New homes: Michael Waltrip Racing employees sprinkled throughout Sprint Cup garage

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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The announcement came in August — Michael Waltrip Racing would cease operations after the 2015 season. Suddenly, about 200 employees would be out of work within three months.

They were pit crew members, drivers, crew chiefs and all those people back at the shop a driver thanks after a good day.

Some continue to look for work five months later. Some have gone into other professions. Some found jobs with other teams as the Daytona 500 nears.

Hendrick Motorsports hired 14 former MWR employees. BK Racing added 11 and that number could grow. Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske each hired about 10.

All told, Sprint Cup organizations reported to NASCAR Talk that they had hired more than 80 former MWR employees. Some moves are well-known. Scott Miller moved to NASCAR to become senior vice president of competition. Clint Bowyer is at HScott Motorsports, while David Ragan moved to BK Racing. Billy Scott is Danica Patrick’s crew chief, and Brian Pattie is Greg Biffle’s crew chief.

Other moves are not as well-known. Tim O’Brien went to Hendrick Motorsports to be an engineer on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team. Neal Hood moved to Furniture Row Racing, a team looking to find additional sponsorship to start a second team, to be director of marketing and sales. Blake Haugland will be the rear tire carrier for Matt Kenseth’s team.

Here’s where former Michael Waltrip Racing employees landed in the Sprint Cup garage (not every team identified all the former MWR employees they hired. Teams are listed in alphabetical order):

NASCAR 

  • Scott Miller … executive vice  president of competition at MWR … NASCAR senior vice president of competition.

BK RACING

  • David Ragan driver of the No. 55 car … driver of the No. 23 car.
  • Joel Cox fabricator at MWR … fabricator and pit support at BK Racing.
  • Tim Kean mechanic at MWR … works on suspensions for organization. 
  • Scott King mechanic at MWR … works on suspensions with organization.
  • Kyle Turner pit crew member at MWR … serves on pit crew for BK Racing.
  • Andy Turner pit crew member at MWR … serves on pit crew for BK Racing.
  • Greg Schaefer was at MWR … oversees in assembly shop at BK Racing.
  • Eric Shirley was at MRW … works in finish fab department at BK Racing.
  • Dick Claveloux was at MWR … serves on pit crew and decal department at BK Racing.
  • Greg Carpenter was at MWR … serves as lead body hanger at BK Racing.
  • Kevin White … front suspension on the No. 55 car … mechanic and front suspension.

CHIP GANASSI RACING WITH FELIX SABATES

(Organization has added additional MWR employees)

  • Rob Kauffman … co-owner at MWR … minority owner at Chip Ganassi Racing

FURNITURE ROW RACING

  • Neal Hood … director of business development at MWR … director of marketing and sales for Furniture Row Racing.
  • Rick Wainright … senior director, partner services at MWR … director of sponsor relations for Furniture Row Racing.
  • Lee Cunningham rear tire changer for No. 15 car … rear tire changer for No. 78 car of Martin Truex Jr.
  • Chris Hall front tire carrier on No. 55 car … front tire carrier for No. 78 car.

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS

  • Tim O’Brien … engineer with No. 55 team … engineer for No. 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Travis Stock rear mechanic for No. 15 team … mechanic on No. 88 team.
  • Mike O’Malley … worked in shop at MWR … supervisor production in the 48/88 shop.
  • Zachary Yarnot fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 48/88 shop.
  • David Funderburk … fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 48/88 shop
  • Greg Campbell … fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 48/88 shop
  • Nick Steger … fabricator at MWR … fabricator in the 5/24 shop
  • Evan Marchal … development pit crew member at MWR … backup pit crew member in the 5/24 shop
  • Diane Holl … director of vehicle design at MWR … manager of aerodynamics.
  • Kell Kirby … senior design engineer at MWR .. an engineer at HMS.
  • Perry Taylor … software engineer at MWR … an engineer at Hendrick.
  • Grant Fain … quality control engineer at MWR … an engineer at Hendrick.
  • Catalin Popa … structures engineer at MWR … engineer at HMS
  • Kevin Dean … aerodynamics engineer at MWR … engineer at HMS

HSCOTT MOTORSPORTS

  • Clint Bowyer driver of the No. 15 car at MWR … moves to HScott Motorsports for this year and then to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017
  • Brett Griffin … spotter for Clint Bowyer … moves to HScott Motorsports to continue that role.
  • J.D. Frey … front mechanic for No. 15 car at MWR … setup mechanic at HScott Motorsports.
  • James Davis tire specialist for No. 15 car at MWR … same role with No. 15 team at HScott Motorsports.
  • Kristine Curley media relations for Clint Bowyer … same role with HScott Motorsports.

