Bristol II: Michael Waltrip preview

Waltrip Looks to Embrace Tradition with Win at Bristol HUNTERSVILLE, NC - The "Polish Victory Lap" has become one of motorsport's greatest traditions. It is that moment, The Great Payoff, at the conclusion of a race when countless fans ...

Waltrip Looks to Embrace Tradition with Win at Bristol

HUNTERSVILLE, NC - The "Polish Victory Lap" has become one of motorsport's greatest traditions. It is that moment, The Great Payoff, at the conclusion of a race when countless fans collectively merge against the chain link fence separating them from the high asphalt banks to immortalize the victor. This tradition, one of the most emotionally charged and celebrated in all of NASCAR, was etched in the hearts of NASCAR fans everywhere after one of the sport's darkest days.

Perhaps the most emotional day of Michael Waltrip's NASCAR career occurred on April 3, 1993, just two days after long-time friend Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 NEXTEL Cup champion, died in a place crash en route to Bristol Motor Speedway. It would be a Saturday afternoon that would change Waltrip's life forever as he memorialized the death of Kulwicki and celebrated a new life in Victory Lane.

After winning the Busch Series Budweiser 250, Waltrip completed the first "Polish Victory Lap" around the track in the No. 30 Pennzoil Pontiac to honor his fallen friend. Moments later, cameras pulled away from the tear- stained faces dotting the grandstands to those falling down Buffy Waltrip's face as Michael proposed to her during a live TV interview. Eight years would pass before Waltrip would complete his first victory lap in NEXTEL Cup competition at the 2001 Daytona 500, but even that moment was bittersweet as Waltrip's car-owner and friend Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was killed in the event's final lap.

Michael Waltrip, driver of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge, returns to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for the Sharpie 500. Momentum has shifted considerably for the NAPA team in recent weeks with the addition of crew chief Tommy Baldwin, Jr. If Waltrip were to capture the checkered flag in Saturday night's event, a national television audience would be witness to one of the most emotional victory celebrations the sport has ever seen.

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts.

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 42nd start at Bristol Motor Speedway; Waltrip's best finish at the track was fifth (1994) and his worst 42nd (2003).

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on Bristol Motor Speedway...

What are your thoughts and expectations for racing at BMS?

"I won a Busch race there a couple of years ago, but Bristol has been a bit of a challenge for us here lately. We had a wheel come loose and got some damage in one of the wrecks there in 2005 and still finished 19th. We have run well there and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team is definitely gaining confidence down the stretch. Bristol has a lot of wrecks, everyone knows that. To avoid it, you've got to have a car that handles well. If you handle well, you are fast. If you are fast, you don't usually get wrecked. If you are slow and holding people up, then you'll get your car torn up. Spotters are probably more important at Bristol than any other place. The track is so quick that if there is a wreck in turn two, you need to know it. The high banks can really blind you, so I depend on my spotter to be quick on the draw to let me know when and where to go."

Why do you think drivers enjoy coming to Bristol?

"Anyone who has ever been to a race knows the excitement that accompanies it from the campgrounds to events in the cities we travel to. But Bristol is a city that is on fire during the races. It reminds me of Daytona, just on a smaller scale. People are probably there right now waiting for the cars to show up. They have a big parade when the haulers come in. Then they have the Food City Race Night where the drivers sign autographs. It's an event for the whole week."

-credit: w/jr

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Michael Waltrip , Tommy Baldwin , Alan Kulwicki