Michigan II: Michael Waltrip preview

Changing the Sport Forever HUNTERSVILLE, NC - Although the name Waltrip will forever be inscribed in motorsports history, Michael Waltrip is eager to carve his niche in NASCAR's promising future. In 1985, a failed transmission on the No. 23...

Changing the Sport Forever

HUNTERSVILLE, NC - Although the name Waltrip will forever be inscribed in motorsports history, Michael Waltrip is eager to carve his niche in NASCAR's promising future.

In 1985, a failed transmission on the No. 23 Mell Gear Pontiac welcomed Michael Waltrip, however bittersweet, into the world of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing. That same year older brother Darrell Waltrip won his third, and last, NEXTEL Cup championship.

Countless seasons and NASCAR memories have passed since Waltrip's entry into motorsports' premier series. Rivalries have emerged, and fallen. Sponsors have entered and exited, and entered again into the arena of fast- paced adrenaline and horsepower. Stories have perpetuated through generations of fans who recollect "glory days" and names like Yarborough and Petty with a "camp fire" mentality.

The 2006 NEXTEL Cup season must seem far-removed from the couch Michael Waltrip often shared with friend Kyle Petty and his father King Richard when he left home for a dream he had hoped to find in North Carolina. However, an amusing story still resonates in an aging clique of NASCAR aficionados regarding Waltrip's stay with The Petty's. As Michael shared a tub of popcorn with Richard Petty in front of the family television, the King asked, "Where did you learn what you know about racing?" Waltrip said, "Everything I know about racing, I learned from my brother Darrell." Richard jokingly responded, "Then you don't know too much about racing, do you?" Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip were fierce rivals during the 1980's.

Michael Waltrip will complete his 21st season as a NEXTEL Cup driver at the conclusion of the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Today, his name is cited among most track statistics for most consecutive starts or races finished. It's tomorrow that Waltrip stands poised to change the face of NASCAR racing forever as he ushers Toyota into NASCAR's most regarded circuit with three NEXTEL Cup teams. That journey continues next week when Waltrip will test Toyota's first Car of Tomorrow at Michigan International Speedway on Monday, August 21.

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts.

. NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 43rd start at Michigan International Speedway; Waltrip's best finish in the event was fourth (2002) and his worst 39th (1987).

. Waltrip earned the Bud Pole Award in 1991 and has two top-five and eight top-10 finishes at MIS; his average starting position is 21.595 and average finish 20.119.

. Waltrip's best start of the 2006 season came at Daytona for the Pepsi 400; he qualified in 19th position. Waltrip's best finish of the 2006 season came at Daytona in the Daytona 500 where he finished in 18th position.

. After finishing 36th at Watkins Glen International, Waltrip gained one position in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver points standings. He is currently 36th, 1,772 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on Michigan International Speedway...

What are your thoughts and expectations for racing at MIS?

"Michigan has been a track that I have always liked. I have a lot of confidence as I head there. Anytime you are able to put together good numbers at a track, you feel good about going back. We've had a couple of top-10 finishes there recently, so I feel confident heading up there. We finished 25th there in June after the race was called early due to the downpour. I felt we could have done better, but we had a few problems with the car that we couldn't seem to fix."

How has the addition of Tommy Baldwin, Jr. helped the team's confidence?

"Tommy came over from Robert Yates Racing, a team known for its competition nature and winning mentality. In the two weeks we've had him, he's made a very big difference for our team. He's a proven crew chief and knows the ins and outs of a race car. I have the utmost confidence in him and the decisions he makes in the NAPA pit. It's comforting to me as a driver to know that I have someone as knowledgeable as Tommy on the other end of the radio so that I can concentrate on doing my job on the track."

-credit: mwr/bdr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Jimmie Johnson , Richard Petty , Robert Yates , Tommy Baldwin
Teams Yates Racing