JTG DAUGHERTY

  • Jeff Kerr … gas man for the No. 55 team … gas man for No. 47 team of A.J. Allmendinger
  • Joey McCarthy worked in shop at MWR … works on the set-up plate with JTG Daugherty. 
  • Jeffrey Shano … hauler driver for the No. 15 team … same duties for No. 47 team.
  • Eric Gillon … electronic technician at MWR … similar role with JTG Daugherty

JOE GIBBS RACING

  • Blake Haugland … rear tire carrier on No. 55 car … rear tire carrier for the No. 20 car of Matt Kenseth.
  • Adam Hartman … backup rear tire changer at MWR … rear tire changer for No. 20 car.
  • Jaik Halpainy … shop engineer at MWR … engineer with JGR.
  • Mark Cehon … mechanic at MWR … front suspension mechanic at JGR.
  • Lee Hallman … lead trackside support engineer at MWR … race engineer at JGR.

RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING

  • Terry Spaulding … front tire changer for No. 15 car … on developmental pit crew and will work on the No. 95 of Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing.
  • Alan Steele … front tire carrier for No. 15 car … same role with RCR’s No. 2 Xfinity Series car.
  • Brian Chase jackman for No. 15 car … same role for the No. 3 car of Austin Dillon.

RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS

  • Roy Crump … design engineer at MWR … in engineer role at RPM.
  • Cameron Kirksey … engineer at MWR … oversees quality control at RPM.
  • Craig Noble … aero engineer at MWR … same role at RPM
  • Tyler Hill … design engineer at MWR … same role at RPM
  • Barry Helms … chassis fabrication … same role at RPM
  • Robert Berrier … chassis fabrication … same role at RPM
  • Wes Evans jackman on No. 55 car … same role for No. 43 car of Aric Almirola.
  • David Cropps interior mechanic on 55 team … same role with No. 43 car.

ROUSH FENWAY RACING

  • Dr. Kent Day … specialized in vehicle dynamics at MWR … will serve as manager of simulation at Roush.
  • Vojin Jaksic … was R&D engineer at MWR … is special projects manager at Roush.
  • Brian Pattie … crew chief of the No. 55 team … crew chief for Greg Biffle
  • Billy Curwood … engineer on the No. 55 team … car chief on the No. 16 team of Greg Biffle.
  • Roman Pemberton … spotter on the No. 55 car … spotter for Trevor Bayne on the No. 6 team.
  • Joe Zanolini … rear mechanic on the No. 55 car … front end mechanic for the No. 16 team.

STEWART-HAAS RACING 

(Organization has hired close to 10 former MWR employees)

  • Billy Scott … crew chief for Clint Bowyer at MWR … Danica Patrick’s crew chief
  • Walt Smith … pit coach at MWR … same role at SHR.
  • Dax Gerringer engineer for No. 15 team … same role with No. 4 team of Kevin Harvick.
  • Richard Waldeck … lead mechanic for No. 55 team … front mechanic for SHR.
  • Drew Brown … media relations at MWR … media relations for Tony Stewart.

TEAM PENSKE

(Organization has hired close to 10 former MWR employees)

  • Kevin Chrencik … director of vehicle performance at MWR … vehicle dynamics engineer at Penske.
  • Brandon Pope … engineer on No. 55 team … engineer for No. 2 car of Brad Keselowski.
  • Joe Bisson … engineer at MWR … moves to No. 22 Xfinity car for Team Penske in that role.

TOMMY BALDWIN RACING

  • Chad Walters … engineer  at MWR and an R&D manager … oversees TBR’s engineering efforts.
  • Doug Trader … was at MWR … moves to body building shop at TBR.
  • Brent Patzack … was at MWR … moves to body building shop at TBR.

WOOD BROTHERS

  • Ryan Langley front tire changer on No. 55 car … serves on pit crew for No. 21 team.
  • Shannon Myers rear tire changer on 55 car … serves on pit crew for No. 21 team.

SPIRE SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT

  • Ty Norris … executive vice president at MWR … President of Spire Sports + Entertainment.

TOYOTA RACING DEVELOPMENT

  • Bill McDonald … vehicle dynamics engineer at MWR … senior engineer for TRD.
  • Brandon Hartsell … vehicle dynamics engineer … simulation engineer at TRD.

Talladega’s tale of two drivers: One celebrates, one laments

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — It’s dangerous to forecast what is going to happen next in these playoffs in a Cup season unlike any other. 

So keep that in mind, but Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega moves him one step closer to returning to the championship race for a third consecutive season.

It’s easy to overlook that beyond earning a spot in the Round of 8 with his win Sunday, Elliott scored six playoff points. That gives him 46 playoff points. He has the opportunity to score seven more playoff points this weekend at the Charlotte Roval — an event he has won twice — before the next round begins.

