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Waltrip thrives as NASCAR deal maker

Michael Waltrip Racing announces new Nationwide Series deal and an extended Toyota engine contract
Owner/driver Michael Waltrip loves a parade - especially when he's leading it.

On Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway, Waltrip marched into the media centre for the second, third and fourth times this weekend, each time with a new piece of news.

First was the official announcement that Waltrip had orchestrated a deal with Gary Bechtel to bring promising 18-year-old Trevor Bayne to full-time Nationwide Series racing next year. Bechtel has purchased Waltrip's #99 Nationwide operation and has retained MWR to manage the team.

The team will race under the name Diamond-Waltrip Racing. When Bechtel fielded his own Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams, which last ran in 1999 and 1998, respectively, he raced under the Diamond Ridge Racing banner.

In addition, Waltrip has an option on Bayne's services in the Cup series through 2014, intending to run him in a minimum of seven races in 2011 and a full schedule in 2012.

Aaron's will sponsor a portion of Bayne's Nationwide schedule next year. Jerry Baxter, who has worked with Bayne in his races with MWR this season, will remain as crew chief.

"Since the first race we ran with MWR (June 6 at Nashville) we started working on this," Bayne said Saturday. "It's great to see it finally come together and be able to announce it and to know that we're going full-time racing next year. I think that really helps the team to have the solidity in crew chief and driver combination, being able to work together and not just be bouncing around from race to race."

Bayne won the pole at O'Reilly Raceway Park in July and finished seventh. He matched that season-best result at Richmond in September.

In the Coca-Cola 600 in May, MWR driver David Reutimann gave Toyota its first victory in a car with a Toyota Racing Development-built engine. On Saturday at Phoenix, the Japanese auto maker rewarded Waltrip with a multiyear extension of its manufacturers agreement with MWR.

"At Charlotte, the win at the Coca-Cola 600 brought TRD the first TRD-built engine victory," said Lee White, president and general manager of TRD, U.S.A. "We're very proud of that and obviously the way that the whole team is running with the addition of Trevor Bayne to the Nationwide Series program - and, of course, the previously-announced addition of Martin Truex Jr. coming to the program and Michael Waltrip moving into a full-time management position, but still running the places where he runs the best.

"I think it's very exciting and we have a lot to look forward to and we couldn't be more pleased with knowing that our relationship is moving forward."

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News



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