Michael Waltrip Racing ready to turn the page on 2014
There probably isn't a team in the Sprint Cup garage that is happier for a new season than Michael Waltrip Racing. After a winless, Chase-less, and extremely ordinary 2014 campaign, the two-car team needs a boost. But Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, and team co-owner Rob Kauffman took the stage Tuesday morning to talk about the changes they have made and how they plan to overcome Vickers' absence at the beginning of the year.
- Brian Vickers will miss the first two races as he recovers from heart surgery after again getting blood clots. Vickers says this particular time was the worst of the medical issues he's had to face (he missed time in 2010 and 2013 with similar problems). Vickers: "Unfortunately, I've had to hear 'You'll never go racing again,' too many times." He was surprised he could come back so quickly. Team owner and two-time Daytona 500 winner Waltrip will race the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota in the Daytona 500 and MWR development driver Brett Moffitt will drive the 55 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Vickers returns for race number three at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and could still make the Chase, since NASCAR will likely give him a medical waiver (drivers normally have to race all 26 races to make the Chase). Billy Scott returns as crew chief and says that the ability for adjust trackbars is going to make his job harder and the key to it will be drivers communicating the changes both in races and during practices.
- Bowyer says, "Last year sucked for all of us." Brian Pattie returns as crew chief to a team that won thrice in 2012, but hasn't won since. Bowyer says multiple things fell short, not just one big thing, that caused the team to struggle. He says that the communication between crew chiefs, engineers, and others was the biggest issue and all five have said the philosophy around the shop has changed. Bowyer says that having Cash (his baby son, not money) was the best part of his offseason. He also did just about nothing as far as traveling in the off months. Bowyer commented on the new changes in the cars, saying the aero and engine changes should be incrementally better for the racing, but the ability to adjust the trackbar behind the wheel is something he very much opposes. He says that the differences in the cars are actually what makes the racing better and he thinks that everyone's ability to adjust during a run is going to make passing much harder. When asked how fatherhood has changed him, Bowyer immediately told a story about his son that began, "He s--t his pants!" New season. Same Bowyer.
- Waltrip says the energy at the race shop is brighter and the attitude is better. He lightheartedly alluded to how everyone on this Media Tour is optimistic, but he really does feel like the team is better now. The 51-year-old also says that he is extremely grateful to get to drive in a competitive car in the Daytona 500, especially knowing that he probably doesn't have that many more chances to run the Great American Race. Waltrip isn't sure if he is going to get to run the other restrictor plate races, because there are still some unsold races on Bowyer's No. 15 they need to address first.
- One question came up about the two Toyota organizations (Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing) regretting not working as much together in 2014. Kyle Busch said JGR were idiots for not doing that. Bowyer quickly chimed in, "We'd love for Kyle to work with us more." Bowyer says that they need to work together more, especially when they see how Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing work very closely together.
- 22-year-old Brett Moffitt says, as you may expect, that he is extremely excited to run Atlanta and that Vickers has been very helpful to him at their tests together. Moffitt says that there are no firm plans for him to run anymore Cup races with MWR or with satellite team Jay Robinson Racing, like he did last year.