Atlanta: Michael Waltrip race report

Waltrip Posts Seventh-Place Finish in NAPA AUTO PARTS Hometown Atlanta, GA. (March 21) -- Michael Waltrip and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team qualified in the back and drove to the front in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday.

Waltrip Posts Seventh-Place Finish in NAPA AUTO PARTS Hometown

Atlanta, GA. (March 21) -- Michael Waltrip and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team qualified in the back and drove to the front in the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday. Waltrip started 37th and after avoiding a ten-car pileup on the first lap, was in the 17th position by lap five. Despite lacking grip in the front tires on entry to the turns, Waltrip continued to pick of positions, climbing into the top 10 by lap 25.

"We needed to be a little better entering the corner," said Waltrip. "Once I got in there I could run with anybody."

During the course of the 325-lap event, Waltrip fell out of the top 10 on pit road on two separate occasions. During a stop on lap 161 a pit road speeding penalty forced Waltrip to restart at the tail end of the longest line, in 15th position. Waltrip muscled his way back into 11th by the next stop. The caution came out while Waltrip was running back inside the top 10 on lap 233, and a lengthy pit stop forced Waltrip to restart 15th. Again Waltrip answered the challenge by driving up to 9th position by the next stop.

"This team has been working so well together and with a lot of respect too," said Waltrip. "I have been on both sides of the fence and these guys trust me and believe in me. They know that we can be successful together. The NAPA team is right on par. We lacked one little notch today of where we needed to be."

During the closing stages of the event the NAPA Chevy was pretty much dialed in, requiring only minor air pressure adjustments during the final stop on lap 295. The NAPA team gained a position on pit road on that final stop and Waltrip claimed two more spots in the final 30 laps to finish the day in the seventh position. Waltrip's seventh-place finish gained him eight spots in driver's points.

"It feels like we knocked the monkey off our back and went in the direction we needed to go. All these tracks coming up are our kind of tracks. We'll be testing in Texas and in Martinsville over the next couple of weeks so that we can keep up the top 10 finishes."

Elsewhere on the track Carl Edwards edged Jimmie Johnson in a photo finish at the line to earn his first NEXTEL Cup victory one day after posting his first Busch Series victory at the same track. Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five. Despite having a strong car, DEI teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in 24th after going a lap down early in the running. Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip occupy the 26th and 27th positions respectively in NEXTEL Cup points.

-dei/napa-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Michael Waltrip , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Mark Martin