MWR 23rd and 34th at Bristol by Kellyanne Lynch
25 August 2007
Michael Waltrip finished 23rd in the Sharpie 500, tonight's Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. His #55 Napa Auto Parts Camry was two laps down and ahead of anyone else on the same lap. Michael Waltrip Racing's #44 UPS Toyota, driven by Dale Jarrett, came in 34th.
"We fought all night, and the highest we got was 23rd," Mikey said after the race. "That's when the checkers fell. We had a good restart there with 30 laps to go -- I got up on the outside and was able to get past about three guys. Then I was good enough to hold them off. We learned a lot today -- we really needed to race our COT (Car of Tomorrow) in order to get some data. We really haven't been able to race those (COTs) very often because of our woes early in the year. Tonight was a good night -- we wish we could have finished better. We started off slow, but Bobby Kennedy and the boys just kept adjusting on it and we were able to get it better and better. That feels good when you're running your best at the end."
The green flag was about to come out at 8:16pm ET, but NASCAR called it off for John Andretti's stalled #49 in Turn 2. The race started three minutes later with Kasey Kahne leading the field to the stripe. Mikey started 16th but was up to 13th one lap into the run. Dale, who started 33rd, fell to 38th.
The #55 was 14th by lap 6 but began falling back through the pack after that. Mikey lost four spots within the next three laps. He was 19th by lap 10 and 20th two circuits after that. Tony Stewart passed on lap 14, moving the Napa Camry to 21st. Martin Truex Jr got around him the next time around the track, and Kurt Busch passed the lap after that. Mikey continued to drop a spot a lap and was 27th on lap 22.
Carl Edwards took the lead on lap 37. Four laps later, JJ Yeley moved Mikey back to 28th. He fell to 32nd on lap 50, and David Stremme got around him two laps after that. Casey Mears dropped him to 34th by lap 57. Edwards was stuck in traffic approximately three seconds behind him. Although David Gilliland passed on lap 62, Mikey regained 34th with Elliott Sadler's pit the next time around the track. Sadler fell two laps down.
Kahne retook the lead in traffic on lap 65; he used Paul Menard to get around Edwards on the outside. Lap 70 saw Kenny Wallace pass the #55 for position.
Mikey lost the lead lap on lap 79 and was 36th with Jeff Green's pass. Paul Menard passed within the next few circuits.
"Staying the same behind you," spotter Mark Green noted on lap 86. "Doing good."
"Good lap right there. Good lap," crew chief Bobby Kennedy praised.
Mark guided the #55 as lead lap cars looked to pass. "There you go, there you go. Good corner! Clear by four," he said on lap 94.
"Good lap right there. That was a good lap," Bobby noted again four laps later.
"Feels like right rear air," Mikey said on lap 103.
"10-4 - right rear air," Bobby acknowledged. "We have a rubber in that right rear spring we can pull out."
Around the same time, Jeff Burton pushed JJ Yeley into Dale when he took them three-wide. Dale was running 39th and was also one lap down.
"All right, we're about fifteen laps away from pitting. We're about fifteen away. We'll take a rubber out of the right rear and put some wedge in it," Bobby told his driver on lap 113. Mark noted that Mikey had about ten car lengths over the next car.
Dale went another lap down around the same time but gained 38th when AJ Almendinger went to pit road.
"All right, we're four laps away, Mark. Four laps away," Bobby said on lap 123. Meanwhile, Dave Blaney pit his #22.
"When we stop, Mike, we're going to stop off Turn 4," Mark informed his driver. "Got one in the wall, one in the wall. No caution yet, no caution yet. Caution's out, caution's out."
Lap 125 saw the first caution after Johnny Sauter hit the wall.
"Okay, bud, you said you still like right rear air," Bobby recalled. "How loose are you?"
"I say we need to take the rubber out and take some air out of that right rear," Mikey replied. "It just pogos through that right rear. It goes to bouncing," Mikey reported.
Bobby told crew member Kenny to take two pounds of air out of that tire. He reminded Mark to wait for the second time by. Mikey pit with lapped traffic.
"Okay, guys, he's half around the corner. Be ready," Mark told the crew.
Bobby guided Mikey around Elliott Sadler's #19, and the #55 made a stop.
"Stopping right here. Watch it. Okay, go ahead and dig," Mark warned.
"All right, we got the rubber out of your right rear, two pounds out of the outer, two pounds out of the inner," Bobby stated. "Working lap 130 right now."
"That just, you know. That's all I could do, because right there in the centre, if I didn't slow down just enough, that right rear would skip out of me," Mikey reported. "That was just way too lose for that long run."
