Carpentier to drive No. 55 at Infineon

6/9/2009 - NASCAR

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Waltrip said on Tuesday he is leaning strongly toward driving a part-time Sprint Cup Series schedule in 2010.

"That's what it's feeling like for me," Waltrip told ESPN.com. "I said at the beginning of the year, and I was dead serious, if the other two cars are outrunning me and I'm not keeping up, heck with it.

"This year it's not working for me. I just want to have a winning championship race team."

Surrendering his seat in the No. 55 NAPA Toyota to Patrick Carpentier at Infineon Raceway in two weeks, Waltrip said, is a clear sign. The car is 32nd in owner points, compared with 11th for David Reutimann and 18th for Marcos Ambrose.

"It's pretty obvious with my willingness to not drive at [Infineon] that I'm looking at what I'm going to do in '10," Waltrip said. "It certainly makes it easier when you see the performance of the other teams, see what we're building going forward."

Waltrip said he'll definitely race at Daytona in 2010 and he'd like to drive a fourth car for Michael Waltrip Racing in a handful of other events. He said no decision has been made on whether he or his replacement will get the No. 55, although he would prefer to keep that number.

Martin Truex Jr. has been mentioned as a replacement. His contract with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing ends after this season and he's close to making a decision that doesn't appear to include EGR.

Truex's younger brother, 17-year-old Ryan, already is a developmental driver for MWR. He won a NASCAR Camping World East race at Watkins Glen this past weekend.

"There's not anything I'm in position to talk about," Waltrip said when asked about Truex.

But Waltrip hopes to have everything clear by the July race at Daytona, where he has three of his four Cup wins.

"We still don't know what all I'm going to do," he said. "I'll definitely race. I'll definitely be at Daytona. I don't know after that to what extent."

Meanwhile, Waltrip is excited about putting Carpentier in at Infineon and says he also could replace him at the other road course, Watkins Glen.

Carpentier is considered a road-course specialist. He has a pole and two runner-up finishes in the Nationwide Series race at Montreal and a top-5 in the Nationwide race at Mexico City.

He was 23rd in last season's Cup race at Infineon driving for Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

"If I see where I can improve my car's performance then that's exactly what I am going to do," said Waltrip, who has two top-5s and 11 top-10s in Cup road races. "I am a good road racer, but Patrick is a great road racer.

"I love being an owner and I want to get another win for NAPA. It will feel just as good if I get the victory for NAPA or watching from the pit box with Patrick driving the car. I appreciate NAPA allowing me to make these kind of personnel moves when I feel it is best for the team."

Reutimann won the first race for MWR last month when he captured the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Waltrip would like to see more of those moments, and if stepping aside helps, then he's willing to do it.

"I'm definitely going to drive some races in 2010," he said. "If it isn't full time, then we'll have somebody else in our other car."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.