In the next week I am going to give my opinion of the first trimester grades for the 2009 season so far for the Sprint Cup teams. Please let me know what you think.
For owner Michael Waltrip and his Sprint Cup team Michael Waltrip Racing, 2009 has so far been one of the best years for this young organization. Particularly, for driver David Reutimann who has seen some major gains since the end of last year.
Let’s take a look at MWR first trimester grades coming into Pocono this weekend.
Coming into Daytona there were a lot more questions than there were answers. MWR had yet to secure full year sponsorship with Aarons.
Even though they had seen Ruetimann find some consistency at the end of last year when he won the pole at Homestead, still Aarons was hesitant to sign on.
Waltrip worked with Aaron’s to make sure the 00 had sponsorship for 2009.
Ruetimann came out of the box on fire, at Las Vegas he started fourth and finished fourth and found himself in the top five in points. Following Las Vegas he had finishes of 32nd, 12th and 20th and was sitting 11th in the standings.
He then won the pole at Texas but finished 11th.
It had been a rough couple weeks following Texas for Reutimann who had an average finish of 22nd and found themselves outside the top 12 in points in 15th position coming into the Coca Cola 600.
Reutimann was not the best car at Lowes Motorspeedway but he and his team gambled when rain came on lap 227 and stayed out when the red flag waved.
The waiting began it took nearly three hours but NASCAR unable to keep up with mother nature declared Reutimann the winner; his first career Sprint Cup win.
Reutimann then went on and won the pole at Dover had a solid run going until to avoid a wreck he spun out and was forced to pit and settle for an 18th place finish.
Overall Reutimann now sits 13th in the standings heading into Pocono. They have had a good year so far. With a one win, two top fives and three top 10’s his average finish is 16.5.
Finally, Reutimann is showing the talent that both Michael and Darrell Waltrip have been raving about the last three years.
For Reutimann to make the chase for the first time he will need to continue to run and finish within the top 15 every week. With the competition so close this year in the sport those sitting on or near the chase bubble can’t afford many mistakes.
For the first trimester I am giving Reutimann a B+. He has had some rough patches but has shown he can rebound and he is the best driver at MWR in 2009.
Michael Waltrip was key to bringing Toyota into NASCAR. He took a chance on the foreign manufacturer as did his sponsors who left the very visible the Dale Earnhardt Inc. to the newly formed MWR.
Joe Gibbs Racing came over and brought Toyota and its power to the front in 2008, but Toyota should be thanking Waltrip who carries are the war wounds for the manufacturers first two years in NASCAR.
It hasn’t been easy for Waltrip who has struggled with consistency and has struggled finding speed each weekend. Waltrip has only one top 10 this season that came at his best track Daytona, where he saw himself sitting eighth in the standings.
He carried that momentum to a 15th place finish at California but since then he has had only one finish in the top 15 that came at Martinsville.
Waltrip, who hasn’t had a pole since the Daytona 500 last year, has had mechanical failures, pit road issues and poor handling race cars, has him dangerously flirting with the top 35 in owners standings.
Waltrip chase hopes all but ended weeks ago. We know Waltrip has the talent to run with the best in this sport, but for some reason he is unable to keep up with his teammate each week let alone the sports best drivers.
Waltrip’s average finish in 2009 is 25.3 couple that with poor qualifying runs and two DNF’s and more finishes outside the top 20 have them sitting 32nd in points.
The NAPA Toyota has a lot of work to do if Waltrip thinks he can be competitive each week at the track.
Waltrip is well liked in the garage and by the fans but the contest he is losing is on the track and so far for 2009 my grade for the first 13 races is D+/C-.
I am being kind because some of his finishes were due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time but others were poor quality of race cars on the track and a team unable to adjust each week.
Recently there are rumors of former teammate Martin Truex Jr. leaving Earnhardt Ganassi Racing at the end of 2009 to come join MWR in 2010.
For this organization would be a good move, by bringing in a young, talented, underachieving driver to help bring sponsors and results each week.
Until then this organization will continue to move forward as a whole. They have the talent to run up front each week but it’s a matter of putting it together for both teams.
My overall grade for MWR is C+ because Reutimann continues to surprise each week with strong runs and good finishes. Waltrip results do affect this grade but for a two car organization and the product they are putting out each week they are running on par with some larger organizations.
Note: Opinions expressed here of the writer only.