Bobby said seven cars were one lap down, and Mikey was 31st and last of that group.
"All right, we'll be coming to the one to go here," Mark noted. "One to go. 22 has to go to the back."
"Yes, sir, you are loose here, bud." Bobby told Mikey how off his tires were. "Appreciate you hanging on. We'll keep working on it. You got a long way to go, long way to go."
"Calling it off, calling it off."
"Hey, don't put that set 9 on the wall. Showing loose here. Showing loose. Don't put that set on the wall there, Flash," Bobby addressed the crew. "That set on the wall we're swapping around to tighten him up."
Kahne led the lap 136 restart, and Bobby Labonte was immediately inside Kahne's #9. Mikey was 34th and lapped while Dale was 36th and two laps down.
"There you go. Good corner, good corner!" Mark said on lap 156.
"Got the leader behind the 7. Half back - 9 car," Mark warned on lap 177.
The next time around the track, the Napa Camry went a second lap down. Dale was also two laps down in 36th. By lap 185, the 6th place car was going past the #55. Elliott Sadler passed on lap 187, moving Mikey back to 35th.
"Still too loose?" Bobby asked on lap 195.
After a moment, Mikey answered his crew chief. "Yes."
"10-4, 10-4." You can try turning off your front B blower. That might make it a little better."
Mikey said something about the fronts being normal.
By lap 199, he and Dale had both moved up to 34th and 35th with another driver's stop.
"Good lap," Bobby praised. "That was a good lap right there." On lap 204, he added, "Good lap. That was one of your best in a while."
The second caution came on lap 211 when Denny Hamlin's engine blew. Smoke and fire came from under the hood.
Mikey said his car felt like it had too little air in the left and too much in the right. "It's too loose, you can't even drive it. You just have to ride in it."
Bobby suggested adjustments, and Mikey said to do everything but the rubbers. They decided to go three pounds up on the right rear.
"Pits are going to be closed for a little bit until they move that car," Mark said.
Leaders made stops on lap 215, and Mikey came in the next time around the track. The crew made air pressure adjustments, went three rounds up on the track bar and two rounds of wedge.
Mikey was 32nd and two laps down when racing resumed on lap 221. Dale was 33rd, and Kahne led.
Four laps later saw the third caution. Jimmie Johnson punted AJ Almendinger, and Aric Almirola was collected.
"All right, could you tell anything there, bud?" Bobby asked.
"Not really. I mean, it was a little tighter on the start, but damn. It still has the same tendency to do what it's been doing," Mikey replied. "I think that was the first car I passed today, so it's a little better."
"Well, let's just keep 'er out right now, keep as many cars behind us if you're cool with that."
Mikey said he was okay with that. "It doesn't do me a lot of good to have two cupholders in here if y'all just give me one drink. So give me another drink next time, please."
"Tell that official there to give us a scoring update, a scoring update," Bobby requested.
A minute later, the driver added, "Never was loose like this in the last practice. This is like what it was in the first practice."
"Okay, 10-4. 10-4."
"It's just loose where we can't do nothing about it," Mikey continued. "If it's loose off, you can use your foot, but you can't do nothing about this."
Bobby said he'd try rubbers the next time they stopped. "All right, Mark, we're racing the 19 and the 44. Those are the two lap down cars. Coming to the green."
Lap 233 saw the restart. Kahne led, Mikey was 32nd, and Dale was 34th.
"Lap times are a lot better," Bobby said on lap 249. Nine laps later, he said, "Good lap, good lap."
"Staying the same behind you. Good job," Mark praised. Mikey was about twelve seconds behind the race leader.
On lap 266, Dale went a third lap down.
"Clear by two. Doing a good job there," Mark praised Mikey four laps later.
Bobby came on the radio on lap 275. "Good lap right there. Real good. This thing is a top 5 car." He was back ten laps later. "All right, your times are a lot better this run. Just stay out there. We'll keep working on it." The #55 was now approximately fourteen seconds behind Kahne in the lead.
"All right. The car any better?" Bobby asked on lap 293.
"Still clear by eight. Is your car any better, Mike?" Mark asked after a long pause.
"Yes, it's better," Mikey responded.
"10-4," Bobby acknowledged. "All right, you think it's tightened up any more in the centre?"
Mikey said nothing.
Bobby praised him for a good lap on lap 302. "55.
"50. 50. Real good lap there. Top ten in the standings." He continued to read off lap times.
On lap 318, Mikey went a third lap down.
"84 there struggling a little bit," Mark warned a couple laps later. The #55 worked back onto the lead lap on lap 322. Three laps later, Mikey went back a third lap down. The two ran side-by-side with Mikey on the outside. Mikey got back out ahead by lap 330, and the #9 and #99 went two-wide behind him. Dale Earnhardt Jr was right there with them.
