Is Tryson The Problem On The #56 Team?

Michael Waltrip Racing announced Tuesday Pat Tryson would be replaced this weekend as crew chief for Martin Truex Jr. The team’s lead engineer Chad Johnston will take over. The organization said Tryson’s contract would be honored and he would be “redeployed” – what exactly that means, not even Tryson knows.

The #56 team has struggled this season, and last, to be anything but mediocre. In the last 39 races Truex has 1 top-five and 10 top-tens, and is averaging about a 19th place finish. He finished the 2010 season 21st in points. Even with the team’s struggles over the last two seasons, is Tryson really the problem? Truex’s and MWR’s stats suggest otherwise.

After winning two Nationwide Series championships in 2004 and 2005 – his first and second full Nationwide Series seasons – Truex was moved up to the Cup Series full time in 2006. With 202 career Cup Series starts under his belt Truex has one win, 14 top-fives and 47 top-tens. His average start? 19.6.

Through five full seasons his points finish are: 19, 11, 15, 23 and 22. He’s currently 21st in the points. With a career that has spanned stops at three different race teams and two great crew chiefs, there is a very clear trend that emerges – mediocrity.

The other half of the equation is of course Michael Waltrip Racing. Their head of competition, Steve Hallam, is a guy with a stellar open wheel background, but no stock car experience to speak of. The team’s other driver, David Reutimann has shown flashes of brilliance, but has struggled to be consistent.

To his credit Reutimann has been with MWR since the move to the Cup Series which includes a disastrous first full season, and has scored two wins, 11 top-fives and 24 top-tens. Like Truex though, he has average race finishes in the last four full seasons of 30.4, 23.3, 16.4 and 18.1; and points finishes of 39th, 22nd, 16th, and 18th. Again, mediocre.

The fact is there are performance issues at Michael Waltrip Racing. Add to that Martin Truex’s lack of a stunning Cup Series career and you’ve got a tough situation for Pat Tryson. Could he have done more with the team? It’s possible. Is he the sole problem or even the biggest problem? I don’t think so. But he is the easiest one to blame.

“Somebody always has to be that guy,” Tryson told ESPN.com. “I wouldn’t say I was part of the problem. As a company we aren’t running well. It’s a strange deal. I really can’t say much.”

Truex said in the team’s statement about new crew chief Chad Johnston: “The communication between he and I is impressive and we just click.” It’ll be interesting to see how his tune changes if and when performance doesn’t pick up.

Maybe he’ll prove me wrong.

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16 Responses to “Is Tryson The Problem On The #56 Team?”

  1. jamie says:

    “Somebody always has to be that guy” Dont tell that to mother function.

    Glad to see I inspire you guys. Ooooooooooooo, get out of that race car.

  2. Rick says:

    Wonder if Mikey spent less time attempting to be a TV personality or Elvis impersonator if the organization would fair better.

  3. steve says:

    Truex claims he and Johnston ‘click’? Based on what results?

    I’m not sure what the switch is going to accomplish, other than look like MWR is trying to do something. MWR is stuck with Truex, at least until the sponsor says it’s okay to dump him. And as mediocre as Truex is, MWR probably can’t do better than him.

    BTW, back when MWR released Trevor Bayne, I thought that it was because MWR wanted to keep Truex happy by freeing up a sponsor slot for baby brother. How’s that working out for MWR? Two under-performing drivers, Bayne wins the 500, and now they relegate Tryson – the guy with the most success at the Sprint Cup level – to the back room.

  4. erb224 says:

    The #56 has been fast. They have lead laps, been in the top 10 a lot the first half of races but fail to finish well.

    So, my question would be… Is the driver not communicating what he needs or is the team not making the right changes for the driver?

  5. TangoAlphaLima says:

    Journo, you seem to imply that MWR and Truex believe that this crew chief change will suddenly vault them into the upper tier of teams. I don’t think that’s necessarily what they’re expecting, and I definitely don’t think it would be reasonable to expect that. They probably think the #56 team has been underperforming and this change will have some positive effect. I’m sure they realize that their ceiling is challenging for a Chase spot at best.

