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Good vs Evil; Joe Gibbs, Michael Waltrip, Toyota, and NASCAR
By Carol Einarsson | 11/06/2011
Category: Various Other Articles
What in the world is going on in NASCAR?! Some weeks there’s just nothing to write, and then the next week we’ve got Jeremy Mayfield arrested, Rick Hendrick in a plane crash, Michael Waltrip firing David Reutimann, and NASCAR parking Kyle Busch. I wish they’d learn to coordinate things a little better so we could maybe have just one crisis a week, but here we go. Get comfortable; we may be here awhile.
So the article I was about to write, the one on which I was working while the truck race was on, was about the travesty at Michael Waltrip Racing. Remember not too long ago when the media was swirling around David Reutimann? Will he stay or will he go now? And he put it all to rest by announcing his contract extension. And why not? MWR was on an upswing, and the only wins the company has are trophies with his name on them. He’s a stick-to-it kinda guy, and a man of his word. He has what is lacking in many people today: integrity. Who doesn’t love David Reutimann? I love love. He’s charming, quick witted, and funny as all get-out. And something else that he possesses is a willingness to play second fiddle to his car owner who is cast as the star in the commercials for the sponsor whose car he pilots himself. What I don’t know to be true, however, is that he really understands how many fans he has, and how beloved the second fiddle can be.
But what blows my mind in this whole situation is how completely unaware Michael Waltrip appears to be about the fallout from his decision to dump David Reutimann.
Michael Waltrip’s strength has clearly never been his driving ability. His strength has been his charm. He can woo sponsors, he can plug a company name into any conversation with ease, and he even brought Toyota to NASCAR, standing up to the southern resistance against the foreign auto maker. Sponsors have willingly joined with Michael Waltrip over the years, knowing they would not be in Victory Lane, but instead, would gain an even greater return on their investment for the amount of air time they’d get from their spokesman, Michael Waltrip. As a corporate shill, he is second to none.
Having said that, I don’t know if he fell and bumped his head, but I hope he is ready for the backlash. If Jimmie Johnson had a driver’s golden horseshoe, Michael Waltrip had the corporate golden horseshoe, and it just fell out his ass.
Cowardly Lion, Michael Waltrip
With the announcement not only that he’d fired David Reutimann came the follow up stories, and we heard Reut’s side. We know that he never saw it coming, and that his owner and (he thought) friend didn’t even have the balls to sit down man-to-man, boss-to-employee, friend-to-friend, face-to-face, and have a conversation. No, the cowardly Michael Waltrip (maybe foreshadowed by his 2009 Halloween costume) called David Reutimann to tell him he’d been released. Of course, he also said it wasn’t personal, just business. Yeah, business.
Who knows about that better than NASCAR fans? It’s just “business” when we talk to sponsors with our consumer spending habits, and I can tell you now, there won’t be new wipers put on my truck this year that were purchased at NAPA. There won’t be ANY parts put on my car this year that are purchased at NAPA.
And Aarons? Lemme finally say what I’ve long thought about your business. You are in a predatory industry. You mask it with the happy faces of Michael Waltrip and your owner making commercials with a big dog. But a company that charges by the week for people to rent something because they don’t have the credit to buy it, and in doing so charges them four times the value of the item – that’s predatory. Yes, there are contracts and fine print, and we’re all responsible for our own decisions financial and otherwise, but call it what it is and quit with the illusion that you’re a company that does good.
Additionally, here’s an idea – why don’t you pay an ad agency that can earn their pay and come up with slogans and campaigns of their own rather than taking Wally Dallenbach’s “lucky dog” and stealing it for yourself without a penny of compensation to him? A dog has nothing to do with rent-to-own, but you saw yet another opportunity to exploit, and you did it. Did Wally coin the phrase? No. But was he the one that brought it to NASCAR, and applied it to the driver who got a free lap back under caution? Yes.
So NAPA and Aaron’s, I hope you won’t be offended. It’s nothing personal, you understand; it’s just business. And I’ll be taking mine elsewhere. How neither of you could predict fan fall-out from the way your spokesman handles his representation of your companies is maybe not surprising. But how Michael Waltrip missed the concept, that’s the shocking part.
So that’s what I was in the middle of writing when it happened Friday night. There it was for all to see, and it was ugly. It was at high speed, and it was dangerous. It was what would in any other situation be called assault with a deadly weapon.
