Michael Waltrip NASCAR NEXTEL UAW-Ford 500 Fast Facts Waltrip Hopes to Return to Talladega's Victory Lane HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - Things are not always what they seem at Talladega Superspeedway, the biggest, most menacing tri-oval on the NASCAR ...
Michael Waltrip NASCAR NEXTEL UAW-Ford 500 Fast Facts
Waltrip Hopes to Return to Talladega's Victory Lane
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - Things are not always what they seem at Talladega Superspeedway, the biggest, most menacing tri-oval on the NASCAR circuit. From spectacular multi-car accidents to an intoxicated fan hijacking a pace car for a joyride on national television, thrilling action and bizarre on- track high jinks combine to make the high-banked superspeedway an essential part of motorsports lore.
Despite its ominous reputation, Michael Waltrip, driver of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge, has achieved significant success on the 2.66-mile track. Similarly, Waltrip's mentor and former team owner Dale Earnhardt Sr. holds the record for most wins at Talladega Superspeedway, earning 10 victories at the track during his stellar career.
Waltrip recalls a conversation he had with Earnhardt prior to joining Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI). "Dale and I were good friends before he hired me to drive one of his cars," Waltrip said. "At that point, I had never won a race, and Dale told me, 'With my equipment, you will be in a position to win on a regular basis.' I took him up on the offer. That's when NAPA came on board and the rest is history."
And Waltrip did make history with DEI, winning two Daytona 500s in three years, and the 2003 EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. "I learned from the best in restrictor-plate racing," Waltrip noted about the Intimidator. In the last five years, Waltrip has amassed impressive numbers at the tri-oval, leading on nine separate occasions for a total of 130 laps (both top-five accomplishments among active drivers). Throughout his career, Waltrip has led 22 of his previous 41 starts at Talladega.
Waltrip will attempt to repeat history this weekend and claim his second Talladega victory in four years. A win could make Waltrip's roof-hatch celebration in 2003 a trademark in Talladega's victory lane.
Michael Waltrip Fast Facts.
NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 42nd start at Talladega Superspeedway; Waltrip's best finish at the track is first (2003) and his worst is 42nd (1996 and 2005).
Waltrip has amassed one win, seven top-five and 13 top-10 performances at Talladega in 41 starts.
Only Michael Waltrip and two other active drivers (Mark Martin and Ken Schrader) have competed in all 75 restrictor-plate races run in the NEXTEL Cup Series since 1988. Waltrip ranks fifth among all active drivers in the number of starts at Talladega with 41.
NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on the UAW-Ford 500...
What are your thoughts and expectations for returning to Talladega Superspeedway? "Talladega is a lot like Daytona for me in that I feel more comfortable there than I do at the other tracks we travel to in the series. A lot of the reason for that is we've had a great deal of success there. With our recent performance, it's a comfort to me and the team that we're heading to a track where I know how to run and compete when the car is good and not so good. We're going to try our best to qualify better than we have recently. Everyone talks about the "big one" at Talladega, and the closer I am to the front, the better chance I have to avoid it. Talladega is a more wide open track. You can make more moves and go more places without paying the price you would at other tracks. At Daytona, you run out of room if you're three wide, but at Talladega, we don't run out of room until we're four or five wide."
Describe the importance of the draft at a superspeedway. "If you're driving down the interstate and a large truck passes you and he's running 20 mph faster than you are, that will move your car around a little bit. It's a lot like that out there on the racetrack, but you have to remember that it's there to help you. It's important for a driver to put himself in a position to take advantage of the air moving around out there on the track, particularly on the straightaways, and hopefully shoot your car to the front. Drafting can sometimes be a hard thing to deal with, but the advantages far outweigh the trouble in figuring it out."