Waltrip team looking to build off Daytona momentum
AP Sports Writer
FONTANA, Calif. (AP) – Michael Waltrip Racing got exactly what it needed to start the season with a pair of top-six finishes at Daytona. David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. now want to keep pushing forward in Southern California.
“We just need to carry a little momentum over from Daytona and hopefully get out of here with a good finish and get off to a good start for our season,” said Reutimann, who starts 11th at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.
Reutimann finished fifth in the Daytona 500, one spot ahead of Truex in his debut for the Waltrip team in the full-time spot that used to be occupied by the team owner.
“I felt like it was a first good week together for us. We gelled well together,” Truex said. “When I got out of the car I felt like we were in Victory Lane, everybody was so happy. They all had fun watching that race. So, it was a good feeling knowing that I did a good enough job for them and they were happy with how everything went.”
Waltrip drove a third car at Daytona, but steps back this week as he shifts his focus more on ownership and the continued growth of the team, which is in its fourth full season.
“I’m really trying to immerse myself into this role as an owner,” Waltrip said.
Reutimann had all five of the top-six finishes for Michael Waltrip Racing last season and picked up the team’s first-ever win at Charlotte.
“You’re only as good as your last race, so if you run good in one race, you may be able to enjoy it Monday and maybe Tuesday. Then Wednesday, it’s like you have to go back and do it again,” Reutimann said. “Daytona was X, Y and Z, but by Wednesday you’re moving on and you come to this one and this is the most important race of the season to you until the next one. “
Strangely enough for Truex, Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 in Chip Ganassi’s No. 1 car that he drove last season. But Truex certainly didn’t sound bitter when asked about that.
“It was cool to see that. Obviously, I would have liked it better if I was in Victory Lane, but I was happy for those guys,” Truex said. “There’s no jealousy with me. I don’t sit there and say why wasn’t I in that car.”
RCR CLIMBING: Maybe fewer will be better for Richard Childress Racing.
A year after failing to win any races – or even a top-five finish – with four full-time teams, the trimmer Childress team began 2010 with all three of its cars finishing in the top 11 at the Daytona 500 and starting among the first 14 cars at California.
Clint Bowyer, who starts third at Auto Club Speedway after finishing fourth at Daytona, said he is as optimistic as he’s ever been.
“I feel like we have corrected the problems we had at RCR throughout last season. Unfortunately, it took a season to do that,” Bowyer said. “But by four or five races from the end of the season, I thought we were a force to be reckoned with. I feel like we are going to be this year.”
The RCR stable was cut to three cars when Jack Daniels ended its sponsorship of the No. 07 Chevrolet for Casey Mears.
This year’s lineup of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Bowyer got off to a strong start.
“As far as the momentum and everything that went with that, we are pretty happy,” Harvick said. “All in all, it was good.”
NO SIGN OF BIGGER SUCCESS: Jimmie Johnson’s drive for five consecutive Sprint Cup championships didn’t get off to the best of starts. But how Johnson does at the Daytona 500 has never been a true indication of how the season will go.
Johnson won the Daytona 500 in 2006 on way to winning the first of his unprecedented four consecutive championships. But he has finished no better than 27th in the season opener since.
This year, he finished 35th.
“I’m buying into it and finding some silver lining in all this saying it’s a good sign,” Johnson said, laughing. “But I just hope that at the end of the chase that we don’t need the points that we lost at Daytona.”
SPARKPLUGS: Only two drivers have won the Daytona 500 and at California the same year: Jeff Gordon in 1997, in the first race at Auto Club Speedway, and Matt Kenseth last year. Jamie McMurray, this year’s Daytona 500 champion, is starting on the pole. … Another commemorative customized surfboard for Kenseth. He got his third ‘trophy’ in California on Saturday in recognition of winning his third February race at the track last year.