So Michael Waltrip Racing and their number 15 team gets slapped with a 25 point penalty, for something about “beveled washers” at Chicagoland Speedway Sunday. Crew chief Billy Scott gets a suspension, and the upshot of all of it is Clint Bowyer’s slim chances of advancing further in the 2015 Chase have taken a much harder hit than anything experienced by Kevin Harvick. Bowyer may as well have stayed home considering the points hit he took.
The Michael Waltrip Racing story ends pretty much how it began. Remember the fuel additive flap before the 2007 Daytona 500? The story of this organization is once again proof of the adage that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. It’s enough to make you shake your head. Waltrip may not have installed those washers, but this sure looks like a movie we’ve seen before.
Is there anybody else out there who once bought into Mikey’s “aw shucks” demeanor and underdog image? The winner of four NASCAR Sprint Cup restrictor plate races- including the fateful 2001 Daytona 500- was a story of perseverance. The younger sibling of champion and racing legend Darrell Waltrip, Michael was that younger brother always fighting for his place among the big boys. Adding a tinge of tragedy to his first win was the fact that the man who gave him a shot at a legitimately competitive ride died as Michael raced to victory.
As teammates at DEI, Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. became something of a NASCAR comic duo. He would go on to star in a number of humorous NAPA ads with a good-natured self-depricating humor. Even if you thought he was a bit of a goof, he had an endearing quality about him.
While one might be able to look past his team’s 2007 transgressions, more funny business (and not the good kind of funny either) linked to Michael Waltrip Racing surfaced. It wasn’t just stuff at the track, some unsavory things linked to Michael himself off the track turned up as well. One infraction is forgivable, but unfortunately, when they pile up over the years, a pattern becomes evident. For this fan, it certainly tarnishes his view of the man he once envisioned as the “Clown Prince of NASCAR”- a kind of Bob Uecker.
Whether or not it all suggests a revelation of the man’s true colors, or whether it’s a man who lost his way is hard to say. The truly sad part is the 217 people who will face layoffs when Michael Waltrip Racing “scales back” its operations. It serves as a reminder that- regardless of who Michael Waltrip really is- that things aren’t what they always seem; that a better choice for someone to admire is one who puts out fires, not one who wears a fire suit and drives real fast.