For the first time in the 2012 season, Michael Waltrip will leave the NASCAR on FOX pit studio, trading in his tailored suit for a firesuit to run in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. The longtime Aaron’s pitchman is only running a limited Sprint Cup schedule this season, but that includes both Talladega races, where he took his last Cup win back in 2003.
Of course, Waltrip’s got a lot more on his plate than being a race car driver these days. He’ll still run now and again, of course, but he’s also one of the top owners on the Sprint Cup circuit. In fact, his Michael Waltrip Racing has gone from a jet fuel-tainted laughingstock in its 2007 debut to one of the deepest teams in the series this year,.
But going from Point A to Point B isn’t an immediate process, as any NASCAR driver would tell you; in fact, sometimes it involves going in circles for what seems like forever. MWR spent half a decade in the middle of the field, but thanks to wholesale changes over the past year, they’ve established themselves as a driving force at the front of the pack.
How did they do it? Here are seven major changes that led to drastic improvement in the MWR camp: