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Yes, it's Martin Truex Jr. taking Michael Waltrip's seat next season....But Waltrip will still run a few NASCAR races

Martin Truex Jr., leaving Chip Ganassi's Chevy team to join Michael Waltrip's Toyota team (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  By Mike Mulhern

  JOLIET, Ill.
  Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. made it official Tuesday that they'll team next season, with Truex leaving Chip Ganassi's team to join Waltrip's Toyota team as driver for the NAPA-sponsored car.
  NAPA's continued sponsorship has been a significant issue for Waltrip, given his lack of success on the track lately.
  Waltrip himself says he'll be cutting back to a partial schedule, though not mentioning just how many races.
   Truex has signed "a multi-year contract," Waltrip said. And NAPA is renewing its contract too.
   The move has long been expected, but it leaves Ganassi's team, currently a Chevy factory operation after several years as a Dodge operation, up in the air. Only Juan Pablo Montoya and long-time sponsor Target remain in the Ganassi camp. And General Motors is expected to cut Ganassi's factory support. Where all that leaves Ganassi's partner, Teresa Earnhardt, is also unclear.
   Waltrip, whose career includes two victories in the Daytona 500, in 2001 and 2003, has made more than 1,000 NASCAR starts since his first in 1985.
   Truex, whose career the past year or so hasn't been quite what he's wanted, has been looking for a new adventure for some time now, and joining Waltrip's operation at one time might not have been that logical, considering how much Waltrip and his men have struggled the past 2-1/2 years to get to this point
   However this season, finally, Waltrip's team seems to be blooming. David Reutimann has come of age; he won the rain-shortened Charlotte 600, but he's been running strong most the season, and he could easily make the championship chase.
   Truex' thinking?
   "There were a lot of things that went into my decision," he said. "It wasn't just one thing. 
   "It was me talking with Ty (Norris, general manager) and Michael, and their passion, and how bad they wanted me, and how much appreciation they showed me that I was thinking about coming here.
   "And then it was their on track performance. David and Marcos Ambrose have been running really, really good. 
   "I like the way they do business.  My little brother has been racing here all year; so I got a glimpse to see how they run their business, and the way they do things in their shop, and the people they have working…."
   Waltrip himself can now concentrate more on just running the team instead of being an owner-driver-TV star.
   "There was a time or two in '07 when we all thought maybe the dream wasn't that good of an idea," Waltrip concedes about that troubled starts. "But when I got down, they were there saying: 'You're our owner, you're our driver, we'll get through this.' 
    "That's what kept me going. 
    "As an owner, I knew there would come a time when I wouldn't be a full time driver anymore, and that time is now.  In 2010 I'm going to run a limited schedule, a few races here and there, not really sure how many or where they will be."
   But one will be the Daytona 500.
   For Waltrip, whose legendary brother Darrell was already 16 years when Michael was born, had a hero to look up to for years.
   "All I've ever known my whole life is running up and down the road going to races," Michael said. "From a very young age I knew exactly what I wanted to be:  I wanted to be a race car driver, just like my big brother.
    "And I wanted to be a team owner at some point…just like my big brother.
    "A lot of my inspiration, and a lot of the direction in my life, comes from Darrell. 
    "And the thing that I'm most proud about is he never let me down. He was a role model that was there for me, and I'm certainly thankful for him in more ways than you can imagine…especially in this world where sometimes your heroes let you down.
   "My brother never did.
    "I'm here to tell you all that there has been a time or two when I thought maybe it was going to say 'For sale' or "For lease' out front instead of 'Michael Waltrip Racing.' But we pushed through, and we've made this place formidable competition."

Michael Waltrip (L), and his crew. Waltrip will be cutting back on his NASCAR racing next season and turning the wheel over to Martin Truex Jr. (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)


Good pick up for MWR. Did

Good pick up for MWR. Did not see this one coming. Thought for sure he would be at Stewart-Haas-Hendrick or JGR's potential 4th team.

Definitely nice move. Too

Definitely nice move. Too much uncertainty over at Ganassi's. Stewart-Haas-Hendrick-Newman: maybe Kevin Harvick? Lots of rumors swirling around. dont know about joe gibbs' No. 4 -- time running out....

from the Blind Squirrel Department: HERE.

Are the Danica rumors as

Are the Danica rumors as prevalent in the garage as they are on the street right now, Mike? Also, who's getting the axe at Roush? Is he going to set up a situation with Yates like Stewart has with Hendrick?

there is a lot of talk about

there is a lot of talk about danica in the garage, but many of the people i've talked with aren't convinced she's really interested in nascar. i talked with sam hornish jr., and he says he doesn't think she'll come over here, because it's too hard, too long a season, and not as much money as she might think. me, i have the distinct sense that nascar is doing everything it can behind the scenes to get danica over here...and when nascar puts the strongarm on, it usually gets what it wants. me, i think she's up and down and in and out on all different nascar angles....what she would like to do, i think, is keep running some indy-car stuff and throw in some nascar stuff too. but after watching how hard tony stewart and juan pablo montoya and sam hornish have had to work to get to where they are, i think if she wants nascar, she'll have to give up most of that stuff and concentrate on this stuff. yeah, these cars are hard, but she can do it. but she'll have to man-up for the grind. and, man, it is one hellava grind, believe me.
Roush? Wow! I've known Jack for more than 20 years and I can usually figure out what's going on inside his head, but this season it's like i'm drawing a blank. he would seem to be behind on some technology -- maybe engines (remember he still hasn't debuted that new ford engine, which is very curious to me, after all that development). but then nascar says it hasn't done a big engine test since last summer, so who knows just how much horsepowre hendrick teams are really playing with.
and throw in the economy and the cost of playing this game, and, well, i wouldn't want to be a car owner. would you ? i dont think it matters much how many teams anyone has (look at rick hendrick's huge operation); but drivers have to produce....i like david ragan and i like jamie Mcmurray, but.....
and you can question many of the drivers in the garage. me, i dont think the playing field is level right now. but i dont know what technical tricks the hendrick guys have discovered.
me, if i were jack roush, i'd hire juan pablo montoya and marcos ambrose....shake things up.

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