BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 30, 1999) - A great run at Bristol Motor Speedway is only a great run when 500 laps are showing on the scoreboard. A great run anytime before that is the nothing more than the basis for deep frustration at the end of the...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 30, 1999) - A great run at Bristol Motor Speedway is only a great run when 500 laps are showing on the scoreboard. A great run anytime before that is the nothing more than the basis for deep frustration at the end of the night. Just ask Philips Chevrolet driver Michael Waltrip.
On Saturday night at the high-banked short track, Waltrip put on one of the best performances of the season. During the first 300 laps, he was one of the quickest cars on the racetrack, and it showed. He started 14th in the field, but wasn't there long. Working both the low and high grooves, Waltrip marched toward the front, and was quickly among the top 10. With a car that he described as "perfect," Waltrip continued to gain ground and positions as the night wore on, slowly closing the gap between himself and the race leaders.
But near the 300-lap mark, a group of cars in front of Waltrip tangled, setting off a chain-reaction. The Owensboro, Kentucky-driver hit the brakes as hard as he could, but he still tapped the sliding car of Ward Burton.
"I know you're going to need a set of tires, but is everything else OK?" asked crew chief Bobby Kennedy over the radio.
"I think I'm fine. I barely touched him," replied Waltrip. "Barely" at Bristol is evidently still too much.
Waltrip came to pit road, and received four fresh tires for his Philips Chevy. But, when he was ready to return to the racetrack, steam started to rise from under the hood of the car, and the mood is the Mattei Motorsports pit quickly soured.
During the contact with Burton's car, Waltrip punctured his radiator. The crew found a small hole-small enough that they hoped it might hold until the next caution, when they would make an attempt at a repair that would extend their impressive outing. But, 40 laps later, the radiator gave out, bringing an end to what had been and what looked to be a fantastic effort.
"I can't believe we just got knocked out at Bristol by bumping into someone," said Waltrip. "But, that's what happened. I swear, I barely hit him."
Waltrip wound up finishing 37th, after retiring on lap 347. The finish dropped him to 20th in the current NASCAR Winston Cup point standings after 23 of 34 races. The series continues this weekend with the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C.