Michael Waltrip Racing is just like every other NASCAR organization. Well, besides the fact that the owner is a part-time commentator for FOX Sports and a part-time driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the team is just like all of the others.
The team, formed by Michael Waltrip primarily as a NASCAR Busch (Nationwide) Series team over a decade ago, has become one of the top teams in NASCAR’s toughest and roughest division. Over the years, Michael Waltrip Racing has provided opportunities for several drivers to come up through the ranks and race with their organization. They’ve brought drivers up through the rankings such as Trevor Bayne, David Reutimann, Michael McDowell and other numerous guys that they feel can race at an elite level.
Now, Michael Waltrip Racing is trying to find some new talent to get behind the seat of their racecars. Partnering with their newest primary sponsor, Peak Performance, Michael Waltrip Racing has designed a contest to select the next-development driver for the team. 10 up-and-coming drivers will be given a three-day challenge to compete against each other to earn a seat with the Toyota organization. The program will be led by Michael Waltrip himself, Peak Performance driver Clint Bowyer, as well as Peak Performance spokeswoman Danica Patrick, who drives the No. 10 car for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Starting on Monday evening, the 10 contestants started the competition in hopes of becoming a successful NASCAR racer. The favorite going into the competition is Ryan Preece. Preece is a NASCAR Whelen Modified Series driver for Eric Sanderson’s team and currently leads the championship after five races with three wins and a worst finish of fourth. Preece is making his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut this weekend at New Hampshire with Tommy Baldwin Racing, but that certainly doesn’t mean he isn’t trying to get a job with a proven organization such as Michael Waltrip Racing.
Then there are a few guys (and gals) that are just trying to put their name out there such as Chase Briscoe. Briscoe beat Jeff Gordon’s record to become the youngest driver to win a race in a 410-sprint car at the age of 13. Logan Ruffin is also one of the top candidates as he was featured by several top national publications after winning the USAR Pro Cup Rookie of the Year award in 2010. Amber Colvin, who’s actually quite known among NASCAR teams, is also a candidate for the ride. Colvin is one of the top up-and-coming female stock car drivers in the country with 55 wins in 169 career starts in legends cars and late model stock cars.
Then there’s the 2012 most popular driver in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Cassie Gannis. Gannis doesn’t have the best statistics, but her personality can definitely help her throughout the competition. Though she only has eight career NASCAR starts and missed two races, she can still prove her talent with an opportunity at a larger corporation.
Other contestants include Caleb Dillard, Chris Heim, Garrett Lancaster, Tyler Miles and Patrick Staropoli. Now, there’s a problem. All of these drivers appear to have one thing in common. They can race really well, but they don’t have sponsorship to excel, they don’t have the personality sponsors are looking for or they just don’t have enough experience in big cars like they believe they do. It’ll be interesting to see who wins the competition. Fans can view the Michael Waltrip Racing contest in August on the SPEED channel. Don’t forget, Roush-Fenway Racing did this a few years ago with the “Gong-Show” and coming out of that competition was David Ragan and Erik Darnell. They also missed out on some guys like Justin Allgaier, Tim Andrews and Augie Vidovich, which shows that no one knows what will happen even if a driver doesn’t win it all.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.