What Is Up at Michael Waltrip Racing?

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IOctober 15, 2009

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Michael Waltrip, driver of the #55 NAPA Toyota and team owner of Michael Waltrip Racing shoots pictures with his phone of his Nationwide team's pit box during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Copart 300 at Auto Club Speedway on October 10, 2009 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

At Michael Waltrip Racing, there seem to be more questions than answers about plans for the upcoming 2010 season. 

One of the biggest questions is whether or not Danica Patrick will come to Michael Waltrip Racing rather than JR Motorsports, where she is reportedly headed.  MWR has expressed great interest in Danica Patrick, and the team reported talks have progressed positively.

Ty Norris, MWR vice president and general manager, confirmed that he met with Patrick several months ago.  He also advised that he has spoken to Patrick's representatives as recently as last week regarding a potential partial Nationwide Series ride with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Norris reportedly offered Patrick manufacturer support, as well as the opportunity to be under the roof of a four-car Sprint Cup team.  Patrick is also requiring a team with a car that has points enough to ensure she does not have to qualify on speed.

"In recent weeks, I would say the discussions have become a little more detailed and intense," Norris said.  "When you get to that level, you try to figure out what are the next steps, if there are next steps."

"Any owner of a Nationwide team or a Cup team with a racing operation would love to have Danica there after you talk to her, because of her passion to race," he said.

One of the biggest questions facing MWR is whether or not they will be adding Ms. Patrick. But another major question is what in the world will Michael Waltrip himself be doing in 2010?

Waltrip recently told ESPN.com that his Sprint Cup schedule is totally up in the air and dependent on sponsorship. So what does Waltrip have in mind for himself?

Surprisingly, he has decided he should go Nationwide Series racing instead.  "Ideally, for me, would be to get the type of sponsor that I could run the full Nationwide schedule," Waltrip said. "That's what I'd love to do."

Waltrip admitted he would have the best of all worlds, racing in the Nationwide Series and then being at the track as an owner for the Cup race on Sundays.

Perhaps Waltrip is positioning himself to participate in the Nationwide Series along with Danica Patrick running a few select races in the same car. No doubt that sponsorship opportunity would be attractive to many companies and organizations.

One thing that is not up in the air at MWR is who will be in the NAPA Sprint Cup car.  Waltrip announced in July that Martin Truex, Jr. will be replacing him in the 2010 Cup Series.

"I gave my sponsor to Martin, so now I need to find another one," Waltrip said.

Another major sponsorship hole at MWR is for the No. 00 car driven by David Reutimann.  Norris said on Sunday of this week that Reutimann's car could have as many as 12 races open and in need of sponsorship.

"Aaron's is going to be the sponsor for half the season for Reutimann," Norris said.  "It depends on how contracts fall the next couple of weeks."

Even more uncertain is what will happen to the drivers in MWR's development program.  Many of these drivers, such as Trevor Bayne in the Nationwide Series and Ryan Truex in the Camping World Series East, have been having great runs this season.

Ryan Truex, little brother of soon-to-be MWR teammate Martin Truex, Jr., became the youngest driver ever to win the Camping World East Series championship this year.

Where will these young drivers race next? Will Reutimann secure enough sponsorship for a full Cup season? 

Will Waltrip share a Nationwide ride with IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick?  And will one of NASCAR's biggest "Tweeters" be a racer, a team owner, or both?

Attempts to find answers to these questions have been "passed on" for now.  Spokespersons for MWR, as well as Ty Norris, confirm that answers should be coming soon.

"We are going to make some announcements in the next two weeks," Norris said.

Stay tuned Michael Waltrip Racing fans. Hopefully all of the uncertainty will be answered soon.


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