  6. grumpiestoldman says:

    A new crew chief for Truex? Lipstick on a pig?

  7. BVinsight says:

    Michael Waltrip Racing is running exactly where they have been racing since 2007-2008, mid-pack. Of course there were a few races were MWR hit their marks, ran well and won a race or two.

    So with that said:
    1. No, the #56 teams struggles over the last year and a half isn’t all Tryson’s fault, its a team deal and it looks like MWR needs to make changes just like Penske Racing has…across the board.
    2. I believe that Truex Jr. himself is partly to blame especially yelling at his guys.
    3. I don’t expect to see any real changes with the #56 going forward even with a new crew chief.
    4. I hope Pat Tryson does get another chance at being a crew chief for another driver/team. he is a good crew chief and knows what he is doing.
    5. Yeah, MWR releasing Trevor Bayne was a stupid move on MWR’s part, however it was perfect for Bayne, he found a team and manufacturer that could put the people and equipment with him, he needed to run well and be a contender for victories.

    Bottom line, nothing is going to change.

  8. Neon says:

    All that aside….I am still trying to figure out why NAPA spends major bucks on any of these guys year after year after year…. And just how many customers have to “rent” furniture in order for Aarons to fund these also-rans. I’ll just sleep on the floor, thank you!

    I guess I’m just bias because I don’t like the whole chrome-wheel image of their cars.

    Teams like this make one realize that marketing is king, the racing is just a byproduct.

    I guess MWR truly is the real “Lucky Dog” here!

  9. Keith_KaGee says:

    There’s an old saying, “A poor Craftsman always blames his tools”.

  10. DD says:

    I’m not gonna dog pile on Tryson, he’s right, when things aren’t going well who gets the boot? That said, I am disappointed that Truex isn’t running better, but I agree the problem is a team thing, not just one guy. But can’t stay all doom because you just never know what will come out of a change. Look at Bayne.

    PS new site design looks great!!

  11. ATS says:

    Its not the drivers or crew chiefs…put a JGR engine in the #00 or #56 and the results would be better.

  12. djones says:

    I used to joke that Marcos ran the R&D cars and parts for MWR last year. Now maybe it’s Truex. ;)

    Agree with DD, the new site looks great.

  13. Wayne says:

    I can’t help but think if the owner approaches team ownership like he does TV broadcasting, that’s all I need to know. Do us a favor, get off TV, and attend to your race team like other successful owners do. I don’t see the other good owners sticking their face in front of a TV camera every chance they get.

  14. Zieke says:

    Here’s my perspective. The Waltrips, Michael included, spend far too much time promoting their own huge egos and self interests. You don’t see Jack Roush, Rick Hendrick, or Joe Gibbs going on TV wasting their time thinking they are a needed announcer do you? Therein lies a big problem. MW was at best a mediocre driver, and has carried this flippant attitude over to his race team. Sooner or later his sponsors are going to see the light. I think it will be sooner. Good luck drivers, you will need it.

  15. Rob says:

    I don’t think any of you leaving comments have followed Truex closely over his career(including the author) or you would realize both bad luck and the inability to adjust on the car has contributed to the 56′s performance.

    As the author likes to throw out stats how about this one…

    Average running position – Truex is 14th and was in the top 10 for most of this year. Now being 22 in points why the discrepancy? The reasons as previously mentioned are bad luck and inability to adjust on the car.

    Now who’s fault the lack of communication between Truex and Tryson is inconsequential as they weren’t going to fire Truex and keep Tryson for the remainder of the season, what can be done is try and get a better driver/cc combo which MWR believes they have now.

  16. Chaz says:

    The problem is Truex Jr, when things don’t go his way he gives up and just causes more problems for the team. Rich kid with no driving skills!!!

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