Flashback back to the 2000s……Michael Waltrip….Dale Earnhardt Incorporated….Tony Eury Jr…..Steve Hmiel…..Domination on the plate tracks…..2 Daytona 500 victories. Now flashback to the present day. Michael Waltrip driving, Steve Hmiel being involved in the competition department, Tony Eury Jr. crew cheifing.
“It’s going to be basically a reunion of when we won a few of these things,” Michael Waltrip commented.
While his team focuses on preparing three cars for the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip will be driving the No. 30 for Swan Racing, a team owned by Brandon Davis.
“We’re looking forward to Daytona,” Waltrip said. “It’s my favorite time of the year every year, to come down here and get to participate in the greatest race in the world, in my opinion. To have won it before just makes coming back that much more special.”
The effort will be crew chiefed by Tony Eury Jr., who worked with Waltrip back in 2005 for a season at DEI. Once past Daytona, David Stremme will be behind the wheel of the car.
“It’s just an amazing team that they’ve started and I’m hoping that my driving the car can help us get sponsors and can help them jumpstart what is going to be a very exciting year for the Swan Racing team,” he said.
The deal came together as Waltrip didn’t want to burden his team with building a fourth new ‘Gen 6’ car while Stremme was looking to gain exposure for his new team.
“They want to let people know they’re here to race and they’re going to be contenders and they’ve got a really, really solid crew and team lineup,” Waltrip explained. “I was hoping that I could partner with someone like. It’s a Toyota — obviously it has to be a Toyota for me to even consider racing it. It does a couple things — for me, it gets me in the race. It accomplishes me getting to be a part of the race, but it helps Toyota if Michael Waltrip Racing and our team can partner with Swan Racing and help them with their Toyota program as they get ready to race in 2013.”
The deal also fits perfectly as Stremme has been getting advice from Waltrip about the hurdles that it takes to start a team and build it into championship contenders.
“Back when I started in 2007 we struggled and I got out of the car and let Terry Labonte drive it some and I think we put P.J. Jones in the car,” Waltrip explained. “We did whatever we could to ensure that we were going to be at the race and doing things to ensure that we’re going to be able to give our sponsors and Toyota all that we hoped that we could give them. I know David would rather be driving, but I understand — when I was getting out of my car I would rather be driving too. I understand his thinking and appreciate his passion and Brandon’s (Davis, team owner, Swan Racing) commitment to come Sprint Cup racing and I’m glad that we put together a deal that will be mutually beneficial for both me as a driver and those guys as a team.”
For Waltrip, Daytona is a special place. It makes him feel like a kid again as he has that special chance to win there. It’s a feeling that is like no other and just goes with how special everybody considers Daytona to be.
“Just being able to be in the lineup and knowing the possibilities — what that could mean and what we could accomplish with being here, it just excites me,” he said. “Plus, I don’t know about David (Stremme), but every time that new car drives by I can’t quit looking at it. I just like the way it looks. It’s so different from what we’ve seen in recent past. It’s just a cool race car. Heck, anybody that races wants to drive a cool looking car. The new Toyota Camry that we’re going to race here in Daytona is sexy, it’s got great styling and it’s just a fun car to look at.”
Whether Waltrip will start the 2013 Daytona 500 is yet to be known as he will have to qualify his way in. However, he’s confident based upon his chances and his conversation with crew chief Tony Eury Jr.
“We rode down here together today and talked about some of the fun times we’ve had in the past, but mainly focused on what we’re going to have in 2013 when we get back here in a couple weeks,” Waltrip said. “Toyota Racing Development is going to provide me with an engine, just like in my other three cars. We’re just confident in the people and we’re confident in the equipment. I’ve usually figured out my way to race to the front, so if it doesn’t go like we hope on qualifying day we’ll still start the race on Thursday very confident that we’ll be able to race our way into the race.”