the Car of Tomorrow at the Food City 500 next month. I’ve been looking at this car for almost two years, and I gotta say that I am genuinely excited about its debut next month. I think that the racing will improve greatly with the addition of the new car. I think that the costs will go down, no matter what Jack Roush says. And I think that it will even the playing field between multi-car teams and single car teams in the long run. I think it’s a good looking racecar, and the product on the track will show it. Look for NASCAR to announce before the end of the summer that the COT will be run exclusively beginning in 2008.