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All eyes in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East garage have been on Brett Moffitt, virtually since the very minute word came down that he would be moving over to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2011.
With Ryan Truex in the seat, MWR won each of the last two series championships – while Moffitt had won four races in 21 starts for Andy Santerre Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. The pairing of Moffitt and MWR seemed to have blended one of the strongest teams in the garage with one of its most promising talents.
“The transition was not difficult at all,” said the 18-year-old Moffitt, a native of Grimes, Iowa. “It was actually really easy. It was a little harder to make the decision, but obviously they've had the results here in the past two years. It was where I needed to be and where I felt I needed to be to have that championship and to win a lot of races this year.
“The (MWR) guys are really easy to work with, and they have the same goal in mind as me – do everything we can do to put ourselves in position to win races and win the championship.”
Moffitt leaned on Truex for some advice about making the move, though it wasn't quite as easy as people might first suspect to pry information from the usually reserved Truex.
“Well, Ryan doesn't talk much,” Moffitt said with a laugh, “but when he does talk, all he had to say was good things about it. He said the cars are really fast and they're dedicated and they work hard. That's the kind of thing you're looking for in a crew.”
As expected from the outside, Moffitt's season has gotten off to a tremendous start. He's won two of the first four races of the season, including the season-opener at Greenville Pickens Speedway in early April and his homecoming at Iowa Speedway last time out. In between, he was dominating the race at South Boston before a wrecked lapped car cost him a sure win.
The team – which won five races over its two championship seasons with Truex while finishing in the Top-5 an incredible 15 times in 21 starts – hasn't lost a beat with Moffitt in the seat.
“We've been extremely pleased, and we weren't really sure what we were going to actually have (in Moffitt),” said crew chief Mike Greci. “We knew he was driving good equipment driving Gibbs' cars. We brought him over here, and it's actually worked out as a plus for all of us.
“We worked hard at things in the offseason. I think we made our cars a lot better. That's the biggest thing that's a plus for us.”
For the first time since the season opener, the Iowa win put Moffitt atop the point standings. He has a single point advantage over Darrell Wallace Jr.
“Iowa was really great to get back in Victory Lane, of course, but also to get back in the points lead,” said Moffitt, who joins the series in its debut at historic Bowman Gray Stadium for the Army Strong 150 this weekend. “Only having a one-point cushion doesn't help that much, but it's good to be there. Hopefully, we can just keep building on it every race and have a big cushion going into the last couple of races.
“At Bowman Gray, we don't know exactly what's going to happen, but we're going to do everything we can to put ourselves in position to win again. Hopefully a little luck comes our way.”
Whether or not that luck surfaces is irrelevant. People are watching the No. 00 Toyota each and every week. The team seems to sense it, too.
“We take every race one race at a time,” Greci said. “We leave the shop with the challenge of going to that one race and concentrating on that one race. It's funny – we don't get a lot of people coming over to congratulate us anymore, but I take that as a compliment.
“I look at it as our team is probably one of the teams out there that everybody looks at and bases what they do off of how we run.”
Moffitt's version of an off-season decision may not have reached LaBron-esque proportions, but it still was clearly viewed as a career-defining move for one of NASCAR's true prospects. Leaving a strong team at Joe Gibbs Racing behind for the two-time defending championship team at Michael Waltrip Racing left with it obvious implications.
Win races and win a championship – or people will begin to wonder what's ahead for Moffitt.
Moffitt understands the special attention he's receiving.
“Everyone wants to be a winner, but everyone hates the winner, you know? That's kind of the way it is,” Moffitt said. “We don't really take part in what other people are doing. We just worry about our car and getting our car fast. We worry about making our car fast and comfortable to drive. That's what wins races.
“The only person I feel pressure from is myself. I put the most pressure on myself, and I want to win more than anyone else does. That's the only place I feel pressure from.”