Pocono: Michael Waltrip preview

Small Town Dream Becomes Reality for Waltrip HUNTERSVILLE, NC -- An ideal setting for a small-town American drama, the population of Owensboro, Kentucky would scarcely dot the front stretch grandstands of NASCAR's superspeedways. However, in...

Small Town Dream Becomes Reality for Waltrip

HUNTERSVILLE, NC -- An ideal setting for a small-town American drama, the population of Owensboro, Kentucky would scarcely dot the front stretch grandstands of NASCAR's superspeedways. However, in the late 1960s, a far more important crowd would gather along the chain-link fence bordering the town's elementary school playground to catch a glimpse of the fastest boy on two wheels. "I'd organize 400-lap bicycle races around the school. I would try to convince everybody on the playground that it would be a good idea to run 400-laps around the track instead of two or three," Michael Waltrip says of his dominance in the Owensboro Schoolyard 400.

Although the makeshift dirt track at Stanley Elementary School would provide Waltrip with his first taste of victory, his successful career in the NEXTEL Cup Series has been far more lucrative than childhood pride and bragging rights. Since 1949, Waltrip ranks 12th among all-time NEXTEL Cup drivers for on-track money winnings of $35,595,252 in his career, a distant comparison to the $750 he earned at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Valleydale Meats 500 in 1985.

Michael Waltrip made his first start in the 1985 Coca-Cola 600 and walked away with a modest $2,050; near the current cost of a single front break caliper or rear end gear. His rookie season earnings totaled $9,540.

Waltrip's 2003 Daytona 500 win ranks sixth highest among all-time paydays at $1,419,406 and the 2001 Daytona 500 victory ranks eighth at $1,331,185. His 2006 NEXTEL Cup earnings total $1,373,788 after 13 races. To put that into perspective, to build a race-ready NEXTEL Cup car, including the engine, costs a team roughly $200,000.

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts...

* NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 21st start in the Pocono 500; Waltrip's best finish in the event was second (1988) and his worst 43rd (2000).

* Waltrip is the defending Bud Pole winner for the Pocono 500 with a time of 53.238 seconds and speed of 169.052 mph.

* Waltrip's average starting position in 40 starts at Pocono Raceway is 19.675; his average finish is 19.625.

* Waltrip has three top-5 and six top-10 finishes at Pocono Raceway.

* Waltrip has led 62 laps around Pocono Raceway and 1,311 in his career.

* Waltrip's last win was at Talladega Superspeedway in the 2003 EA Sports 500; 89 races have passed since this event.

* Waltrip's best start of the 2006 season came at Talladega for the Aaron's 499; he qualified in 21st position. Waltrip's best finish of the 2006 season came at Daytona in the Daytona 500 where he finished in 18th position.

* After 13 races, Waltrip's 2006 earnings total $1,373,788; Waltrip has earned $33,595,252 in 655 starts, averaging $51,290 per start.

* Waltrip is currently 35th in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver points standings, 1083 behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on the Pocono 500...

What are your thoughts and expectations for racing at Pocono?

"I love this track. It's fun to drive on. The weather is always a little cooler up there than at other tracks this time of year. We won the pole for this race last year, so we know we can do it. It's just a matter of having the car prepared the way we like it. The first laps of practice will be important, and you can tell a lot about a car and a setup when you unload it. When we went to Pocono last June I loved it, the first lap on the racetrack I told my team, 'I hope that was fast enough because I wish they would call off practice right now and we could go race'. I hope we can have that good of an experience this year. Then we can try to capitalize on that at a track that I love."

-wjr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Jimmie Johnson