Chicagoland: Michael Waltrip preview

Waltrip Hopes to Ease Growing Pains at One of Series' Newest Tracks HUNTERSVILLE, NC - Although Chicagoland Speedway held its first NEXTEL Cup event in 2001, the 1.5-mile tri-oval has the characteristics of a far more mature track with its...

Waltrip Hopes to Ease Growing Pains at One of Series' Newest Tracks

HUNTERSVILLE, NC - Although Chicagoland Speedway held its first NEXTEL Cup event in 2001, the 1.5-mile tri-oval has the characteristics of a far more mature track with its multiple racing lines. Veteran driver Michael Waltrip began his NEXTEL Cup career in 1985, however, in its first full season in the NEXTEL Cup Series, Michael Waltrip Racing has seen its share of growing pains. Aches Waltrip could stop with his third top-10 ten finish in the USG Sheetrock 400 in four years. And the driver of the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge has tradition on his side.

Most professional sports organizations retire player jerseys, hanging them high above an arena or stadium filled with adorning fans. NASCAR is different. Car numbers are recycled and drivers change. The No. 55 that adorns the blue side panels of the NAPA Dodge has a history that began well before Waltrip climbed into the stock car prior to the 2006 season.

Since 1975, the No. 55 has made 437 starts in NASCAR's premier series with 21 different drivers. Prior to Waltrip, Bobby Hamilton was the last to pilot the No. 55 when he did it for Andy Petree Racing in 2002. Hamilton was one of three drivers, which included Phil and Benny Parsons, since 1975 to put the number into Victory Lane. The car number also has 86 top-10 and 37 top-five finishes to its credit.

Michael Waltrip will make his 268th start in the USG Sheetrock 400 Sunday afternoon, and when the checkered flag waves he hopes to build upon the legacy that he rides with each weekend. A legacy that he believes will always be remembered for the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS hot rod.

Michael Waltrip Fast Facts.

. Waltrip's average starting position in five starts at Chicagoland Speedway is 24.4; his average finish is 22.8. He has one top-five and two top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile tri-oval.

. Waltrip's best start of the 2006 season came at Daytona for the Pepsi 400; he qualified in 19th position. Waltrip's best finish of the 2006 season came at Daytona in the Daytona 500 where he finished in 18th position.

. After 17 races, Waltrip is currently 35th in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver points standings, 1,263 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. He is 118 points behind 34th ranked Sterling Marlin.

. Michael Waltrip Racing will field two NEXTEL Cup cars in the USG Sheetrock 400: the No. 55 NAPA Dodge and the No. 00 Burger King Chevrolet driven by Bill Elliott

. The No. 55 NAPA Dodge will feature Chassis No. 97, the same chassis used in the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Michael Waltrip on Chicagoland Speedway...

What are your thoughts and expectations for the USG Sheetrock 400? "Chicago is a fun track. You can run high or low on it. We didn't have a really good car there last year but in 2004 we used pit strategy to our advantage. We took two tires late and were able to race our way up to the top ten and finish ninth. The year before we cracked the top-five. This track will require a setup a lot like what we run at Texas. We are going to go as a team with a Texas type mentality and setup. We were disappointed after last week's race. We thought we had a good car that could have given us a chance to be there in the end. I'm confident we'll have a good showing in Chicago."

-wjr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Bobby Hamilton , Michael Waltrip , Sterling Marlin , Jimmie Johnson , Andy Petree , Benny Parsons
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing