Martinsville: Michael Waltrip preview

Michael Waltrip Martinsville Fast Facts... * NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 41st start at Martinsville Speedway this Sunday in the DIRECTV 500. That places Waltrip tied for fourth with Mark Martin among active drivers...

Michael Waltrip Martinsville Fast Facts...

* NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 41st start at Martinsville Speedway this Sunday in the DIRECTV 500. That places Waltrip tied for fourth with Mark Martin among active drivers in starts at Martinsville. Terry Labonte leads all active drivers with 53 starts. Kyle Petty (50) and Ken Schrader (42) also top the list.

* The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be in action at Martinsville on Saturday and that means Toyota Racing Development will be at the track in full force. Waltrip said he is looking forward to talking with Toyota as to the progress of the 2007 NEXTEL Cup Series development.

* Waltrip will once again be part of the SPEED Channel television booth for the Truck Series race. He joins Rick Allen and Phil Parsons. Waltrip is a regular contributor to SPEED as one of the stars of Inside NEXTEL Cup and Trading Paint.

* The NAPA team will race chassis BD 98 at Martinsville Speedway. It is a brand new car at Bill Davis Racing and has not raced in 2006.

WALTRIP SAYS MARTINSVILLE IS IMPORTANT PART OF NASCAR SCHEDULE

As NASCAR continues to grow and look for new areas of the country to build tracks and attract new fans, the question always comes up as to whether small tracks like Martinsville Speedway still belong on the schedule. NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip thinks not only does the flat, half-mile track in southern Virginia belong on the schedule, it can prosper as the sport grows.

"I think Martinsville is an important part of the schedule," said Waltrip. "Bristol Motor Speedway is just as small as Martinsville and they found a way to put 160,000 people there. It doesn't matter what the size of the track is. You can always build more grandstands. If the fans truly want us to race at Martinsville, then they'll come watch us race there and the track will be on the schedule for a long time."

Although Waltrip is an admirer of NASCAR's roots, he also said progress is crucial for the sport's growth and survival. "I'm not into tradition as much as some other people are. Tradition would have us still racing on dirt tracks," Waltrip said. "Sometimes with growth, it's necessary to leave parts of our sport behind. If it were my preference, I would stay at Martinsville. I love it. It's a fun trip. But I am never judgmental on what NASCAR decides to do because they've been doing a pretty good job of directing this deal for a long time. If they think we need to go somewhere else, we'll go there and I'll be fine with it. But my preference would be to race at Martinsville for the rest of my career."

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on the DIRECTV 500 at Martinsville Speedway...

What are your thoughts on racing at Martinsville Speedway this weekend?

"I ran third at Martinsville one day and I have had several times where I really felt like I had a top-five or top-10 car, but I haven't produced any results there lately. Last year in the first race, I got wrecked early. I felt like I had a fast car that day, so I'm optimistic."

You hired Larry Carter in the off-season to help build your Toyota NEXTEL Cup Series program for 2007. Has he had any input with your current No. 55 NAPA team?

"Larry Carter has started working with Derrick Finley and the guys at Bill Davis Racing. One of the best drivers over the years at Martinsville has been Rusty Wallace and Derrick has sucked up some information from Larry, which was kind of our vision that we could bring together smart people from lots of different places in order to produce the fastest cars possible."

Martinsville is known to be tough on equipment and drivers. Is it a fun track to drive?

"It's a track where once you get in a rhythm and your car's working good, it's a lot of fun. It's a timing race track. I've come to find out that racing's always fun if you're running good. It doesn't matter what the venue is or what the distance and temperature is. If your car is fast, you're having fun. So we'll have to see how we qualify and how we're able to race and you'll know inside that NAPA car if I'm having any fun or not."

-wjr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Phil Parsons , Mark Martin
Teams Bill Davis Racing , Toyota Racing