Rewind seven years ago and Michael Waltrip Racing was on the verge of bankruptcy just a few months into their first season. Fast-forward to now and MWR has two cars in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and two wins on the season.
It hasn’t been easy for Michael Waltrip. Their first race at Daytona his car was penalized for having rocket fuel in the car during qualifying. His three teams missed a total of 39 races in 2007. Waltrip found Rob Kauffman who bought 50% of the company to keep it afloat. They lost sponsors at the end of the season, but they kept plugging away.
2008 was a still a struggle, but it was much better than 2007.
MWR got their first win in 2009 when David Reutimann won the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600. He finished 16th that season and just missed making the Chase. The team added Martin Truex Jr. in 2010 when owner Waltrip decided to focus on ownership instead of driving. Reutimann added another win for MWR in 2010 at Chicagoland Speedway, but was let go by MWR at the end of the 2011 season.
Reutimann was replaced by Mark Martin and the number was changed to 55. MWR added Clint Bowyer who left Richard Childress Racing. Scott Miller also left RCR for MWR and became the team’s competition director.
When Bowyer announced he was leaving RCR, people thought he was crazy. People thought he was going backwards in his career. Maybe it was a lateral move at best. Bowyer’s team barely missed the Chase in his last year with RCR. Nobody thought he had a chance at making it in 2012 with MWR.
Nobody thought Truex would make the Chase either.
But they both did.
Bowyer has two wins, at Sonoma and last Saturday night at Richmond. Truex is still looking for his first win since Dover in June 2007. But he’s come close on a few occasions. He finished second to Denny Hamlin in Kansas back in April. He was leading with just a few laps to go before a caution came out at Atlanta two weeks ago.
None of the two MWR teams competing the full season were expected to make the Chase (Martin is in the third team, but he’s running a partial schedule). But both of them made it. And both have the ability to actually contend for the championship.
It hasn’t been easy for Michael Waltrip and the whole MWR team these past six years, but things are finally coming together.