MWR At California by Kellyanne Lynch
24 February 2007
Two Michael Waltrip Racing entries will compete in the Auto Club 500, Sunday's Nextel Cup race at California Speedway. David Reutimann's #00 Domino's Camry will start 33rd, and Dale Jarrett's #44 UPS machine will roll off 43rd. Team owner Michael Waltrip missed the field by a few hundreths of a second.
"I'm really, really happy that we got in, but I'm a little discouraged at the way it all went down with Michael," David said after qualifying. "He deserves to be in this race too. It's unfortunate, but I'm happy that we're in and we've got to get into the top-35 in points because I'm not sure I can live like this much longer. It's not easy for anybody and it's not going to get any easier until we get ourselves solidified in the top-35. Everybody's doing a good job and our team's coming together and working well together. The guys are learning what I like and we're communicating better and all those things together are helping us become a better team."
All three teams completed first practice, where Mikey was the fastest of the trio. He ranked 33rd after running a 39.764-second lap at 181.068 MPH on his eighth of ten laps. He was 0.891 seconds behind session leader Joe Nemechek. David trailed Nemecheck by 0.906 seconds (39.779 seconds / 181.00 MPH), and Dale was 1.380 seconds behind the session leader. They ranked 35th and 47th respectively and were both fastest on their last lap of practice.
Dale's #44 went out 19th of 51 cars in qualifying. The car struggled, and the team had to rely upon a championship provisional.
"We broke a transmission," explained crew chief Matt Borland. "We aren't sure why. It wasn't anything special. We thought it would be a safe transmission. It's frustrating because we didn't get a chance to qualify. I guess it is better to find it now than 50 laps into the race."
Mikey went out 23rd. The track sped up later in qualifying, and David was 48th to take to the track. Last year, the rookie sat on the pole in his #17 Toyota Tundra in the Craftsman Truck Series with a 40.228-second lap at 178.98 MPH; he holds the CTS' track qualifying record. David ranked 33rd in Cup qualifying after running a 39.467-second lap at 182.431 MPH. He was 0.602 seconds behind pole-winner Jeff Gordon, and his lap bumped his car owner out of the field.
"It was pretty free from the center off and that's where we lost a lot of our time," David said of his car during time trials. "We lost a lot, but we didn't lose as much as I thought we did."
David and Dale ranked 35th and 40th respectively in the second practice session, following qualifying. David was fastest on his sixth of thirteen laps with a 40.791-second lap at 176.510 MPH. He was 1.105 seconds behind pace setter Clint Bowyer. Dale was 1.355 seconds slower than Bowyer. His first of twelve laps was his fastest at 41.041 seconds (175.434 MPH).
The Michael Waltrip Racing drivers were slower in happy hour. David ranked 34th and was 1.396 seconds behind fastest lap turner Jimmie Johnson. He ran a 40.843-second lap at 176.285 MPH on his sixth of twenty-eight laps. Dale was last. Trailing Johnson by 1.765 seconds, he turned his best lap on his second of nineteen. It was a 41.212-second circuit at 174.706 MPH.
Coverage of the Auto Club 500 begins at 3:00pm ET on FOX.