Lap 336 saw Carl Edwards take the lead. Earnhardt Jr took second. Edwards moved the #55 out of the way, and Mikey went back a lap down on lap 337.
"All right, about thirty laps away from pitting. About thirty laps from pitting. I'm about to tighten you up, bud," Bobby said on lap 342.
Bobby addressed his driver on lap 356.
"Mark, I can't hear a word he's saying," Mikey complained.
"What was that, Mark?" asked Bobby.
Mark asked if the car were tighter.
Mikey said he wanted a right front air adjustment.
"10-4, 10-4," Bobby replied.
Green flag stops began on lap 258. Edwards pit, giving the lead to Earnhardt Jr. When Earnhardt Jr stopped, Kurt Busch moved into the top spot. Newman led when his teammate came onto pit road. Kyle Busch picked up the lead next on lap 364. Mikey was now 28th, and Mark warned him about cars coming with new tires.
Jeff Gordon led on lap 367 with Kyle Busch's stop.
"Two more laps, Mark. Two more," Bobby stated.
Gordon pit the next time around the track. Robby Gordon was now in the lead.
"Next time, next time. Four in," Bobby added.
Mikey ran three-wide, then two-wide on the outside and was cleared behind Dale. He then missed pit road before the yellow flag waved.
The fourth caution was on lap 372 when David Ragan spun in the middle of the track.
"Got a spin in front of you, spin in front of you. Staying low, staying low. Caution's out."
"Be ready, guys, in case he runs out of fuel. Get the gas ready," Bobby said. "All right, I'm glad you missed it there that time, bud."
Mikey complained about the microphone. "I said right front air out, I said." He wanted right front air down and trackbar down too.
Bobby said he'd take out two pounds and would go two rounds down on the trackbar. The #55 pit with lapped traffic. After the stop, the crew chief added, "All right, as soon as this updates here, I'll let you know who you're racing." He said Mikey was about a tenth off when he was three-tenths off earlier. "It was a lot better. We'll just keep working on it."
A moment later, Bobby told Mikey and Mark they were racing the #26, #66, #21, #96, and #15. "We're racing from 25th to 30th is the spots right now." He noted a one pound build-up in the right front but said the temperatures were even. "Working lap 375 right now, 125 to go."
Edwards led the restart on lap 378. Mikey was 30th and two laps down while Dale was four laps down in 35th.
"There you go. Hold onto it," Mark said on lap 386. "Keep digging. Good job. Clear all around."
"Who did that?" Mikey demanded.
"The 49 car." [NOTE: They may have said the #29, but this is what it sounded like at the time.]
Mark told him a car was inside and accidentally said #00 rather than #44; both cars belong to Mikey.
"Way too loose now," Mikey reported on lap 395.
The fifth caution came on lap 396 for another Ragan spin.
"Got a spin in front of you, spin in front of you. Come on down. Caution's out."
"All right, that adjustment was bad, so let's redo it."
Bobby called for more air in the inner liner. He told his driver to get caught back up, and they'd put four tires on it and would keep the sets as tight as possible. "No fuel. No fuel here. We don't need anymore fuel here, so don't put it in. Leave it out."
"All right, we'll stop this time, this time. 4000 when you get here," said Mark.
After the #55 came off pit road, Bobby told the spotter they were racing the same group.
"How'd the 29 run into me? I didn't do anything wrong," Mikey asked. [NOTE: I don't know if 49 was said earlier, and he said 29 and wasn't corrected.]
Mark said he was trying to figure out the same thing.
Edwards led the lap 404 restart. Mikey was 30th and two laps down, and Dale was six laps down in 37th.
"Doing good. You're in the right line now. Doing good," Mark praised as the #55 moved up to 28th within the first couple laps. He was 27th on lap 408, but Jamie McMurray repassed him the next time around the track. Mark warned him about a slow car on the bottom. Robby Gordon had bumped David Gilliland, and Gilliland's #38 slid back before regaining momentum.
By lap 415, Mikey got around Bill Elliott for 27th, but Elliott got back around him the next time around the track. Jeff Green's pass two laps later moved him back to 29th.
The sixth caution was on lap 422 for Ragan again.
"Still too loose," Mikey reported.
Bobby called for adjustments and said no fuel. "Put a little wedge in you, put the track bar down a little bit, and put in a little air."
The #55 pit under caution. Bobby reminded Mark they were racing the same group.
Lap 428 saw the restart. Edwards led, Mikey was 30th and two laps down, and Dale was six laps down in 36th. Three laps into the run, the Napa Camry got around Tony Raines for position.
