Bristol: Michael Waltrip race report

Waltrip banged up at Bristol: finishes 25th. Bristol, Tenn. (March 23) - Seventeen cautions slowed the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The second caution slowed, but did not stop Michael Waltrip and the NAPA team. Lap 15 saw the NAPA...

Waltrip banged up at Bristol: finishes 25th.

Bristol, Tenn. (March 23) - Seventeen cautions slowed the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The second caution slowed, but did not stop Michael Waltrip and the NAPA team. Lap 15 saw the NAPA Winston Cup car get sideways in turn one then got tagged from behind by the No. 77 car.

"I got loose guys," Waltrip radioed his crew after the incident. "I got sideways, but I don't think I would have spun if I didn't get turned by another car. The temperatures and pressures look good. I think we can keep running."

The NAPA team immediately went to work fixing the wounded car one pit stop at a time. Waltrip returned to the racetrack two laps down in the 40th position.

Another caution occurred on lap 20. The NAPA team took advantage of the caution laps to continue working on and assessing the damage. The left rear was the most significantly torn up. Using bungee cords and channel locks, the NAPA team kept Waltrip on the racetrack, now three laps down.

Persistent in their pursuit to finish the race, crew chief Slugger Labbe ordered the car back into the pits for repair every time the race calmed for a caution. Team work and motivation were evident as the NAPA crew tried to stay at the front of the NASCAR Winston Cup points battle. The team prevailed gaining 15 positions to finish 25th.

Bristol, known for its beating a banging, saw many cars finish early and several cars limp around the speedway in hopes of finishing the 266.5-mile race. Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) teammates Steve Park and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each had their own Bristol woes. Park was victim of an accident on lap 68. His Pennzoil car had to go behind the wall, but returned to the track some 50 laps down. Park finished 30th.

"Our bad day started on Friday when we didn't qualify well," Park said. "We knew the main battle would be avoiding the wrecks and unfortunately we were involved in an early one. Our team did a nice job getting my car fixed, but all we could do was just ride around and play the attrition game."

Dale Jr. did not have a scratch on his Budweiser Monte Carlo, but he got lapped in the pits during a long green flag run when he ran out of gas. Junior finished the best of the DEI cars in the 16th spot.

"It was a tough race," described Earnhardt Jr. "We had about a fifth-place car. We worked really hard just to stay out of trouble, and then had one of the longest green flag runs in Bristol's history, I believe. We got caught in the pits and there was nothing we could do about it. We had a good car though and not a bad finish considering."

Kurt Busch became the sixth different winner of 2003 claiming back-to-back Food City 500 victories. Matt Kenseth finished second and extended his point's lead by 138 over Kurt Busch. Bobby Labonte, Ricky Rudd and Greg Biffle rounded out the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Incorporated did not take Bristol by storm, but continues to hold two of the top-five positions in the point's race. Waltrip and Junior hold the fourth and fifth positions respectively.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series will race at Texas Motor Speedway next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (EST).

-dei/napa-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Michael Waltrip , Steve Park , Kurt Busch
Teams Dale Earnhardt Incorporated