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.

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