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

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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.

Roger Penske was ready for his close-up in popular commercial

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MONTEREY, California – Roger Penske is the only team owner in auto racing history who has 18 “Baby Borg” Trophies in his possession for his team’s record 18 wins in the Indianapolis 500.

Perhaps his next trophy should be an Emmy.

Penske took part in a commercial along with 103rd Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and one of his NASCAR Cup drivers, Ryan Blaney. The commercial was shot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 7 while NASCAR was in town for the Brickyard 400.

The premise of the commercials is a takeoff on the 2006 comedy, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” with Blaney playing the Ricky Bobby role and Pagenaud playing the Jean Girard role.

The commercial was shot by NBC to promote its coverage of the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series and concludes with Penske stepping in between the two drivers, demanding them to, “Go out there and win races.”

Penske delivered the line perfectly and in just three takes.

“It took me about five minutes,” Penske told NBCSports.com. “They made it very easy for me. We let the guys do all of the hard work. It was fun for me to do. I saw it, and I didn’t make a fool out of myself.

“I’m ready for the next commercial.”

Penske’s ability to deliver his lines perfectly impressed NBC Sports Group President of Programing Jon Miller.

“I assume he’s got his SAG card,” Miller told NBCSports.com. “He has certainly been in front of the camera enough, and he’s quite an ambassador for the sport, so we were not at all surprised by that.”

NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood was also highly impressed with Penske’s ability to turn into an actor in front of the camera.

“We were thrilled that he agreed to do it,” Flood told NBC Sports.com. “It’s one of those special things and the kind of guy he is to jump on board and make it even bigger because we had a ‘Plan B’ if Roger couldn’t do it, and when we got the confirmation, we knew we had something special that was going to happen.

“Roger Penske did the ad with two of his drivers that we shot at the Brickyard last week that got out there. A lot of fun, a lot of great response to it, and that’s things we couldn’t have done in the past. I think that’s part of us leaning in as NBC in trying to grow all of motorsports, and it’s important that every form of racing gets attention, and that’s what we’re pushing, as you know all too well.”

Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden, who will take a 41-point lead over Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi into Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix, also was complimentary of his team owner.

“Wow, I was impressed,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com. “First of all, how did they get him to do a cameo? That was cool. And he nailed it.

“The pressure on Simon and Blaney to nail it, after Roger does it in only three takes? Wow, the pressure was really on them to deliver their lines.”

Pagenaud thought Penske’s first take was the best.

“It didn’t take long for Roger to deliver his line, he was on top of it,” Pagenaud told NBCSports.com. “NBCSN was very excited about the idea. IndyCar CEO Mark Miles made sure we were able to get into Gasoline Alley early that day. It was the Saturday of the Brickyard 400 and it was early, but Roger was probably up since 2 a.m. I’m sure, so it wasn’t early for him.

“It was good, the script was fun and well done. I forced my French and Blaney being the perfect American NASCAR driver and Roger just being himself was just perfect. It shows personality between NASCAR and INDYCAR. NBC is doing such a great job showing both fans on both sides what is going in and it helps everybody get interested in both sports.”

Penske was asked if that is how he normally talks to his drivers in a prerace situation to fire them up.

“That’s not the normal, daily message, but that’s how it helped those two guys get going,” Penske said. “I think NBC has done a great job in all cases on IndyCar. The continuity of having the same partner has made a huge difference. The talent knows the drivers. They know the situation. Guys like Paul Tracy and the experience of Leigh Diffey and the whole group has done a great job.

“It’s about good racing. We have good teams. Lots of competition, new drivers and date equity. And it’s attracting young people.”

Penske believes the addition of NBC Sports to the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, including the season’s final race on the NBC, has been a big boost to the series.

“Any time you are on network is great,” Penske said. “It’s great for the sponsors, the notoriety for the team and the drivers is very important for all of us as we finish up the season. It’s going to be a great weekend, and I hope we can continue the movement we’ve had and the momentum we’ve had coming up to the last weekend.”

Richmond winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joe Gibbs Racing — It was a 1-2-3-4 finish until Erik Jones’ car failed inspection. Still the team scored a 1-2-3 finish and claimed its fourth consecutive win on a short track with Martin Truex Jr.’s triumph. Don’t forget, the organization also won Friday’s Xfinity race with Christopher Bell.

