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.
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.