[media-credit name=”Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR” align=”alignright” width=”245″][/media-credit]There’s no better indicator for team about how far them have come then when it’s no longer news about how well they’re running.
It’s taken Michael Waltrip Racing six years but they’ve finally reached that point. Now seven races into the 2012 season MWR drivers are making waves and headlines for all the right reasons.
Saturday night in Texas that continued as their three drivers finished third, sixth and 17th. It started with Martin Truex Jr. on the pole, Mark Martin close behind in fourth as the two drivers carried the MWR banner.
“I am just so proud of MWR and all the people there and the teamwork that they have shown there starting with Martin Truex Jr., who has put so much work into getting the program where it was when we started the season and everybody combined,” said third place finisher Martin.
“They really have a lot of great people there with great attitude, great teamwork and man, have I got one awesome crew chief in Rodney Childers. This is so much fun and such an incredible privilege to drive a racecar at this point in my career – to be able to drive a racecar for a team like that and in a hot rod like that.”
Martin noted that even though Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson dominated the race, he wasn’t far behind. The No. 55 Aarons 2011 Best of the Best Toyota held steady in the top three for the second half of the race, able to see the leaders in front of him.
“We don’t have much more work to do and we can get up there and be battling for the win, so I’m really proud of the guys,” said Martin. “We’ve made improvements every race that we’ve got to run together, so Rodney and I are starting to figure some things out in the car that I like for the long haul, so it’s working well.”
The 53-year-old Martin has never been one to hide his excitement but Saturday night he looked all but ready to jump out of his chair when asked about racing next weekend in Kansas. His face lit up and he had to contain himself when acknowledging that going to work is easy when a driver has a great race team.
“After today I’m really excited but I was excited anyway,” said Martin. “I love going to the race track. There’s nothing else that I find quite as much fun as going to work with a great race team with a great attitude. So it’s fun for me to go to every race that I get to go to.
“But with the great run we had here we’ll be able to roll this setup logic into next week’s car – we’re still working. We’re still trying to improve our long haul, getting a little easier on the tires so the thing will stay faster. If we can make any more improvements maybe we can get right up there and make some sparks for those guys.”
Martin won’t stop at praising just MWR, he says a big part of the company’s turnaround has been his teammate, Martin Truex Jr. Joining MWR in 2010, Truex has been there as they struggled and weren’t doing much of anything right.
Instead of giving up and looking for a way out, Truex hung tough and worked as hard as he could with not just his own No. 56 NAPA team, but vowing to make everyone better. On the verge of snapping his own winless streak and after another strong run in Texas, he’s getting strong words from Martin.
“Martin Truex Jr. has been phenomenal, phenomenal,” said Martin. “The teamwork I’m feeling right now at MWR is second to none I’ve ever been at. [He’s] really, really engaged and he’s working hard to help the whole program. We’re racing three cars to put two in the Chase for sure and win races and try to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Hendrick [Motorsports] and Roush [Fenway] and those guys.
“That’s a tall order for right now. I’m very proud of the results we’re getting. It’s coming from a lot of good attitudes and hard-working people.”
Martin’s only running a partial schedule; therefore he’s not in the championship battle. But Truex Jr. sits fourth and Bowyer slipped one spot to 10th following Texas. Both Truex and Bowyer were once questioned for their decision to leave high profile companies like Earnhardt-Ganassi and Richard Childress Racing for MWR, now however, it looks like it wasn’t such a bad decision.
Truex has been knocking on the door to victory lane for the past few weeks, trying to earn just his second career win. Bowyer has had rough luck to start the season, but once the No. 15 Five Hour Energy team puts that behind them they’re expected to be there contending with Truex.
After his Texas run, Bowyer took to Twitter to apologize to his fans for their performance, saying the team got their butts kicked. He also said though they would get back after it next weekend.
Should any of the three MWR drivers win in Kansas it would just be the third victory for the organization, first since July 2010. But now not the longshot that it once was thought to be.