Atlanta: Michael Waltrip preview

Enthusiasm among NAPA team legitimate. Mooresville, N.C. (March 6, 2003) -- You'll find no heads hanging low in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) No. 15 NASCAR Winston Cup shop. In fact, the shop looks just like a happy-go-lucky scene straight...

Enthusiasm among NAPA team legitimate.

Mooresville, N.C. (March 6, 2003) -- You'll find no heads hanging low in the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI) No. 15 NASCAR Winston Cup shop. In fact, the shop looks just like a happy-go-lucky scene straight out of Disney's "Snow White." Turn the seven whistling dwarfs into 25 glowing NAPA team members and change Snow White into a six foot, five inch, lanky male, and you've got Michael Waltrip's personal version of this well-known storybook tale.

The air of confidence exploding from the entire NAPA team is legitimate as they have notched one win, two top-fives and lead the Winston Cup points battle entering the fourth race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Waltrip says the burst of faith can be traced back to the hiring of crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe. Labbe was hired by DEI in September of 2001 and has rebuilt the 2001Daytona 500 Championship team to live up to its name.

"We trust Slugger's decisions," Waltrip said. "I think that's what has gotten us to where we are. He's the only one in two places - in my ear on the radio and on the car with the guys. There's not one of us who doesn't trust or believe in him, and because of that we can all get our jobs done."

"Things just work when he's around. I guess he just listens to all of us. I don't know how he does it, but even when things don't work, they work," said team member Pete Rondeau.

"As far I am concerned," said Labbe, "I was hired to take advantage of our resources and our talented driver and prove that this team won the Daytona 500 in 2001 because they earned it. We did that by winning the Pepsi 400 last July and winning the Daytona 500 again this year. The middle of last year our focus changed. It became my job to build a team that not only justified one win, but that justified the team's existence as a championship contender. We are on course. Daytona was awesome - we expected nothing less than a win. Rockingham was disappointing, but we came out of there with the best finish we could get. Las Vegas was what we are about and what you will see week-after-week from the NAPA crew.

"The entire team is on the same page. We tested Darlington (International Raceway) this week and left there knowing we'll be better than we've ever been when we return. I couldn't ask for more. We are taking a brand new car to Atlanta (Ga.) for this weekend's race and I think our sponsor will see its logo as part of the story."

Legitimacy is the piece of the pie that has been shooed away by NASCAR critics when it comes to Michael Waltrip and the NAPA team. It seems the world tends to give them excuses for winning verses the credit they deserve for putting themselves at the front.

Today, the NAPA team sits quietly in the lead of the Winston Cup points race. Sure, the series is only three races deep, but what about those teams in three races that are already a full race worth of points behind? You can bet they would trade places with Waltrip's own Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

-dei/napa-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Michael Waltrip