What would NASCAR do about it this time? They parked Robby Gordon a few years back for a cross-series incident. Maybe even more remembered is the parking of Kevin Harvick for the weekend after an incident in the truck series. But what of this new NASCAR “boys, have at it” philosophy? Where is the line? Mike Helton has repeatedly said that we’ll know it when we see it. And now, he tells us we’ve seen it.
NASCAR parked Kyle Busch for the weekend after his blatant loss of control. His actions were not unlike a three-year-old who, when advised he’ll not be leaving the dinner table until he eats just ten peas, screams like his limbs have just been severed and salt poured on the gaping wounds. Yeah... just a little bit of an overreaction there. It’s ten peas.
And Friday night, it was a little bump from a loose truck when they’d gone three wide. Hornaday didn’t wreck Kyle Busch. He bumped him. And Hornaday, you may remember, is trying to win a championship. Kyle Busch is racing for his own ego, and as we’ve seen in the past, was unable to contain himself when left alone in his truck, without the puppet master PR hand up the back of his shirt. One may also wonder where that person was when the media beat him to the scene and Kyle’s gums started flappin’ before the corporate script could be drilled into his head.
So what is Joe Gibbs to do now? It was rumored that the 2011 edition of Kyle Busch was thanks to Mars who essentially put him on final warning. What will they do now? Will they have the corporate courage to pull out of this bad business deal at last? Or will they give an ultimatum to Joe Gibbs – It’s him or us?
We’ve seen the pattern with Joe Gibbs. He is a man of faith at the core, and what seems to be his personal mission field is the family of NASCAR. Find a bad boy that can drive, and then make him into a good man that can drive. With JD pretty much running the business, Joe is even more free to be the coach that he is, and his coaching style is that of a man of God who leads by example and teaching and not with a switch to the back of the legs and a Bible thumped on your head. He is a great coach.
When faced, then – if in fact he is – with a choice between the sponsor backing from Mars, and his current project Kyle Busch, which will he choose? Does he have it within himself to admit defeat and cut the boy free? And if he does, what sponsor in the world would want Kyle Busch as a spokesman at this level of his immaturity? Pampers?
And if Joe Gibbs makes that hard decision and finally washes his hands of the driver who’s no-doubt been the greatest source of headaches in his entire dual career of football and racing, who would he put in the seat of the 18 M&Ms car?
Gee… lemme think a minute… who needs a job, is an upstanding man, a great spokesman, like-minded in faith with Joe Gibbs, and looking for a job?
Exactly. What better fit at JGR than David Reutimann? And he’s already got his embroidered Toyota firesuit.
Wow, Carol, I didn't think you had it in you to say a bad word about Michael.
This was an excellent article.
I'm glad I am not the only one who recognizes the predatory characterists of the rent to own stores! And dumping a driver on a phone call instead of face to face is just flat wrong!!!
I hope that M&M/Mars calls the shots and causes Weed to become the "sacrificial lamb" that ends this anal retentive habit of retalitory intentional wrecks! Just a few weeks ago we lost a racer in a horrible crash. We don't need to lose another one at the hands of a driver with an arrogant attitude that race trophies are an entitlement instead of a prize won through honest competition and hard work. For several years he has invaded the NNS and NCWTS series with the attitude that he and no one else has the right to win the races. His mid-race interview last night where he said he "had been wrecked 4 races in a row and was tired of it" tells the entire story. He has the mental capacity of a 7 year old elementary school playground bully instead of an adult that is a skilled racer. He needs to be removed from not only the Joe Gibbs Racing M&Ms car, but the entire racing community. The racing community does not need that kind of a driver and should ban him from all forms of motorsports indefinitely.
I wonder if ESPN will invite Carl to the booth to give his opinion of what Kyle did??
There is no Southern resistance against foreign auto makers. Where are their plants? The south.
Robert C. Loudermilk resigned as the CEO of Aaron's this past week.The news broke on Nov 5th.
Clearly "Boys Have At It" was never meant to apply during a Caution. Duh, Kyle!
Totally agree with jem6973 - excellent article!
I was a big Mikey fan for several years, and I even enjoyed DW! However, those days are over. Have no clue what Mikey might be thinking - perhaps he's not... I don't expect we'll see any of his 2012 drivers in Victory Lane. I think all that hair dye he advertised has soaked in and affected his brain.
