Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Firing Michael Waltrip

Michael goes for the wild ride at Daytona!

I guess Waltrip, to be technically correct, “quit” rather than “got fired”- but there was little about his marriage to DEI that was still good. I doubt anyone on either side of this team relationship was real enthused about continuing it for another contract. But there are a lot of good things in this world that end. DEI resurrected Waltrip’s fading career. That was Dale Earnhardt’s last gift to this sport- the restoration of Michael- keeping the fun, charismatic driver in the sport at a good equipment level. Michael ought to be grateful. But that era of good-feelings is clearly over- and both Michael and that team would do better if he left. So now, Michael ought to go.

Michael loves the plates!

Look, it is no real secret. Michael Waltrip is a clear cut below the elite drivers in this sport: Kurt Busch, Johnson, Smoke, etc. He only has four career wins in about twenty years of trying- he made 463 starts before he got his first one- albeit two of those wins were in the Daytona 500.

Candidly though, Waltrip’s career has lately gone through a sort of renaissance. He is an outstanding restrictor plate driver- arguably the best going right now. He has a string of solid improvements at the other places. In the Busch series, where Waltrip has the advantage of superior equipment and resources, he wins quite a bit- against a cast of characters not much different than the Sunday show features.

The point is- this is the closest Michael Waltrip has ever been to moving from respectability to being a serious contender to get into the Chase. Improve this guy just a few hundred points more- and he is right there. DEI has already improved him- but has evidently reached a point where their know-how and cars cannot move him any higher. It happens. So if changing teams gets him to a place where he can build on his recent improvement, just a little bit more, then he is simply not that far from taking a shot or two at making a run at the surprise championship that would cap his career.

He has a great sponsor- which I am sure he is taking with him- which pretty much guarantees him a quality seat somewhere next year. Waltrip had gone as far as he could at DEI, he has reached a point in his career where he needs to expedite his future- so just why not take a shot elsewhere?