Published on July 1st, 2009 | by Michael J Smith2
Move To MWR Might Make Sense For Truex
When I first heard the rumors that Martin Truex Jr was contemplating a move to Michael Waltrip Racing, I immediately thought to myself, why? Would such a move be beneficial to the two-time Nationwide Series champion?
Originally, I thought the move made little sense considering that there’s the possibility that Stewart Haas Racing will be looking for a driver to fill its third seat, should it decide to field a third team. I wouldn’t think sponsorship would be an issue there because it seems like Bass Pro Shops could be persuaded to move, despite their recent comments that they would stay with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing no matter what Truex decides to do.
But, this is contingent on SHR fielding a third team, and sponsorship being secured. And, as I’m sure you’ve all noticed, Ryan Newman’s No. 39 car has had Haas Automation on the car more than they would like, I’m sure. (Haas Automation is the company owned by SHR part-owner Gene Haas.) Also, Ryan Newman’s performance has been inconsistent, so while Tony Stewart’s team has had success, there’s a chance that a third SHR Chevy team would be as inconsistent as Newman’s.
There is also no guarantee that Truex is on the list of drivers to be in a third SHR Chevy. This season, pending any unforeseen releases, there aren’t very many big name free agents out there. Brian Vickers has been re-signed by Red Bull Racing. Jamie McMurray is expected to be re-signed by Roush Fenway Racing/Yates Racing. And, MWR is working on re-signing David Reutimann. That leaves Brad Keselowski as Truex’s main competition. And, it would seem Keselowski has the edge for a potential third SHR Chevy because of his Hendrick Motorsports connections.
So, if we eliminate the SHR Chevy from the equation, there don’t seem to be any rides out there other than a MWR Toyota. Joe Gibbs Racing could expand to a four car team, but I haven’t heard anything about this being a possibility, so even if it is, Truex can’t hold his breath for it.
There is also some speculation that Dale Earnhardt Jr could move his JR Motorsports team to the Sprint Cup Series, as could Kevin Harvick. But neither has expressed anything concrete, thus keeping Truex from being able to rely on either team as an option. Penske Championship Racing has room, but would any driver want to move to a team that might have to change makes? Doubtful considering they might not be as competitive right off the bat. And, like others, PCR has not indicated any plans to expand.
No other teams have seemed ready or willing to expand, so there are certainly slim pickings in the Cup series. Truex could race for any one of the small teams in 2010, but that would almost certainly be career suicide. So, that leaves MWR.
This season, MWR became a legitimate contender. David Reutimann won the rain shortened Coca-Cola 600, the first victory for him and the team. He’s also stayed relatively close to the Chase cutoff and is a legitimate threat to make the Chase.
With that team’s performance, someone at MWR – and it could be Michael himself – has to believe that another Toyota could be just as impressive with a different driver. That could mean that Michael Waltrip gives up the NAPA Toyota, or it could mean that he runs a part time schedule with another driver running a full-time schedule in a MWR machine. Either way, MWR officials have to believe that the team is competitive.
From Truex’s perspective, he probably views MWR as the most competitive, concrete ride out there. He’s had a rough season at EGR, and he probably feels like it is time for a change. Is MWR that far behind EGR? Probably not. Add in the fact that his brother is a developmental driver for MWR, and the ride becomes much more attractive. I’m sure his brother has filled him in on the operations at MWR, which should give him a good sense as to how competitive the team will be, and how committed they are to winning.