CORNELIUS, N.C. – No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota crew chief Brian Pattie heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race with a 63-point cushion over 11th place with three races remaining before the field is set for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Michael Waltrip Racing has never placed a driver in the Chase field during its previous five years at the Sprint Cup Series level. David Reutimann’s 16th-place finish in 2009 still stands as the team’s high water mark. The lack of Chase experience has most experts overlooking MWR’s two potential contenders as serious threats for the Championship – and that is just fine with the veteran crew chief.
WHAT HAS BEEN DIFFERENT AT MWR IN 2012? “Attitude has really been the biggest thing. The MWR Toyotas were fast at the end of last year, but when you bring in Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer, plus Martin Truex Jr. was already here, when you put all three of those guys in a post-race meeting, they feed off each other and communicate well. The teamwork and communication is second to none.
“Different views and different ideas have helped us get where we are this year. Scott (Miller) coming in was huge on the competition side to make sure we are all working in the same direction. That’s key in this industry. Every team has really smart people, but to keep them all going in the same direction and working toward a common goal is important. Scott has done a great job with that this year. We have meetings all the time to talk about what’s next – not only what’s happening now, but what do we have coming up. It works out well for us. When you bring people in that have made the Chase and have that kind of experience, it makes a big difference. Scott, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin, myself – it gives the people that haven’t been there someone to ask questions. I know that every team out there brings their best stuff for those last 10 races. It’s all out for the last 10 and you better be prepared. That’s what we are trying to do.”
ON CLINT BOWYER: “Clint and I have got along great since day one. We both grew up doing the same stuff and we can relate well to each other. It’s just whatever it takes to run fast. We don’t care how you do it. We don’t care whose decision makes the car better or whatever. It’s just whatever it takes to be first on Sunday afternoons. Some of the races I’ve had decent luck and made some good calls, so he thinks I can call races decent – that’s always a positive in this sport. I have a hard time explaining what happens to Clint on Sunday’s when he straps that helmet on. We can have some of the worst practices in the history of NASCAR on Fridays and Saturdays and show up on Sundays and run top five or top 10. It’s funny to think that, but when he puts his helmet on he is focused and is really a talented race car driver.”
WHAT IS STILL MISSING? “We are still a really new team. It’s the little things that are keeping us from really hitting our stride. That’s what it takes in this sport. Everything to go perfectly. These guys are really tough. The competition level is high. We need to eliminate the small mistakes whether it be a decision of mine with the setup, a decision in the seat with Clint or something with the pit crews on Sundays. We have to wrap up a few more details to get us running on all eight cylinders. We are at seven and a half, but just a couple small things need to come together, but I know once we get to eight we will be able to win even more races.”
THE PERCEPTION THAT YOU ARE NOT YET A CHAMPIONSHIP THREAT: “I really don’t pay attention to it. We know what we are capable of, but first you have to get in. We will redo our goals after Richmond. I like working under the radar. It’s fun when people don’t talk about you and you can kind of explore different avenues and stuff like that. It’s fun. We have three good teammates and good teams. Mark Martin has done a really good job helping to make our team better. When the 10 races start in the Chase, you’ll see some different things in the 56 and 15 cars due to all the work that Mark and the No. 55 team have done. Rodney Childers and Mark Martin have been doing a lot of work on the 55 car and I think you’ll see that work come into play more when the Chase starts.”
POINT STANDING: Clint Bowyer is seventh in the point standing with a 63 point lead over 11th with three races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Bowyer trails teammate Martin Truex Jr. by six points for sixth. Prior to 2012, the best season any driver in the history of Michael Waltrip Racing has finished in a season is 16th in the final point standings (David Reutimann, 2009).
MWR AT BRISTOL: All three MWR Toyotas finished in the top-five at Bristol in the spring. Truex Jr. finished third, Bowyer fourth and Vickers fifth to mark the first time MWR ever placed three cars in the top-five of any race. MWR has finished runner up in the last two Bristol night races (Truex Jr. in 2011, Reutimann in 2010). An MWR driver has led laps in each of the last four races at Bristol (Reutimann led 25 laps in 2010-2, Truex 63 laps in 2011-1, Truex five laps in 2011-2 and Vickers 125 laps in 2012-1).
BOWYER AT BRISTOL: Bowyer will make his 14th career NSCS start at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night. In 13 previous starts, he has four top-five and six top-10 finishes. He finished a career-best third twice—first in fall 2007 and again in spring 2008 where he led 81 laps. On average he starts 20th and finishes 18th.
2012 BOWYER vs. CAREER BOWYER: Clint Bowyer has scored one win (Sonoma), five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes and ranks seventh through the first 23 races of 2012. In his six previous seasons, Bowyer best ranking through 23 races was ninth in 2007, most top-five finishes was four in 2008 and 2009, and most top-10s was 11 in 2007 and 2010. See side bar for additional comparison.
MORE ON 2012: Bowyer has led 97 laps – three at Las Vegas, two at Martinsville, one at Michigan, 71 at Sonoma, one at New Hampshire and 19 at Michigan. At Sonoma, Bowyer scored his sixth career Cup Series win and his first on a road course. He has an average finish of 11.5 and start of 14.7. Bowyer’s best average finish for a season came in 2007 when he averaged a finish of 13.8 and finished third in the final point standings.
MWR IN 2012: MWR’s five Cup Series drivers have scored a combined record of one win (Bowyer at Sonoma), 14 top-five and 34 top-10 finishes through the first 23 starts of the season. Four of the five drivers have recorded two or more top-five finishes – Truex Jr. and Bowyer each have five and Mark Martin and Brian Vickers each have two. All five drivers, including Michael Waltrip, have recorded a top-10.
LEADING THE WAY: MWR’s Toyotas have led 708 laps in the first 23 Sprint Cup Series races of 2012. Martin Truex Jr. leads the MWR charge with 332 laps, followed by Mark Martin with 133, Brian Vickers with 125, Bowyer with 97 and Waltrip with 21.
CHASSIS NOTES: Primary chassis No. 724 has raced twice in 2012. It started 16th and finished fourth at the spring Bristol race and started fourth and finished fifth at Dover. Backup chassis No. 712 finished 30th at Phoenix after multiple cut tires put the car several laps down. It served as the backup at New Hampshire.