As for DW, he's been a very vocal Kyle fan to the point where it actually has gotten sickening. I'm wondering what excuse DW will come up with now for Kyle's latest actions. He can't claim "youth & ignorance" any longer - Kyle is waaaay beyond being a kid. Yes, he acts like a kid, but his years belie that.
I've been a fan of yours for years, Carol, and I've seen you change your mind about drivers before. Look how you & I have done a 180 on Stewart! Keep these columns coming and a special thank-you to you for voicing what the rest of us are thinking!
IMHO I think Mars would be doing both NASCAR and Kyle a service if they did come out and say "it's him or us". Do it sitting directly across from Kyle at a big table, eye to eye. Everyone tries so hard to pin the "bad boy" label on Kyle but that's just not a good fit. Kyle is a super talented driver who is just as talented in immaturity and jerkism.
To have his sponsor drop him leaving him in the position of having to start over again and earn his way back to the top could be the medicine he needs. If he keeps his JGR ride and his big money sponsor he will simply believe that everybody is picking on him. He just has no respect or humility for anyone other than himself.
Great article Carol.
Unbelievable Carol, you've finally taken off your fan glasses, took a step back, and looked at it from a different perspective.
Right on about Michael letting Reutimann go and without doing honorably in a man-to-man conversation.
Right on about Aarons. They are just filling a niche but there is no doubt they prey on those that are in the lowest economic tier of society. Heck, Walmart does more to help the economically weakest in our country (and I can't stand Walmart's tactics).
The only one that you missed was Joe Gibbs. Yes he is a man of faith but he seems (to me at least) to always put business and the bottom line above his ethical and religious convictions. He could have done much more to "break" Kyle if he'd had taken it upon himself to park Kyle on one of the many occasions where Kyle has stepped over the line. If he wants to make me eat my words, then next week he will announce that Kyle will be parked at least another race by JGR regardless of the sponsor's reaction. If someone's actions are wrong they are wrong. There is no way Joe can defend what happened on Friday night, let's see if he puts ethics ahead of dollars.
As for Kyle he has been a egotistical, selfish, obnoxious little b*****d since he came to NASCAR. He thinks he is bigger than NASCAR, he thinks he is more talented than any of the other drivers out there, and he thinks he should win every race. SD80MAC said it best above. NASCAR needs to hold cup drivers to a higher standard when they race in the lower series. They need to stress that Cup drivers are guests in those series not gods.
Excellent article Carol. David Poole would be proud.
Add me to the people who are very upset with MW/MWR and Aarons. I was a MW fan and therefore found David Reutimann and became an even bigger fan of his. I was crushed when I heard they booted him for next year and will unfollow MW and anything Arrons related as soon as the season is over. The fact that he was booted so his boss would be able to race all the plate races and I'm guessing Clint will get the 00 owners points because we know MM can qualify well. I'm also disappointed in MM, MWR appears to be the team to go to when you can't bring yourself to retire. DJ, MW and now MM.
Carol I would love to see Reut in a JGR car just don't think it's gonna happen. Aflac had the same type of statement as MM's just put out when Carl let his bad boy side show, thinking it's just damage control
I'll say this--I suspect that the big reason that JGR hasn't stated that they're replacing KyBu for at least the remainder of the season is that Coach Gibbs is hoping that Mike Helton will do it for him, so he doesn't have to be the "bad guy" to Kyle--but if NASCAR doesn't suspend him, Joe Gibbs Racing *will* for the remainder of the season.
Honestly, what I'd say would be the appropriate response would be a short statement from Mike Helton on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. The statement: "Pursuant to the NASCAR rulebook, following his actions in the Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night, Kyle Busch is suspended indefinitely from all NASCAR activities. If Mr. Busch successfully completes a NASCAR-approved anger management program, then NASCAR will consider lifting this suspension. Under NASCAR rules, Mr. Busch may appeal this decision to the National Stock Car Racing Commission. Additionally, under the authority of Rule 9-12 in the NASCAR rulebook, NASCAR has decided to extend Mr. Busch's parked status until March 1, 2012. Per the contents of Rule 9-12, as this is not a penalty under the rules, Mr. Busch may not appeal this decision."
In other words, he'd get both the "Stewart Penalty" (suspension until he gets anger management lessons) *and* he'd be sitting out all sessions--including preseason testing and the Shootout--until *after* completion of the Daytona 500.
