He ain't heavy, he's my brother

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Folks, it's been a while since I wrote anything specifically about little brother Mikey, but I thought it was time based how things have really turned around over the last few weeks. His cars are starting to make races. He and David Reutimann are running really well. Unfortunately, Dale Jarrett is struggling a little bit. As they say, two out of three ain't bad. Who ever would have thought that Mikey would sit on the pole at Talladega? Like so many others, I assumed they probably tricked up the car to get it to go fast, and it might not race that well. But I talked to him before the race, and he said, "DW, I didn't do anything to my car. It was just that fast." Lo and behold, when they dropped the green flag, he was fast all day and ran up front. David ran well, and those two cars looked exceptionally good. Dale was looking pretty good until he got messed up.

It was impressive that they were able to go down there and do so well at a tough track. But from the first time my brother ever sat in a race car, Daytona and Talladega have always been his cup of tea. It's because he plants that big old size 15 shoe on the floor and never lets up. That's what it takes to be good at those superspeedways, and he's got them figured out. If he's going to win one race a year, I've told him to make it the Daytona 500, and he's done a pretty good job of it while running well at Talladega, too. Last weekend, he and Reutimann qualified in the top 20, and unfortunately Dale didn't make the show. I hated not seeing him run on the weekend that he announced he'll retire after the first five point races next year. During the race, David got in trouble right off. The track was treacherously slick in Turn 4, as was documented multiple times during the telecast, but Mikey ran well all night long and got himself a top-10 finish. Making races, winning poles and finishing in the top 10 is as good as you can hope for at this point in his team's development. No team in the garage area outside the top 35 in owner points and a few that are hanging on to the top 35 wouldn't love to get a pole and a top 10 in back-to-back weeks. Are they where they want to be? Heck no. But, folks, take it from someone who started a team from scratch back in 1991. I only had one full-time Nextel Cup car and a Busch team, which ran a limited schedule. Later on, I took on a Craftsman Truck team. To try to do what Michael has done in as short a period of time as he has done it is short of a miracle. I knew he would get there; I just didn't think he would get there so fast. You can look at the results and say he hasn't gotten anywhere yet, but I see a huge turnaround and little baby steps. That's what you take when you're in the building process. At Charlotte, I met my brother's new investor, Robert Kauffman, who is a really nice man and a car guy. He loves racing. He said he doesn't know anything about a setup sheet, but he knows a lot about P&L. That's an area where Michael was struggling. It takes more than being successful at the track to put together a whole program, and Michael Waltrip Racing was slacking on the business side. Now, Mikey has somebody that can help him, and he can focus on his race cars.

Kauffman's involvement will make a huge difference in these last five races, and it already has. Charlotte was a great example of what relieving pressure has allowed Michael to do. He can focus on his driving and working closer with his team. It's really going to pay big dividends heading into next year. He's getting there, and it's been a hard climb emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. It's taken a toll in every area of his life. But he made the commitment, and he stuck to it. It's impressive how NAPA, UPS, Aaron's and all of his sponsors have hung with him and given him time to get where he needed to go. None of them has bailed on him. They've all stuck by his side and attended last Friday's news conference. Everybody was in good spirits, and nobody shook his head, wondering what he had gotten into. They were all right there, providing what you have to have in racing. You have to have encouragement. Michael has gotten an incredible amount of encouragement from the people that mean the most to him. That's his family, friends and sponsors. That's all a driver can ask for. The loyalty that they've had to him and the loyalty that he has to his sponsors has helped them weather the worst part of this storm. They've put together a program to get into the top 35 in owner points and stay there. Dale will use his champion's provisionals to hopefully get the UPS car in the top 35 next season, and then David will take over the ride. With Michael driving the way he's driving and crew chief Bobby Kennedy making the car run the way it's running, they'll start next year with a lot of momentum. Then, they've got two great new development drivers. I'm excited about Josh Wise. I liked him from the first time I met him. I wish he could have been in the 00 truck all year long, but it wasn't financially possible. And I've watched Chad McCumbee run the ARCA car. Michael thinks he has a lot of talent. He's a former go-kart racer, and Robert Kauffman knows him from go-kart racing. Almost every successful driver has had a go-kart career so I like the two young drivers that Michael has lined up for next year.

Ask DW

I love David Reutimann. He's almost like a brother to me. As a matter of fact, my mom said that if Michael hadn't re-signed David, she was going to be "very upset." So we all love and support David. It's been a steep mountain, and Michael Waltrip Racing Holdings isn't to the top yet, but they can certainly see the summit. It's not that far away. Watching this year, I've had an achy, breaky heart, and Michael has had achy, breaky parts so it's not been fun. It's all starting to turn around now and pay some dividends. I can't wait to see what the future holds. My little brother has gone to NASCAR car owner school 101 this year. He's taken his lumps, and he's been tested in a lot of ways. He's failed a few tests, but he's starting to come back and make good grades. I'm starting to feel confident in his ability to pull off this thing and really have something special. Robert Kauffman said it's really amazing what Michael and his wife Buffy have done. By the way, I don't want to leave her out because she has been a huge part of putting this whole thing together. Buffy is a sharp young lady. She's got a good business head on her. As a matter of fact, she's the one that hooked up Michael and Robert through a mutual friend. So congratulations to Buffy. It's been hard on her and the whole family, but I'm starting to see a great difference in just the last few weeks. He's bigger than I am, but he's never been heavy. He is my brother, and for that, I am proud and thankful.

Tagged: Dale Jarrett, Chad McCumbee, David Reutimann, Michael Waltrip, Josh Wise

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