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Find out what's really going on in NASCAR. Look here to find out why your driver really lost his ride, or the real reason those two drivers can't stand each other. Learn about the hidden motives and reasons for the things that happen in NASCAR, from the drivers to the team owners.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Waltrip wise to hand keys to Truex … but can Truex win in that car?

Heading into 2009, both Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. knew that it was an important year for their careers.

For Waltrip, the end of the road was in sight. He was very blunt before the year started … if he couldn’t compete, he was done with running full-time in the Cup series after 25 years and more than 700 starts, including 4 wins during his stint at DEI.

For Truex, who had just signed a one-year deal with DEI (now EGR) last season, the question was, “Where will he be in 2010?” Few thought he would stay in his current ride, as the cars just weren’t up to speed most weeks at a level that can compete with the elite teams in NASCAR.

A couple weeks ago, it was leaked that Truex would be heading to Michael Waltrip Racing, likely to take over the #55 ride, leaving Michael to be the boss and perhaps run an occasional race.

Today, July 7, that is going to become official at a 12:30 p.m. press conference that will be televised live on SPEED. Waltrip wisely kept his word and decided to give up running full-time, and now we know where Truex is going.

This deal raises a new question, though … Can Truex win and run up front in his new ride?

Over the past few years, the #55 car has been less than spectacular with Waltrip behind the wheel. He is in the back of the pack most weeks, with the exception of plate races, and even there he’s struggled lately.

So when Truex gets in the car next year (or maybe sooner?), we will see just what the reason was … was Waltrip to blame? Or was the car to blame?

I’m thinking Option A is more likely. Waltrip was great for many years on restrictor plates, where he won all four of his races (2 Daytona 500s, 1 Firecracker 400, 1 Talladega race). But outside of those tracks, he was never that great and never finished better than 12th in points in his lengthy career. He was a great pitchman and a decent driver, so he always had a ride, but he was never an elite driver.

Its owner’s car excepted, Michael Waltrip Racing has been on the upswing this year. David Reutimann is a talent and pulled out a win due to rain. Beyond that, though, he’s been competitive and led other races, and should continue to do so. An affiliated car driven by Marcos Ambrose has also had some great runs this year.

So there is hope for Truex at MWR … which may bring him the success he has sought for his whole Cup career after winning two Busch Series titles. He is also on the hot seat, as he only has one career win and will also be tested next year. Does he have the talent to join the elite class of drivers and start winning races, or will he always be a middle-of-the-pack guy? We’ll find out next year.

I thought he might work with Joe Gibbs Racing to see about becoming the driver of a fourth team in that organization, but it appears that is not going to happen. There, I believe, he would have had a better chance of success right out of the gate.

But Truex, whose younger brother Ryan also is in the MWR organization at lower levels of racing, appears to like what he sees and it’s clear he believes he can make it work.

Only time will tell if he made the right decision about where to go for 2010, and whether he will be able to make the leap to contender status.

NASCAR’s appeals judges lifing of Mayfield suspension
In a move that was expected, NASCAR is seeking a reversal of the shocking decision in the Jeremy Mayfield drug testing scandal last week that allowed Mayfield to return to racing.

Don’t expect anything out of it, though. They’re asking the same judge to overturn his own ruling … not going to happen. This case will be in court for months, possibly years, so don’t expect any bombshell decisions anytime soon in NASCAR’s favor.

There is trouble for Mayfield, though, as he now has bigger issues than the court case … finding the money to be able to race. No sponsor will want to go near him, and he is not on the Chicago entry list, though if he pays the $5000 late fee by Thursday he can still enter.

I wouldn’t bet on him being there this week, and maybe in future weeks too. Unless the #64 Gunselman team lets him drive their car, Mayfield may be away from racing for a while … not because of a suspension, but because his team is broke. On top of it all, he is being sued by Triad Racing Technologies for allegedly owing more than $86,000 for parts.

He may have won in court last week and forced NASCAR to lift his suspension, but it’s clear that Mayfield is far from out of the woods as far as getting his season back on track.


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