CORNELIUS, N.C. -- Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip embarks on his 25th consecutive start in the Great American Race when he climbs behind the wheel of the No. 15 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. This year his NAPA Toyota boasts a Waltrip-designed paint scheme to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his first 500 victory as well as the life of his friend Dale Earnhardt.
Entering his 27th season as a driver, Waltrip's so-called scaled schedule includes overseeing Michael Waltrip Racing, running in all three NASCAR divisions during Daytona Speedweeks, promoting his new book "In the Blink of an Eye," and hosting a comedy tour.
WALTRIP ON RUNNING HIS 25TH CONSECUTIVE DAYTONA 500: "I love the fact that I raced against great drivers like David Pearson, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. I started in 1985 and that was before any of the new tracks started coming on line. I am really fortunate to have raced in an interesting era. I have pretty much raced against the guys who were there or right near the beginning and the stars of today. I don't think there are many athletes whose careers or "strings" have stretched that far back. It means a lot to me to race at Daytona that's for sure."
ON CAR DESIGN: "I wanted a black car to honor Dale's life. NAPA agreed to it which was very special to me because I understand they put their name on cars to sell parts. The NAPA blue and yellow is who they are, and I am real fortunate over the last 10 years to have them with me. They are the cornerstone to Michael Waltrip Racing, and I asked them to depart from the usual design a little bit for this one event. They agreed to do so. That's what the whole two weeks in Daytona will be about for me no matter what I am racing. I'll be reflecting back over the last 10 years and the years Dale and I bonded and became friends. It's through our friendship that led me to drive his car. Dale believed that I would win in his car. A lot of people didn't understand that. I understood it, and I believed it. By the time I took the green flag for the Daytona 500 in 2001, Dale had me right where I had never been before and that was confident. That's something over the course of my career I have lacked a little bit. Dale saw that and fixed it."
ON WRITING HIS BOOK: "I believe the book accomplished everything I wanted. It's a nice account of what led me to Daytona and then where I have gone since then. It wasn't easy writing it. It was an emotional process. I was able to talk about everything and think about it. I was able to deal with it somewhat. But it didn't fix anything. I think that's what surprised me the most. I didn't come out of it feeling any better about the whole situation. I say in the book that my dumb way of dealing with drama was to just ignore it. I figure if I didn't deal with it, it would go away. I think through this process, I now understand a more healthy way of living my life."