Ryan Newman His fifth-place finish tied his best result of the year and was his third consecutive top-10 showing. He was encouraged by the team running toward the front and noted: “You take away those four Gibbs cars, we were racing for the win. I know it doesn’t work that way, but if they would have had one bad meeting (incident) we would’ve been in the hunt.” Still, Newman moved into a transfer spot heading into this coming weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Brad KeselowskiHe finished fourth and was the only driver outside of Joe Gibbs Racing to lead Saturday’s race.

Bubba Wallace His 12th-place finish was his third top-15 result in the last five races. He had one top-15 finish in the first 23 races of the season.

Front Row Motorsports — All three of its cars placed 21st or better, the first time the team has accomplished that feat this season. David Ragan was 19th, rookie Matt Tifft placed 20th and Michael McDowell was 21st.

LOSERS

Erik Jones He was feeling good about his fourth-place finish that put him within three points of the final transfer spot to the next round only to later find out that his car was disqualified for failing inspection after the race. Now he’s 45 points out of the final transfer spot and is essentially in a must-win situation. He faces being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for a second year in a row.

William Byron Got lapped in the final circuits before the end of each stage and also had a pit road speeding penalty. That led to a season-worst 25th-place finish. He holds the final transfer spot to the second round by two points on Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman heading to the Roval.

Brad Keselowski bumped up to fourth, but JGR domination still ‘not good news’

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Brad Keselowski ended Saturday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Richmond Raceway with what he thought was a fifth-place finish.

About an hour later though, Keselowski was moved up one position to fourth place after original fourth-place finisher Erik Jones was disqualified after his car failed post-race inspection.

Still, gaining one extra finishing position didn’t make the 2012 NASCAR Cup champion happy because of Joe Gibbs Racing’s domination in the second race of the playoffs – even with Jones’ DQ.

(How JGR finished is) definitely not good news,” Keselowski said. “We’ve got work to do. (JGR is) really strong and we’re not where we need to be to be able to beat them heads-up, but we threw everything we had at them.

We put down a great qualifying lap, got the first pit stall, had great pit stops and got to the lead, but just didn’t have the raw speed to keep it.”

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

MORE: Results, points after 2nd race of Cup playoffs at Richmond

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ car for failing inspection

Keselowski tweeted a few hours after the race that he didn’t “take no pleasure & seek no treasure from another man’s loss,” referring to Jones’ DQ.


Even so, Keselowski took some consolation from his overall performance.

We led 80-some laps, so it’s not a bad day but just not nearly fast enough to dominate the race and win,” he said.

Keselowski mistakenly said in a post-race interview that he had joined Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in advancing to the Round of 12 two weeks from now due to his points in the standings.

Yeah, we’re locked into the next round,” Keselowski said. “That feels good. I’m proud of that effort.”

Actually, Keselowski left Richmond two points shy of being locked into the next playoff round. That will have to come next Sunday at Charlotte’s Roval.

There’s still work to do not only for Keselowski’s car, but also those of his teammates — Joey Logano finished 11th and Ryan Blaney 17th — to counter JGR’s domination.

But what exactly has to be done is a question mark, Keselowski said.

Honestly, I don’t know,” Keselowski said. “They’ve got all the secrets so we need to find some more secrets.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch sees progress in runner-up finish at Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. — After his fiery comments last week led some to be critical of his attitude toward slower drivers, Kyle Busch was calmer after his runner-up performance to Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Busch led a race-high 202 of 400 laps but lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate with 26 laps to go and had to settle for second place.

“We put up a valiant effort,” Busch said.

MORE: NASCAR disqualifies Erik Jones’ fourth-place finishing car

While his winless drought starched to 14 races, Busch noted that the performance was a step forward for the No. 18 Toyota team.

“I know we’re capable of it, the team is capable of it,” said Busch, who clinched a spot in the second round with his 54-point night. “Just stupid things have been biting us this year and we put it all together tonight. I didn’t speed on pit road, pit crew did a good job, our car was fast and we made the most of our effort.”

Whether it was Busch hitting the wall (or another car) at Las Vegas, an engine failure at Indianapolis, the pit crew losing the lead at Darlington or a speeding penalty at Watkins Glen (and hitting cars), Busch and the team have been off in recent races despite often having the speed to challenge for wins. In the process, Busch has lost the chance to collect many more playoff points.

He was strong enough Saturday night to win the second stage, giving him his third stage win in the last seven races.

But Busch didn’t have enough at the end to keep Truex behind him.

“We ran OK,” Busch said. “(Truex) could follow closer than I could, and he was better on the long run than I was. Why? Maybe I pushed my tires too hard there at the last stint at the beginning trying to stay ahead of (Denny Hamlin), which gave (Truex) the opportunity to kind of save his stuff and roll around and attack later.”