Once the current round ends, the points will be reset to 4,000 for each of the remaining playoff drivers and they’ll have their playoff points added. 

At this point, Elliott would have a 21-point lead on his nearest competitor and a 31-point lead the first driver outside a transfer spot to the championship race.

The next round opens at Las Vegas, goes to Homestead and ends with Martinsville. 

A key for Elliott, though, is to avoid how he has started each of the first two rounds. A crash led to a 36th-place finish in the playoff opener at Darlington. He placed 32nd after a crash at Texas to begin this round.

The up-and-down nature of the playoffs, though, hasn’t taken a toll on the 2020 Cup champion.

“I feel like I’ve been doing this long enough now to understand the roller coaster that is racing,” said Elliott, who is advancing to the Round of 8 for the sixth consecutive season. “It’s going to roll on, right? You either learn to ride it during the good days, during the bad days, too, or you don’t. That’s just part of the deal.

“So, yeah, just try to ride the wave. Had a bad week last week, had a good week this week. Obviously great to move on into the next round, get six more bonus points. All those things are fantastic, we’re super proud of that.

“This deal can humble you. We can go to the Round of 8 and crash again like we did the first two rounds, or you can go in there and maybe have a really good first race. I don’t know. You show up prepared, do the best you can, figure it out from there.”

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Joey Logano has always been one who wants to race at the front in a superspeedway event instead of riding at the back.

When asked last month about the idea of Texas Motor Speedway being reconfigured to provide superspeedway-type racing — as Atlanta Motor Speedway was before this season — Logano questioned the value of that type of racing.

“Is that the type of racing fans want to see?” Logano said. “Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. 

“They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano sought to race at the front as much as possible Sunday at Talladega, even after his car was damaged in an early incident, but he took a different tack on the final restart. He restarted 24th and dropped back, finishing 27th.

“We just wreck all the time, so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10, assuming they would wreck because they always do,’” Logano said after the race. 

“That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but, the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that, then I tried it and it didn’t work.”

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Michael McDowell’s third-place finish continues his strong season. 

McDowell’s finish extended his career-high of top-10 finishes to 12. He has five finishes of 11th or better in the last seven races. 

“I’m proud of the season we’ve had and the run that we put together,” McDowell said. “Everyone did a great job on pit road executing and getting us track position when we needed it. It’s good to be there at the end and have a shot at it, just disappointed.”

Front Row Motorsports teammate Todd Gilliland finished seventh. 

“Race car drivers are greedy,” Gilliland said. “I wish I could have gotten a couple more there, but it was still a really good day. We ran up front most of the day and my car handled really well, so, overall, there are definitely a ton of positives to take out of this.”

Sunday marked the second time this season both Front Row Motorsports cars finished in the top 10. They also did it at the Indianapolis road course. 

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NASCAR confirms that the Hendrick Motorsports appeal of William Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas will take place Thursday.

Should Hendrick lose that appeal, the team could then have a hearing before the Final Appeals Officer. That session would need to take place before Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Twenty-five points in the playoffs is a ton,” car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday of Byron’s penalty. “I mean, in the regular season if you got a bunch of races, you can make it back up.

“I’ve seen other cars under caution hit each other. In that situation, (Byron) wasn’t trying to spin him, but they got a tower full of people, they could have put him in the back, could have done something right then rather than wait till Monday or Tuesday, then make a decision.”

Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega.

Talladega jumbles Cup playoff grid heading to elimination race

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In an unpredictable season and topsy-turvy playoffs, it only made sense that Talladega would deliver a wildcard result.

A playoff driver won a playoff race for the first time this season. How about that?

Chase Elliott’s victory moves him to the next round, the only driver guaranteed to advance heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric are tied for the last transfer spot, but Briscoe owns the tiebreaker based on a better finish in this round. At least for now.

Hendrick Motorsports will have its appeal this week on the 25-point penalty to William Byron from the Texas race. Byron is 11 points below the cutline after Talladega, but if the team wins the appeal and he gets all 25 points back, Byron would be back in a transfer spot and drop Briscoe below the cutline.

 

XFINITY SERIES

AJ Allmendinger became the second driver to advance to the next round, winning at Talladega.

Ryan Sieg finished fourth and holds the final transfer spot heading into the elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). Reigning series champion Daniel Hemric is six points behind Sieg. Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones are each 10 points behind Sieg. Jeremy Clements is 47 points behind.

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

Matt DiBenedetto’s first career Camping World Truck Series victory didn’t impact the playoff standings after Talladega since DiBenedetto is not a playoff driver.

Reigning series champion Ben Rhodes holds the final transfer spot. He leads Christian Eckes and Stewart Friesen by three points each. John Hunter Nemechek is five points behind Rhodes, while Grant Enfinger is 29 points behind Rhodes. Ty Majeski is the only driver guaranteed a spot in next month’s championship race.

