Bristol: Michael Waltrip preview

Michael Waltrip Atlanta Fast Facts... * NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 41st start at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) this Sunday in the Food City 500. That places Waltrip fifth among active drivers in starts at BMS.

Michael Waltrip Atlanta Fast Facts...

* NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 41st start at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) this Sunday in the Food City 500. That places Waltrip fifth among active drivers in starts at BMS. Terry Labonte leads all active drivers with 54 starts. Kyle Petty (45), Sterling Marlin (42) and Ken Schrader (42) also top the list.

* Bristol Motor Speedway is near and dear to Waltrip's heart for more than just racing. In 1993, Waltrip proposed to his wife "Buffy" in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Busch Series race. Seeing how successful Waltrip was in his proposal, Bristol began actually conducting weddings for fans at the start/finish line and in victory lane.

* NAPA team member Andy Shahan will be heading to his home state of Tennessee this weekend. Shahan, the rear tire carrier on the No. 55 NAPA car, is from nearby Mascot Tenn. Mascot, population 2,119 (2000 census), is 10 miles from Knoxville, Tenn., and 125 miles from Bristol Motor Speedway.

* The NAPA team will race chassis BD 96 at Bristol Motor Speedway. It is a brand new car at Bill Davis Racing and has not been tested this year.

WALTRIP FEELS HIS NAPA TEAM IS ON AN EQUAL PLAYING FIELD AT BRISTOL

Michael Waltrip and the No. 55 NAPA team head to Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) this weekend for the Food City 500. Bristol, known as the "World's Fastest Half-Mile", is more about quick reflexes and driver experience than it is about aerodynamics and horsepower. The key to winning at BMS is staying out of trouble. And the key to staying out of trouble is patience. Because of this, Waltrip feels his new team is on equal footing this weekend with NASCAR's high profile teams.

"Bristol is a handling track and I feel like our NAPA car has handled pretty good everywhere we have gone this year," said Waltrip. "We have some aero problems that we are trying to get worked out. That's common for a new team, with new cars and bodies. But when you get to Bristol, it really is all about setup and driver. I have always liked racing there, and I have a setup that has been good to me in the past. I feel real confident that we can be a top-20 car all weekend and if we avoid trouble, then you have a shot to win."

In his 40 previous starts at BMS, Waltrip has scored 24 top-20 finishes, including two straight top-20s in the last two spring events. That consistency is what the NAPA team is looking for. "If we can run off four, five or six top-20s in a row while we rebuild our stuff, I think that would be good," said Waltrip.

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on the Food City 500 at BMS...

What are your thoughts on racing at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend?

"I really like Bristol. It's a cool track. I think I have a good setup for that joint. We'll just go up there and try to see if we can't avoid all the crashes and get us a good, solid finish."

Is avoiding the crashes your biggest goal?

"No, your biggest goal is to win the race. But if you crash you can't do that or at least I don't think you can. We're still building our team at Waltrip-Jasper Racing. Bill Davis is working hard on getting the cars better, so we can compete better. I'd be happy with a top-20 during these first 10 or so races. But I expect better than that at Bristol."

-wjr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Sterling Marlin
Teams Bill Davis Racing