News & Media

New deal good for Truex, MWR, NAPA, NASCAR

August 31, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM,

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Seldom has re-signing a driver winless in his past 191 starts felt so good.

So good for Martin Truex Jr., so good for team co-owners Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman, so good for NAPA Auto Parts ... and so good for NASCAR.

Martin Truex Jr.

Career Cup Statistics
Lead Lap Fin.1634921
Laps Led1,478241376
Avg. Start17.117.012.9
Avg. Finish18.618.311.2
Best Rank11^185

There was Waltrip on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, standing alongside Truex's just-unveiled 2013 Camry, showing off his golf stroke to NAPA president Paul Donahue. No worries. Just good flex in the knees, good backswing, nice follow through.

And there was NASCAR president Mike Helton, sitting alongside Kauffman on the podium for the announcement of the multi-year contract extension with Truex and NAPA, an indication of just how vital sponsorships such as NAPA's are to the sport.

"NASCAR doesn't normally get involved with this type of announcement with a sponsor and a car and a team," Helton noted. "[But] we're particularly excited about [Friday's] announcement for several reasons.

"Probably the most significant [aspects] from the sanctioning body's perspective is that you've got one of the most highly visible, recognizable retail partners in our sport re-upping for multiple years. Consistency -- with Truex, the [No.] 56, NAPA and Toyota -- lives on. That's important today. The fact that you have a primary sponsor that will be on that car every weekend of a full season is something we should not overlook."

Donahue acknowledged that his company would have considered other options had Truex not emerged as a Chase contender this season. But he said it was the team's steady improvement, in concert with Truex and MWR's off-track dedication, that made their decision easy.

"We wanted to be associated with a winner," Donahue said. "We talked a lot about that, both internally and with Michael and the team. Given the progress we've made with five top-fives and 13 top-10s, [we know] it's just a matter of a little luck here and there. We know they're going to be there. We just like the steady progress they've made.

"Being fifth in points and we never having been in the Chase weighed heavily on us. We led 44 laps last week [at Bristol], so getting our logo out front and center, that's what we're looking for."

Waltrip, actually, is looking for a little more.

"I love what Martin said," Waltrip said. "He's fast enough. Our cars are good enough. We've had to be conservative over the last few weeks to get into this Chase. We're not going to be that way when the Chase starts.

"We've had to be conservative over the last few weeks to get into this Chase. We're not going to be that way when the Chase starts. "



"We've been close. We've been capable of winning races all year long. We just haven't finished the deal. ... Maybe this will help."


"Tony [Stewart] proved last year that you can make some special things happen in that 10-week run. I'm very optimistic about who we are. This news is just confidence. I know Martin when he puts on that NAPA uniform [Friday] is going to feel better than he ever has about who he is and where we're going."

How close is the No. 56 to not just making the Chase, but finding a way to Victory Lane?

"We're right there," said Truex, who finished 18th in points last season. "We've been close. We've been capable of winning races all year long. We just haven't finished the deal. ... Maybe this will help. It will be great for the guys on the team to not have to worry about where their job is going to be next year. We're very excited about that and are looking forward to what we can do together. "

As if it were pre-ordained, Truex took the track for Friday's first practice in preparation for Sunday's AdvoCare 500 and turned the fastest lap of the session at 185.22 mph (speeds).

Although winless in his past 191 Cup races, including all 96 of his starts since joining MWR, Truex needs only a finish of 14th or better on Sunday to clinch his first berth in the Chase.

How close does Truex think his team is to striking gold?

"If we get hot, we can go after a championship," the 32-year-old from Mayetta, N.J., boldly said. His average starting position (12.9) and finishing position (11.2) are the best of his Cup career.

Waltrip has always liked Truex's driving ability. Although Truex owns only one career Cup victory in 249 starts (June 2007 at Dover), he has two Nationwide Series titles (2004 and '05) on his resume. Waltrip also calls him an "amazing ambassador" for the team.

"I think the key thing is Martin's attitude toward getting it done," Waltrip said. "He came to Rob [Kauffman] in April and said, 'I want to drive this car next year. Y'all figure it out. I'm your guy.' That's the kind of guy you want driving your race car."

Truex's hands-on approach doesn't hurt.

"I don't go home on Sunday night and sit there and wait for them to build my race cars better or bring me better stuff on Thursday," Truex said. "I go to the shop on Monday and I'm part of a team and part of building that process. It's been an awesome road -- a lot of fun to be a part of.

"My biggest fear this year was this [NAPA] deal falling apart and us not being able to realize our potential. I feel like we're not where we want to get to yet and and I'm very, very happy that we'll be able to continue down that path.""

Although NAPA might have shopped for another team, Donahue indicated that abandoning NASCAR was never in the cards.

"We looked at all our options [through market research]," he said. "Who our core customer is, what their interests are and where was the best place for us to spend our marketing funds. Once we made our decision that NASCAR was the place for us to be ... it was pretty clear to us that after seeing the improvement that Michael, Martin, Rob and the team had made this year, that we wanted to be with them."