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From the Notebook: Waltrip pleased with Truex; Roush clarifies comments

November 25, 2011, Dave Rodman,

From the Notebook: Waltrip pleased with Truex; Roush clarifies comments

Martin Truex Jr. might have just concluded his second season with Michael Waltrip Racing, but when Waltrip released David Reutimann with little more than a month remaining in the schedule, it was obvious MWR was pinning its future hopes on Truex's 31-year-old shoulders.

Truex showed a glimpse of what was coming, near the end of the summer when he snared a fourth-place at Watkins Glen, followed two races later by a runner-up finish at Bristol. Truex's affinity for working with crew chief Chad Johnston was beginning to show.

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So it's interesting that Truex closed the season with top-10 finishes in four of the last five races, despite not working with Johnston for four of them, after MWR's two lead crew chiefs and car chiefs were suspended for having unapproved windshields in their cars at Talladega.

Waltrip was all smiles, though, on pit road following the Homestead finale after Truex, who came and went in the top five throughout the day and night, finally nailed down a third-place finish.

"It's a big deal for our team to grab a top-five here, in our last race -- it confirms the direction of our organization," Waltrip said. "We've made some serious changes over the last few months and this certainly validates what we're doing."

The biggest deal, other than releasing Reutimann, who Truex praised as a great teammate and who had scored the only two Cup race wins MWR has ever managed, was signing vice president of competition Scott Miller from Richard Childress Racing.

His impact, both in equipment and working a couple of races as crew chief on the pit box with Truex, has been sharp.

"We've done a better job for Martin and got him better cars to race," Waltrip said. "He just needs confidence, and if that's the headline, I don't give a crap. He needs to be able to believe more in what he's driving.

"And [Sunday night at Homestead] builds confidence. What we've done over the last month or so builds confidence. There's no one who can drive a car better than Martin, and if we give him the equipment, week in and week out to go do the job in, I feel really good about the Chase and wins and everything we're doing."

Waltrip said, as the checkers waved at Homestead, "The first text I got was from the president of NAPA [Truex's sponsor], just saying, 'Wow, that was awesome.' And that's so important for our team, because we've got to deliver for them."

Waltrip just laughed when he was asked if, when Johnston returns, in alliance with Miller and along with Waltrip's longtime competition executive Bobby Kennedy, the possibilities for 2012 might be limitless.

"Chad Johnston's been emailing, texting, sending suggestions and doing all he can," Waltrip said. "I think this has shown the depth of our organization, since Talladega -- we finished top-10 at Talladega, Texas and Martinsville and then stumbled at Phoenix but we're back with a top-five at Homestead.

"And that was all without having the guys that we picked to be the 'A' team on the box," Waltrip said of the suspensions. "We had to put in some backups, so I'm really proud and very thankful that we're organized in a way that puts us in a position to overcome the bump in the road that the stupid windshields at Talladega caused us.

"That was ridiculous that we let that happen, but our organization fought through it and I'm thankful."

* Miller named executive VP of competition for MWR | Teams penalized

Watch Truex's 2011 season highlights:

Roush really is a Ragan fan

Jack Roush constantly is juggling a bunch of balls but Monday, after Roush had gone from the exhilaration of winning both the Nationwide Series' drivers' and owners' championships on Saturday, thanks to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Carl Edwards, respectively, to enduring the agony of Edwards tying for the Sprint Cup drivers' championship only to lose it to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker -- Roush could be excused for being a little sleep-deprived on Monday morning.

So on Tuesday evening, Roush was compelled to reach out and make sure his feelings for David Ragan hadn't been misconstrued in comments that Roush made in a media briefing on Monday morning in conjunction with the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series banquet.

Roush expressed his "disappointment and frustration" at Ragan not fulfilling his potential in a five-year stint driving the No. 6 Ford, which may come to an end if Roush Fenway Racing is unable to secure sponsorship. Tuesday night, Roush said part of the frustration came -- and he's expressed the same emotion in a variety of situations throughout his lengthy ownership tenure -- from his own failure to turn the proper keys.

"I have nothing but the highest level of respect for David Ragan both as a person and a competitor," Roush said. "He has been a valuable member of the Roush Fenway family for many years, and has been a great representative of our organization.

"The point referred to in my comments was aimed at my sincere disappointment that I have not been able to put the pieces together with David that would have supported the type of success that I feel he is capable. With that said we have watched David grow tremendously as a driver and much of that growth was manifested in his successes on the track this season."

* Ragan's return 'a 40 percent chance' | Layoffs at RFR with 6 car cut

Watch Ragan's 2011 season highlights:

Lally back to Grand-Am, but available

In the week prior to Homestead, Andy Lally communicated via Twitter that he had stepped out of TRG Motorsports' Ford prior to the season finale "as a matter of principle" and that he hoped to announce his next career step soon.

That shoe dropped this week, as The Associated Press reported Lally will return to the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT division in 2012, driving for Magnus Racing with team principal John Potter.

Lally, who has limited NASCAR experience but was a three-time Rolex Series GT champion in sports cars, with three Rolex 24 At Daytona victories in the GT division, was the Sprint Cup rookie of the year for TRG Motorsports.

Lally ran 30 NASCAR races this season, with a season-best finish of 19th at Talladega. He's hoping to still run NASCAR, particularly road-course events.

* Lally leaves underfunded TRG Motorsports

Stremme's Inception moving to Ford

David Stremme's No. 30 Chevrolet was an early dropout at Homestead, but the owner/driver was pretty pleased that his brand-new organization had managed to make 18 of the 23 races it attempted since its debut at Richmond in May.

After retiring from the season finale, Stremme said everything his team had done this season was part of its building process to be better and more competitive in 2012. Stremme said as part of that his group had three brand-new cars back at its shop and that they were Fords, which will use Roush Yates Engines horsepower in 2012.

* Stremme back in Cup with Inception Motorsports