Waltrip Saddles Up for Asphalt Rodeo HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - Prior to NASCAR's arrival in Texas, the proud citizens of the country's second largest state sought out adrenaline-pumping horsepower in its rawest and purest form - rodeo. Rodeo...
Waltrip Saddles Up for Asphalt Rodeo
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - Prior to NASCAR's arrival in Texas, the proud citizens of the country's second largest state sought out adrenaline-pumping horsepower in its rawest and purest form - rodeo. Rodeo originated as an extension of the day-to-day lives of early American cowboys; branding cattle and riding and training young bucking horses made a natural progression to competition between the cowboys. It has even been declared the official sport of Texas by government declaration. This weekend, the NEXTEL Cup Series and 43 of the country's fastest cowboys will compete for bragging rights in the Lone Star State.
After his departure from Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2005, Michael Waltrip, and NASCAR fans alike, could only speculate the amount of success or heartache that would befall the 21-year NEXTEL Cup veteran in 2006. Waltrip's season began much like a "go round" at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, a competition held roughly 50 miles from Texas Motor Speedway. As Waltrip climbed behind the wheel of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge for his 40th start in the 2006 Daytona 500, it was not hard to imagine a veteran cowboy waiting in the arena's bucking chute for whatever the bull might throw his way. Despite all its bucking and kicking, the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season has not shaken Waltrip, who remains optimistic about the remainder of the season and next year. "We're putting something very special together for next year, but my mind is on the remaining three races of the season. There are a lot of people who are pulling for me to do well. Obviously, I would like to put together a string of good finishes for my fans and supporters. Texas, and the other two tracks, are places where I've competed well in the past, and I hope to finish the season out strong," said Waltrip.
With three races remaining in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup Championship, Waltrip will saddle up for his 12th start at Texas Motor Speedway and hopes to earn his first top-five finish at the track.
Michael Waltrip Fast Facts.
NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip will make his 12th start at Texas Motor Speedway. Waltrip's best finish at the track is sixth (2005) and his worst is 41st (2005). His best start at the track is fourth (2002).
Waltrip is among ten drivers that have started all 11 races at Texas Motor Speedway.
Waltrip has amassed three top-10 performances at TMS in 11 starts. His average starting position is 26.727 and his average finish is 21.636.
NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on the Dickies 500...
What are your thoughts on returning to Texas Motor Speedway?
"Texas is a cool track. I've tested well there in the past. It is a different animal than Atlanta, but very similar to Charlotte because it has a lot of grip. At Atlanta, you slide around a lot which drivers like because there is a lot of finesse to finishing well there. The car's set up is more of a concern there, but at Texas it seems to be more about raw speed. Texas has widened out where you can run two wide, but the bottom line is still preferable. It takes quite a commitment to run a qualifying lap there. This race, like several others we go to, is an event. It's incredible the way the folks come out for the Texas race. I know as a competitor I love it when people are there and excited about seeing us race. It's a good feeling. I really enjoy going to Texas. I think my best finish there is sixth, but we've managed to crack the top-10 a few times. I anticipate a good race for us. Everyone realizes that this is the homestretch, and we're going to try and finish on a positive note."