With Toyota extending it’s deal with Michael Waltrip Racing, along with Joe Gibbs Racing and JTG Daugherty, it leads to the question of what will happen to Martin Truex Jr., who is in the final year of his contract at MWR.
Truex enters this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover sixth in the point standings with seven top-10 finishes in the first 12 races. He turns 32 later this month and with the improvements at MWR, seems set to show what he can do in the prime of his career. Then again, someone else also could be interested in his services.
“I’ll tell you this, I really hope to be back where I'm at right now,” Truex said last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I love this team. I love the direction we’re going. And, hopefully we’ll just have to see how everything lines up. My heart is with the team and that's where I want to be.
“I feel like we’ve come a long, long way. We’ve worked very, very hard to get to where we are. It would be a shame to have to do something different after coming this far. My career has been one of those where it seems like every time things would start going good — something big happened or something big changes and really hurt progress. Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time.”
This is Truex’s third season with Waltrip’s team and he’s headed toward his best season with the organization. His four top-five finishes thus far equal how many he’s had the past two seasons combined. His best finish in the points at MWR was last year when he was 18th.
Truex also notes that the extension with Toyota is important for Michael Waltrip Racing for various reasons.
“I think it’s a big thing for NAPA to know that Toyota is behind them 100 percent for the next number of years,” Truex said. “Great manufacturer, great support team — they do so much for Michael Waltrip Racing and really Toyota Racing Development ... has been a huge part of the turnaround and the resurgence of Michael Waltrip Racing. To have that support going forward for the next few years, it obviously has to make Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kaufmann, team owner) and everybody there feel good about the direction the team’s headed.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our deal done soon too and kind of coincide with all that and be able to go race and go after wins for a lot of years to come.”
GIVE-AND-TAKE Ryan Newman often was considered among the toughest drivers to pass during a race. He explains what earned him that distinction and how he’s changed over the years.
“I was never taught to give-and-take,” Newman said. “I was always taught to race hard. Going back to quarter midgets and then especially in the stock cars, I was always taught to race hard. Buddy Baker never taught me (about give-and-take). And I don’t think that they did that back in the ’80s.
“I always had fast-enough racecars that I never had to give. I could always take. And that came back to haunt me I guess for a few years there because I was the one getting turned around because I wasn’t giving it up and rightfully so — probably because I didn’t know and didn’t get taught that. So, I’m trying to be better at the give-and-take thing.
“I’ve had problems with other guys who are just as bullheaded as I am and I’m not afraid to say it. A guy like Paul Menard is just that. We race each other hard every time we got around each other. That’s just how we did it. And it was frustrating to both of us, but we made good out of it. We never crashed each other per se, so it was just the way we raced. So, we don’t do that quite so much anymore. We’ve both learned how to adjust to that a little bit and be faster in the end for both of us.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo by ASP, Inc.)
STILL GOING Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only driver in the Cup Series who has completed all 3,888 laps run this season. Matt Kenseth had completed every lap this season entering the Coca-Cola 600 but lost a lap when he had to pit for a loose wheel just past the halfway mark and didn’t make it up before the finish.
Earnhardt’s consistency has helped him score a series-high nine top-10 finishes in the first 12 points races.
He’s looking for more, though.
“We want to win a race,” Earnhardt said after finishing sixth in the Coca-Cola 600. “We want to win so bad we can’t stand it. We’re getting kind of close. It feels good to be competitive. I don’t want to take our consistency for granted, but we would like to improve just a little bit more and get some wins.”
LAST STOP This weekend’s Cup race at Dover marks the final broadcast of the season for FOX. TNT will take over for the next six races, beginning at Pocono. ESPN/ABC then takes over at Indianapolis in late July and broadcasts the rest of the Cup season.
PIT STOPS Red Horse Racing announced Tuesday that it will suspend operations of its No. 7 Truck team due to a lack of funding. John King won at Daytona with that team. Red Horse Racing announced that it will continue to operate the No. 17 entry for Timothy Peters and No. 11 entry for Todd Bodine. ... Cup drivers who won last year but remain looking for a victory this season are: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose, Paul Menard, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne.