Daytona Beach, Fla. — No. 40 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota driver Michael Waltrip expects to make his 26th consecutive appearance in Sunday’s 54th running of the Daytona 500. But it won’t be an easy task for the two-time Daytona 500 champion. As the seventh fastest qualifier of the go-or-go-homers last Sunday, he will likely have to race his way into the 500 field. That means he’ll need to finish in the top two of the go-or-go-homers in the first of Thursday’s two 150-mile qualifying races.
I've experienced every emotion except missing it and I don’t want to experience that.
To race in: Waltrip must finish first or second among the following drivers in his 150-mile qualifying race:
1. Robby Gordon
2. Trevor Bayne
3. David Stremme
4. Terry Labonte
5. Mike Wallace
6. Michael McDowell
How will you approach the Duels? “In the middle of the Bud Shootout I thought, ‘We have only run 8 laps so nobody is going to wreck each other.’ They did. I guess you just have to sort of survive first. I think we will try and not be too eager to get in the middle of it all early on Thursday and just ride for awhile. Just lay back like Tony (Stewart) did. He made it work out alright.”
How do you deal with the emotions of trying to make the Daytona 500? “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’ve been able to accomplish it with some major, extreme circumstances -- ’07 in a car that I had never practiced -- ’10 when I had to sit there and hope that somebody got me in because I had a crash. Last year, finishing third up front was pretty cool. I’ve experienced every emotion except missing it and I don’t want to experience that.”
DIS Veteran … Waltrip has made 74 point series starts at Daytona International Speedway in NASCAR’s three top-series. The Owensboro, Ky., native has captured three wins at the 2.5 mile tri-oval including two Daytona 500 victories. He has also scored 12 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes.
Superspeedway Stud … Waltrip is considered to be one of NASCAR’s top superspeedway driver’s in history. He has started 89 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona and Talladega. The two-time Daytona 500 champion has grabbed four wins, 13 top-five and 28 top-10 finishes.
Opposites Attract … Aaron’s will begin airing a series of humorous commercials featuring “The Odd Couple” of Martin and Waltrip during SPEED-TV’s and Fox’s coverage during Speed Weeks in Daytona.