The yellow flag waved for the seventh time on lap 438. Bill Elliott moved Matt Kenseth up the track at the same time Robby Gordon came down, and Gordon spun.
Mark guided Mikey through the scene. "Hold up. Go straight. Go straight. Keep coming. There you go. Caution's out."
"Is that any better, buddy?" Bobby asked.
"It either wants to... it's better, yes. It's a little too tight now. It's been both sides now, and it's better when it's a little too tight."
Bobby wanted to know if they were in front of the #96, and NASCAR said they were. Raines had gotten in front of the #55 after the caution.
"All right, working lap 441 right now. 441. 59 to go. Still got the same deal. We're racing 26th through 30th - same group of cars," said Bobby. "Next three in front of you, we're racing - 66, 26, 21. 96 behind you."
Edwards led the restart on lap 444 with Mikey in 29th and Dale in 36th. Mikey went three-wide along the low side two laps into the run.
"Spin in front of you. Go low, go low, go low. Caution's out. Good job," said Mark.
The eighth caution came on lap 452. Martin Truex Jr hit Ricky Rudd, who spun. Jimmie Johnson lifted, but Matt Kenseth didn't and slammed Johnson sideways into Rudd.
"All right, bud, whatcha got?" Bobby asked.
"I don't know, Bobby," Mikey stated. "I don't know what to say. If I loosen it up, I'm going to spin it out in the centre. But then it's too tight off." "It's pretty balanced right now. It's just slow as shit." He said he'd rather stay out, because it seemed to get better the longer they're on track.
ESPN cameras caught Mikey working the rear panel off the #24 car after it had already been flapping.
Bobby asked if the wedge out had helped.
"Right now, it's just a little tight everywhere, but every time we've freed it up any, it's gotten sideways in the centre."
Bobby said, when they're free, they're a lot slower. He told Mikey they were racing from 23rd to 28th, and it was still the same group. He also mentioned that turning off rear blowers was an option to help with the tight condition.
"Okay, I turned the rear one off."
"Okay, 10-4. 10-4."
After a pause, Mark said, "24 says thanks for the help there."
"Yeah, I knew he didn't want to pit," Mikey replied. "I figured I'd fix it for him."
Mark said something was still loose, and Jeff Gordon would probably still have to pit.
"All right, when you get the green, it's going to be 38 to go, 38 to go," Bobby said.
Racing resumed on lap 463 with Edwards leading. Mikey was 25th but immediately passed Bill Elliott for position. Dale was six laps down in 34th.
Debris on the track drew the ninth caution on lap 465.
"I got lucky, I hope. I think I'm ahead of this 15."
"I think so," Mark replied. "Check it, Bobby." After a moment, he said, "55 in front of the 15."
Mikey was now 23rd, the first driver two laps down. Mark warned him that Scott Riggs would be coming around the outside to pick up the free pass back onto the lead lap.
The green flag returned on lap 470 with Edwards leading and Mikey in 23rd. Nine laps later, Menard's #15 was just one car length behind the #55.
"15 working the high side," Mark warned. "Still clear, still clear. Looking outside. Not there yet. Still clear, still clear. Clear by one, side-by-side behind you.
"15 laps to go. 15 to go. Clear by four on the 15 car. Easing away from him. Just keep doing what you're doing there."
"That was a better lap. Good lap," Bobby said on lap 496, when Mikey picked up two car lengths on Menard.
"Just keep doing what you're doing," Mark encouraged. "That's good. Five to go this time. Five. Staying the same behind you. Two to go this time. Two more. Still down there, still down there. One more to go. Just hold your line. Clear by five, back to the 15. Coming to the checkered, coming to the checkered. Everyone's checking up there."
Carl Edwards won while Mikey came in 23rd two laps down, and Dale was six laps down in 34th.
Bobby praised Mikey for good times at the end. He said Mikey made a great move with thirty laps to go and beat all the guys he had to beat, which was impressive.
"Just still needed to be a little tighter right there. That's why I couldn't go faster. It was bad through the centre of the corner still."
Bobby thanked Mikey for the hustle at the end.
"23rd just sounds a lot better than 28th... or 29th."
"Yeah, it does," Bobby agreed. He said they needed to be more aggressive with changes at the start.
"Hey, Mikey, come in at the garage where you practice," a crew member came over the radio.
Next weekend, NASCAR goes to California Speedway. Coverage of the Nextel Cup's Sharp AQUOS 500 begins Sunday at 7:00pm ET on ESPN. The Busch Series' Camping World 300 airs the day before on ESPN2, starting at 9:30pm.