Michael Waltrip will step out of the #55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, turning the seat over to Patrick Carpentier.
Waltrip explained the decision today, saying, “If I see where I can improve my car’s performance, then that’s exactly what I am going to do. I am a good road racer, but Patrick is a great road racer. I love being an owner and I want to get another win for NAPA.”
Carpentier will also drive Waltrip’s NAPA Nationwide Series Toyota at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal in August.
Waltrip’s withdrawal from the Iinfineon race may be the first in a growing series of bow-outs for the former Daytona 500 champion. Waltrip said at the start of the season that he would replace himself as driver of the NAPA Auto Parts car if he was unable to keep pace with his teammates, David Reutimann and Marcos Ambrose. With Reutimann 11th in points and Ambrose a surprisingly strong 18th, Waltrip (32nd in the points parade) has little choice but to take a good, long look in the mirror.
"I was dead serious,” said Waltrip to ESPN.com this week. “If the other two cars are outrunning me and I'm not keeping up, (to) heck with it. This year, it's not working for me. I just want to have a winning championship race team."
Waltrip says he now expects to run only a limited schedule of races next season in a fourth MWR entry, beginning with the season-opening Daytona 500. “It's pretty obvious… that I'm looking at what I'm going to do in '10,” he said. “It certainly makes it easier when you see the performance of the other teams, (to) see what we're building going forward."
Sources tell Sirius Speedway that Martin Truex Jr. is likely to replace Waltrip in the NAPA car next season, though Waltrip would like to keep the #55 on his part-time entry. Truex is in the final year of his contract with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, and has privately expressed frustration with a season that has him languishing 19th in points. Truex is believed highly unlikely to return to EGR next season, and is the top choice to replace Waltrip.