I'd say that might get the message through even HIS thick head. Besides, keeping him out of Daytona would be for his own safety--if he's parked for the remainder of the season, do you really want the more hotheaded (and/or understandably angry) drivers out there getting their first chance to race him at a plate track? Better to have him come back at Phoenix, where the speeds are lower, because I suspect he's gonna get some NASTY wake-up calls whenever it is that NASCAR lets him back on the track.
Good article Carol. Lots of thoughts here. I don't think Waltrip cares or knows what the final outcome to the consumer is only that the sponsors check can be cashed. He is very good at pitching products, almost to a fault. The Reutimann release, while I am sure was based on sponsorship, confirms that the image projected in the ads as a close relationship obviously wasn't there. Reutimann is a good guy that I hope can find a ride. Time will prove to him that he will be better off in the long run without MWR. Kyle Busch should be parked for the rest of the year. I try to judge people by how they handle success. He hasn't done well. Whether he likes it or not, he is the head of a business. JGR is the owner, Mars is the major investor, and all of the support behind the operation is totally dependent on his performance and leadership. He is talented and has been very successful as a bully. Eighty percent of his wins have been in the truck and Nationwide series. But, his immaturity on the race track has cost him his reputation and the ability to control his current destiny. Now he is at a crossroad and can't control what happens. NASCAR, JGR, and Mars now will decide one opportunity and the other as a free agent based on his personal performance is dependent on how he is perceived by potential sponsors. I can't imagine Mars is happy with him representing its product, paticularly to kids. He has lost his credibility. I wish him well but quite honestly am looking forward to todays race without him. All just my opinion.
Given that Gibbs is allowing Kyle to sit in the pitbox today, anyone want to take a guess as to how many times Kyle will be shown during the race broadcast?
My guess would be at least 50 times.... And here I was looking forward to a Cup race without Kyle. Just wishful thinking....
I couldn't agree more. I recently read Waltrip's book and thought he learned about loyalty and giving people a chance. I guess not. I'm tempted to review his book on Amazon or B&N and give him 1 star just for his lack of loyalty to the guy who helped bring MWR to Sprint Cup.
I watched the CWTS race, and when Kyle was interviewed, he acted like an immature punk and blamed everyone else. I think he needs to be parked for the rest of the season. I know when he was with HMS, Hendrick tolerated a whole lot less from Kyle's attitude, which is why he was let go from there. I have the same basic Christian beliefs as Joe Gibbs, and there is no way I would ever have a guy like Kyle driving for me. It's all about perception, and it should be all about what reputation you'd like to have with others. I liked JGR until they dumped Yeley without giving him a chance, and I think McDowell, Ragan, or Reutimann would be a much better fit for M&M's instead of Kyle.
I am shocked and disqusted by MWR/Michael Waltrip. Who in this world would do David Reutimann like that? Wow!
As for the truck race, all I can say is... I can't believe that Nascar actually parked Kyle for the weekend. That floored me, I did not think Helton and the gang had that in them! IMO - It was the right thing to do.
Nascar might set Kyle out for the rest of the season, but I highly doubt it. The only way I see Joe doing so, is if Mars suggest it. Either way, I hope this will be a wake up call for Kyle, he is a talented driver, and it would be a shame to see that talent go to waste, all because he can't control his temper.
I think we can all see now why Rick Hendrick choose to cut Kyle loose from HMS, despite his talent.
@highbanks24: During the pre-race show, ESPN reported that Mars contacted them with a statement that included the phrase "have already made our position clear to JGR." So I suspect that Mars read Shrub the riot act, too.
Thanks... I was only able to watch bits and pieces of the pre race show.
No, that is not exactly accurate. Mars did not contact ESPN or any other media outlet with an official press release. Rather, there was a post on Facebook.
Sorry, I was going by what they said on the prerace show. I just saw the actual source on Jayski...
I wonder if Joe Gibbs realizes that he only has four cheeks to turn and that Kyle has left bruises on all of them.
Oh boy I don't even know where to start. Although I agree with the gist of Carol's article - and that is one of abject frustration with a whole bunch of people.
First - if I never hear the name Jeremy Mayfield again it will be too soon...
Second - Next, not sure I am fully on board with the Mikey bashing. My guess is this was a call made by Aarons. I'm thinking the combination of Bowyer-Truex-Martin is a sizeable upgrade from Reutimann-Mikey. Mark Martin is and has been my favorite driver for 2 decades now so happy to see him in Cup another 2 years. I like Rooty too so sorry he got the short end of the stick on this one.
