All-Star: Michael Waltrip preview

Will Lightning Strike Twice for Waltrip Huntersville, NC - Since its inception in 1985, NASCAR's version of an "all-star game" has evolved from a novelty to a showcase, a spring ritual of speed and daring resulting in yearly additions to ...

Will Lightning Strike Twice for Waltrip

Huntersville, NC - Since its inception in 1985, NASCAR's version of an "all-star game" has evolved from a novelty to a showcase, a spring ritual of speed and daring resulting in yearly additions to the book of NASCAR lore.

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip is a large part of the perpetual legend that emanates from this single race. Waltrip is the only driver to win the NEXTEL Open and the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge in the same night. Waltrip accomplished this feat in 1996 driving in his inaugural season for the Wood Brothers.

"We had had a very competitive first half of the season and I came to Charlotte very confident that I could win that race. Winning it meant a lot. I had to qualify through the Open which I barely did and then I had to race from the back to the front. It felt so rewarding to win on that night when the whole world was watching me. It was our All-Star race and it was under the lights at Charlotte," said Waltrip reminiscing. "Plus the way we won it...We went down into turn one behind two champions, Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt. They bumped together and I was able to drive to the bottom and get by them and race off to the win."

The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge returns to Lowe's Motor Speedway May 20, 2006 marking the 21st time, in 22 years, NASCAR's top drivers have traded paint in the sport's "no holds barred" event at the 1.5-mile speedway.

Michael Waltrip All-Star Challenge Fast Facts...

* NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 14th start in the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. 2006 marks Waltrip's 11th consecutive appearance in the event.

* Waltrip earned $200,000 for his All-Star Challenge win in 1996; his earnings since his inaugural run in the 1991 All-Star Challenge total $669,789.

* Waltrip enters the All-Star Challenge 35th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points standings, 840 points out of first place. The No. 55 NAPA Dodge driver qualified for the event with his win in the 1996 All-Star race.

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge...

Besides the $1 million paycheck, what makes the All-Star Challenge so competitive?

"The cool thing about the All-Star race is no one has a separate agenda, everyone is just there to win. There are no points involved, you don't crash your car, fix it and try to get points, you're just there to win the race. And to win that night when you knew that was everyone's mentality was special. Plus, it's for the fans. Winston created the All-Star race and NEXTEL has totally carried that tradition forward by making the event special for the race fans. I think that drivers understand they are going to get rewarded heavily if they're able to win, but the main thing we're doing is saying thanks to the fans for being there with us and for us."

What do you expect from this year's event?

"My goal going into the All-Star race this year is a little different than it has been in years past. We're going to use the All-Star race to try to produce a car that I'm happy with the way it drives, runs, and its speed. We're obviously not close to being able to win a race right now. The All-Star race will be a chance for us to try some new things and develop our car so that when we go back for the Coca-Cola 600 it will be the best race we've had all year. If we're able to accomplish that at the All-Star race, it's a crazy race and you never know what might happen."

NASCAR NEXTEL PIT CREW CHALLENGE...

The No. 55 NAPA pit crew will compete in the second annual NASCAR NEXTEL Pit Crew Challenge, May 17 at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena as part of the festivities leading up to the All-Star Challenge. The only event of its kind officially sanctioned by NASCAR, this contest will pit the nation's favorite over-the-wall athletes against each other in seven head-to-head skills competitions designed to showcase the talents of NASCAR's top crew members.

-wjr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Terry Labonte , Michael Waltrip