Sprint Cup team preview: Michael Waltrip Racing
January 26, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
MWR hoping to rebound, re-establish credibility in crucial 2014
-- Michael Waltrip Racing hopes to regain reputation and form in 2014 after a headline-making 2013 season. Although MWR did earn two wins, there was plenty of unwanted attention because of penalties, a suspension and sponsorship issues to start the Chase.
-- The team will field two full-time cars this year, for 2012 championship runner-up Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, who scored one of the 2013 wins (at New Hampshire) despite driving part-time for the team.
2014 Driver Lineup
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota; Brian Vickers, No. 55 Toyota
Bowyer qualified for the Chase and finished seventh, although he did not reach Victory Lane in 2013 after a three-win 2012 campaign. He ranked among the top-three in the championship for much of the midpoint of the season. After his involvement in the controversy at the Richmond, Va., regular-season finale, Bowyer managed only a pair of top-fives in the 10-race Chase. Crew chief Brian Pattie returns and the team is eager to start fresh in 2014.
After competing in the Nationwide Series last year for Joe Gibbs Racing, Vickers, who has three career Cup wins, will get his first full-time Cup opportunity since 2011. However, in the weeks after he was introduced by Waltrip to drive the No. 55 Toyota, Vickers suffered a blood clot in his right calf and was forced to get out of the car. It's the second time he's missed parts of a season with health-related issues. In 2010, he suffered from blood clots and additionally had to have surgery to repair a hole in his heart. He is expected to be in the car for the Daytona 500, however, and encouraged about his potential with a full season of competition after winning for the team in a part-time role. Billy Scott, who served as the team's lead engineer the past two years, will move into the crew chief position.
Bowyer has proven himself a legitimate title favorite and will benefit from putting the distractions of 2013 behind him. In a season with so many new crew chief/driver pairings, the continuity and relationship he has with Pattie may prove a big advantage for the team.
While Vickers is optimistic about his health situation, there is naturally some concern. That said, he has shown himself capable of winning in a part-time capacity with the team, so he must feel good about his chances with a full-time position.