Third - boycotting M+M/Mars won't do a thing; they are a global company and a few NASCAR fans mad at them isn't even a drop in the bucket. Having said that not sure why they keep spending 10-20 million a year just to get all this bad publicity.
Fourth - couldn't agree with Carol more on Aarons - why anyone would pay rent month after month when you could save that money instead until you had enough to buy your purchase ONCE is beyond me. Whats next for NASCAR sponsors? Pay day loans? $4 dollar cans of Energy concoctions? Male-enhancement products? Oops - too late.
Fifth - Joe Gibbs. In the 3 interviews I saw he was evavise and never came out and directly condemned KyBu's actions. Is he going to stand by his so-called Christian values or isn't he? Oh and don't insult our intelligence by pretending that Kyle Busch actually wrote that apology.
Finally - I guess I'm sick of a bunch of drivers from Tony Stewart to Cousin Carl (who is agreeable most of the time but has a dark side - ask Kenseth or Brad K about that). The drivers don't even bother looking at the fans as they grab their stuff, scribble their name and thrust it back. Richard Petty must be ill when he sees that. The worst has to be the Busch brothers. I defended them, especially Kyle, assuming they would gain some maturity to go along with their ample driving talent but how long should we wait? I am so sick of their whiny, arrogant attitudes - just throw the both of them out of NASCAR so they can go pump gas somewhere...
The two Busch brothers are just idiots at the core and you take your chances hooking up with them. Kyle definitely has talent so I can't imagine a team letting the dollars earned from that talent go so easily, even if he is a jerk. We'll see what JGR does.
Here's a classic example of what I've been complaining about for a while - cry babies who can't take a little bumpin' and bangin'. What Hornaday did was merely a racing deal and he was loose besides! Why Kyle's spotter or crew chief didn't explain it to him is beyond me. I'd sure like to know if Hornaday called on his radio to go say it wasn't intentional and sorry about your luck.
Waltrip is not the sharpest man on the planet so you can't hold too much against him for that. We'll see how this all falls out.
Kyle's spotter was pleading with him to not go after Hornaday after the initial accident...didn't work.
Not on board with the Michael bashing either, sometimes its so easy to sit back and write trash about someone when the person does not know all the facts. I am a big David R fan and I wish him the best, but Martin with bring alot of experience to MWR in all aspects of racing. Aarons has been a sponsor for a long time in Nascar and so has Napa, they have put out millions of dollars and they would like to see results for their investments and they have the right to request changes. UPS doesn't want to sponsor Regan anymore, is everyone dumping on them, and the list goes on. The economy has changed, money is tight and David Reutimann is a nice guy, Mark Martin is a nice guy, Michael Waltrip is a nice guy, their are alot of nice guys, thats the painful side of it all, alot of nice guys lose their jobs when teams shut down because of lack of sponsorship. Sponsor bashing is a right of course, but it is business Carol, thats was this recession has brought us to, and to trash talk these two long time sponsors is ignorant the way you stated it. I am sure MWR will be fine, lets hope so for the health of Nascar, they need these teams to make it or down the road Henderick will be racing Henderick.
Thanks Mallard. I didn't see that info so must have just missed it or not read the right articles about it.
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When I was a little girl, growing up in Southern California, my grandma would come visit from Indiana for three months a year to get away from the Indiana winters. Oh, the stories I could tell and the memories I have of Grandma's annual visits. But one of my fondest memories is of Grandma's penchant for See's Candy. There are few stores outside of the west coast, so I remember going to the candy store to order something special with my mom, to be shipped to Indiana. Whether it was Mother's Day, Grandma's birthday, or if it had just been awhile, my mom would kindly send candy to her mother-in-law half way across the country.
When she came to visit, there'd be a box waiting for her in the top drawer of the dresser in the spare room where she'd stay, and very rarely, she'd share a piece with me. I think the rarity of the occasion made it all the more special.
It wasn't until I moved to Nebraska that I really missed seeing See's Candy stores. Nuts & Chews. That was the special mix we'd always get in the box. And the square lollypops? There's nothing like them anywhere else. Caramel and chocolate and vanilla. If you've never had See's Candy, you should try a box. I promise you'll be glad you did. I recommend the Nuts & Chews, of course, so that's the picture I've posted for you. Click it and you'll see more. Great for gifts, but even better to order your own box. And if you hide it in the top dresser drawer, I won't tell anyone where it is. -Carol