Racing or selling product?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2006

Did you hear the news? Ol’ DW is finally getting the opportunity to drive his brother’s car.

It was announced this week that Darrell Waltrip will temporarily end his retirement to drive the Aaron’s Dream Machine in the Busch race at Martinsville in July.

Everyone has seen the corny commercials with Darrell pleading with Michael to drive the car. Well the end has finally come, DW will race the car and the whole situation proves one thing to me.

Michael Waltrip is more interested in selling products and marketing than he is about winning races.

Don’t get me wrong, Michael is very good at what he does, he can mention more sponsors in a thirty-second interview than anyone on the circuit. If only his car was as fast as his mouth.

I don’t think DW has any business racing that car. Other than a handful of truck races over the last several years, he has not raced competitively in over five years.

I understand the gimmick, and yes, it is a gimmick; making the long running gag come to reality, but there are 42 other drivers to be considered.

When a marketing plan for Aarons enters into the actual event, I think it goes too far. I bet the other drivers competing in that race will take it more seriously than the Waltrip brothers obviously have.

I wonder how Michael’s sponsors will react when he starts having to make the races on speed and not rely on owners’ points that he earned in a squirrelly way.

By moving over to Bill Davis Racing this year, Waltrip didn’t have DEI to prop him up any longer. So to ensure his entry into the first five races, he formed a bogus partnership with Doug Bawel, the listed owner of the old no. 77 Kodak team. Because the no. 77 is inactive this year and because that team finished the 2005 season in the top 35, Waltrip formed a partnership with Bawel to use those points in the first five races of 2006.

After the first five races, Waltrip is on his own and must either be in the top 35 in points or race his way into the field on speed. After Las Vegas, Waltrip sits in 31st position and since the next two races are not in Daytona or Talladega, I don’t see him bettering that position.

But does it really matter? He can sell auto parts, deliver a gazillion pizzas, fill up hotel rooms, and rent big screen televisions. It really doesn’t matter where he finishes on the track. Heck, he is already trying to sell Toyotas while driving a Dodge.

Looking at the points standing through the first three races, there are some names in the top-ten that have made a serious jump from this time last year.

Matt Kenseth improved 26 spots, Kasey Kahne sits in fourth currently and was in 38th last year, and Kyle Busch has improved 16 spots. It is early and those guys can fall just as quickly as they jumped to the front, but I am glad to see some new faces at the top of the standings.

The fastest track on the schedule, Atlanta, is next for the cup guys. Qualifying speeds will be in the low 190s and race speeds will approach 200 mph.

To win this race, Carl Edwards will have to be contended with. In three career races in Atlanta, Edwards has two wins and a third. He swept both races here last year and will be a force again.

Bobby Labonte leads all active drivers with six career wins at Atlanta and Jeff Gordon has 16 career top-ten finishes. My pick to win this week is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. This will be the first of a string on solid finishes for that team.