The Truck Series is off this weekend. The next Truck race is Oct. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

Winners and losers at Talladega Superspeedway

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway:

WINNERS

Chase Elliott — After a rough race at Texas, Elliott returned to the role of championship favorite Sunday with a victory. He takes the point lead to Charlotte and, with Sunday’s win, is locked into the Round of 8.

MORE: Talladega Cup results

MORE: Talladega Cup driver points

Ryan Blaney — Despite another tough race day and a second-place finish in a race he could have won, Blaney remains in good shape in the playoffs, even without a points win. He is second in points to Elliott, only two behind.

Denny Hamlin — Hamlin took some time off from leading the charge for changes in the Next Gen car to run an excellent race. He led 20 laps, finished fifth and is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all five playoff races. He gained a spot in points to fourth.

LOSERS

Christopher Bell — Bell zipped onto pit road with too much speed during a round of pit stops and slid to a stop, earning a speeding penalty. He is 11th in points.

Kyle Larson — Larson led eight laps Sunday but was not a part of the drafting mix at the front at the finish. He was 18th and fell three spots in points to sixth.

Joey Logano — Logano held the point lead entering Sunday’s race. At day’s end, he had a 27th-place finish and had fallen four spots to fifth.

 

 

End of stages at Talladega could have lasting impact in playoffs

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A spot in the next round of the Cup playoffs could have been determined in just a few laps Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

They weren’t the final laps of the race, but the final laps of Stage 1 and Stage 2. 

The end of the first stage saw a big swing for a couple of drivers that could impact on who advances and who doesn’t after next weekend’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval.

MORE: Chase Elliott wins at Talladega 

With six laps left in the opening stage, William Byron was second to Denny Hamlin.

Byron was in need of stage points because of the uncertainty of his place in the standings. NASCAR docked him 25 points for spinning Hamlin under caution last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports is appealing the decision and will have the hearing this week. While car owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday that he felt the penalty was too severe in a three-race round, there’s no guarantee the appeal board will change the penalty or reduce it. 

With such unknowns, Byron’s focus was scoring as many points as possible since he entered the race eight points below the cutline. Sitting second in that opening stage put him in position to score the points he needed.

But when the the stage ended, Byron came across the line 11th — 0.036 seconds behind Erik Jones in 10th — and scored no stage points.

“I was working well with (Hamlin),” Byron said. “I tried to work to the bottom and he stayed at the top and the top seemed to have momentum.

“I just made a wrong decision there that kind of got me in a bad position further. I was still leading the inside lane, but the inside lane wouldn’t go forward. That was just kind of weird. That was kind of the moral of our day — was just not being able to advance forward.”

Byron wasn’t in position to score points in the second stage, finishing 13th. That left him as one of two playoff drivers not to score stage points (Christopher Bell was the other).

“It was frustrating the whole time,” Byron said. “I felt like the race was just going away from us. We couldn’t make anything happen. We were just kind of stuck. I don’t know what we need to do next time.”

When Byron failed to score points in the second stage, it only added to a challenging day and put more pressure on a better finish.

He managed only to place 12th. Byron finished with 25 points. He outscored only three playoff drivers.

The result is that Byron is 11 points below the cutline.

While the first stage was a harbinger of Byron’s woes Sunday, that stage proved critical for Austin Cindric.

The Daytona 500 winner was 15th with six laps to go in the stage. He finished fourth, collecting seven points — despite suffering some nose damage in an incident earlier in that stage.

“Stage points are a big deal,” Cindric said. 

He got those with quick thinking.

“I think when everybody tries to scatter to do what’s best for them, it’s very important to be decisive,” Cindric said. “I was able to make some good moves and be able to be in some lanes that moved. I’d call it 50-50 decisiveness and 50 percent luck. 

“It certainly puts us in a good spot to race for a spot in the Round of 8 at the (Charlotte) Roval.

Cindric entered the race seven points out of the last transfer spot. While he didn’t score any points in the second stage, his ninth-place finish led to a 35-point day. 

That gives him the same amount of points as Chase Briscoe, who owns the last transfer spot because he has the tiebreaker on Cindric in this round.

For Briscoe, he earned that tie by collecting one stage point. 

In the first stage, he was running outside the top 10 when he sensed a crash was likely and “decided to bail” to protect the car and avoid being in a crash.

That crash didn’t happen and he was left without stage points. In the second stage, Briscoe was 14th with two laps to go. He beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr. across the finish line by 0.035 seconds to place 10th and score that one stage point.

“You don’t think that one (point) is important until you see that you are tied,” Briscoe said. “One point could be really, really important for us next week.”