This just in: Michael Waltrip “allegedly” fell asleep at the wheel while driving home and wrecked his car. Waltrips behavior after the crash (crawling out of his car, walking home, and not reporting the accident) has people wondering if there isn’t more to this story. And I think I might have to agree with them, after all, he’s got something to cry in his cocoa about — his new racing team isn’t doing very well this year.
In other less accident prone news Mark Martin spoke with the media today and had some nice things to say about NASCAR racing newcomer Ricky Carmichael, his realistic expectations for the new Toyota teams and his admiration for his sponsor the U.S. Army.
Q. Are you happy with the progress Ricky Carmichael has made so far? What are some of the problems or issues you see being a rookie?
MARK MARTIN: We’ve just done one race and I was thrilled with what he did. He has an awful lot to learn and he learned quite a bit the first time out. Real excited about working with Ricky. I love him as a person. He is a fierce competitor and incredibly talented. I’m sure, as sure as I’m breathing, that he’s going to do this.
Q. There’s still some concerns I guess at Texas Speedway, some drivers have brought up the fact there’s still a bump in the road, bump in the track, there’s some problems there. Are you satisfied with the changes they’ve made?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, I’m not aware of any problems at the racetrack. I love it and I think the drivers love it. I think the fans love it. It’s a fabulous facility.
Q. Is it to be expected that teams have struggled so far this year? Is that to be expected?
MARK MARTIN: Let me give you my take on this. I know you haven’t noticed this, but this is the truth from a guy who knows. I know what I’m talking about. Dave Blaney and Bill Davis’ car was a top five car in all four of the first four races, they just didn’t finish there. They exceeded my expectations. I mean, serious top five car. Didn’t get the finish they had coming.
And then Vickers ran great in the Bud Shootout at Daytona and ran great in California, but didn’t make most of the rest of the races. He could have ran great like 10th. I think that’s great.
So, yeah, they’ve had a disaster. You know, I mean, Michael Waltrip Racing hasn’t met expectations, but whose expectations. My expectations for them were for them to struggle desperately because it’s such a hard — what he tried to do is huge: start a new three-car team. Wasn’t expanding a two-car team to a three-car team, whatever. Starting from scratch, Michael got good people, but he just didn’t get them mixed together just right just yet.
Michael Waltrip Racing is struggling, and Red Bull is struggling, not necessarily Toyota is struggling. I’d say Bill Davis is exceeding expectations with the 22 car.
MODERATOR: Mark, out here in Phoenix, we have a program called Salute to Military Families Program. Last year it was able to provide over 4,000 tickets to military servicemen and their families in the state of Arizona. We’ve continued this program this year. As you know, much of NASCAR is devoted to military support. You driving the U.S. Army car, you never hesitate to speak of that, your appreciation of the military while racing. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that and what it means to you to represent the U.S. Army this season.
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, the U.S. Army represents so many things that are important to me and to the fabric of our country, like loyalty, honesty, duty, discipline, respect, a lot of things that are huge not only to me but to our country. What we don’t get the message across enough is how proud we are of our soldiers and what they’re doing for us, what it means to us and to our country. That’s something that I think is really important for all of us to try to keep in mind.