Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Time For Answers In Waltrip Mystery

It’s been two weeks since the discovery of an illegal fuel additive in Michael Waltrip’s NAPA Toyota at Daytona International Speedway, and still no explanation of how it happened.

NASCAR officials discovered the illegal compound in Waltrip’s fuel on February 14, docking the veteran driver 100 driver/owner points, ejecting crewchief David Hyder and Competition Director Bobby Kennedy from the speedway, suspending both men indefinitely, and fining Hyder $100,000.

In an emotional press conference the following day, Waltrip professed his innocence, saying he had no personal involvement in the scandal, and did not know (or approve) of the illegal substance. He blamed the controversy on the unauthorized actions of one of more of his employees, and promised to terminate those involved.

Today – 14 days later -- there have been no terminations, and no explanations.

Michael Waltrip Racing spokesman Ty Norris said earlier this week that the team continues to search for the guilty party. Norris has spoken repeatedly with Hyder – who was suspended with pay by the team following his ejection from the speedway -- offering to guarantee his employment in exchange for a full accounting of what happened.

Despite the auto racing equivalent of immunity from prosecution, however, Hyder insists he knows nothing.

Is it realistic to believe that the crewchief, Director of Competition and team owner were all blissfully ignorant of what was going on in their own shop? Probably not. Something so blatant, so egregious could hardly be done to Waltrip’s racecar without someone in authority knowing about it, or at least being able to find out about it by now. Information travels fast in this business. A man running at full speed cannot make it to the far end of the Nextel Cup garage before the juicy new rumor about him does. It’s foolish to think that something like this can be kept quiet for a day, much less two weeks.

The information is out there. Someone knows what happened, and it’s time to come clean.

As the days continue to tick by, Waltrip is in danger of becoming a sanitized version of O.J. Simpson. Simpson swore he would clear his name by finding the “real killer,” but instead spends his time searching golf course sandtraps around the globe. Waltrip professes his innocence as well, but seems to be making little progress in uncovering the culprit within his own walls.

Mikey hasn’t cut anyone’s throat -- other than perhaps his own – and it is unfair to paint everyone at MWR with the same guilty brush. Perhaps Hyder indeed acted alone. Perhaps Kennedy is to blame. Maybe Waltrip authorized the whole dirty scheme, or perhaps the mysterious, unnamed fourth party who requested a leave of absence at the height of the controversy is to blame.

No one knows, or at least no one’s telling. And the longer this mystery goes unsolved, the more everyone involved begins to appear guilty by association.


  1. Anonymous10:39 AM

    My opinion is that I think the "higher-ups" knew, possible even Waltrip himself. However, they don't want to admit that it went that high because I am sure the folks at Toyota wouldn't too pleased and worse yet it would tarnish the reputations of those individuals that knew. They are in a bind because if they try to pin it on one scapegoat, they would end up with one hefty lawsuit on their hands.

  2. Anonymous11:52 AM

    It goes to prove NASCAR lets some stay and some go. Moody, my friend, NASCAR has changed, we all know why (money is the root of all evil). Mikey brings so much money to the sport with his great PR. They have too much to lose to let Mikey suffer the consequences if he is, in fact, guilty. I like Mikey, but let's be real, new team, HUGE manufacturer coming into the sport, someone knows but with the assistance of NASCAR, it does not ever have to be told.

  3. I may be a little naive, but I suppose I'll be taking Mikey's word for it that he didn't know about the substance. I base my opinion on it seems totally insane for someone to take such an incredible risk with messing with the fuel. I may be giving people too much credit and would hate to find out I'm wrong (maybe its the fan in me coming out). I believe that I would be doing everything possible to find out who was responsible and make it public. Until the person responsible is announced there will always be that doubt though>

  4. Anonymous7:06 PM

    I have heard many say on Sirius Speedways that if Micky would just fess up and say what it was and who it was that all would be well. Are you really going to let him off the hook that easy? "Hey, I shot the sheriff, so ok, well let's go huntin' now boys." That's what you're all saying, even Dave. All you have do is say ya did it and all is good. Are you really going to believe him now. If I was him I would just come out now with a statment to get people off my back truthful or not. That's what everyone is saying it would take. Fessin' up may start the healing process but it is along way from making it right and /or ok. I've only considered Micky an OK driver, but I did respect what he was trying to do with his own team, until Daytona. I'm sorry, his "Domino's, UPS, NAPA, Toyata Camary" grin isn't going to get him off the hook.